Golden re­triever

Should you crank lures at top speed?

Sea Angler (UK) - - CONTENTS - Words by Mike La­dle Pho­tog­ra­phy by Mike Dob­son

When my boys were young and I used to take them to the coast in search of bass, I al­most be­came tired of say­ing “Wind slower, they’re fish, not tor­pe­does!”

It seems to me that there’s a sort of com­pul­sion af­ter you’ve cast your lure far out to sea to wind it back in as quickly as pos­si­ble, so you can ‘have an­other go’.

In fact, it can be quite dif­fi­cult to make your­self slow down the re­trieve.

This is all called to mind by my fish­ing holidays in the trop­ics where, if you want to catch jacks, bar­racuda and a num­ber of other species, you of­ten have to wind as fast as you can (slow down and the fish will lose in­ter­est).

This be­comes more ev­i­dent as I get older and a bit slower, and my son, Richard, who’s still rel­a­tively young and fit, of­ten out-fishes me in these places. The point is that few fish in our wa­ters, fresh­wa­ter or salt, need to be lured by ex­press wind­ing.

Of course, bass are nippy crea­tures, and they will of­ten man­age to grab a fast-mov­ing prey fish (or lure) as it zips past them or tries to es­cape, but, on the whole, they don’t want to waste too much en­ergy in pur­suit of their meals. If they think that a fish looks very lively or is al­ready too close to the safety of cover, they will con­serve their en­ergy un­til some eas­ier mouth­ful comes along.


On the other hand, if the preda­tors are ex­pect­ing to see prey that swims in a par­tic­u­lar fash­ion and your lure is sim­ply ly­ing in the water like a bit of old sea­weed, they may not even no­tice it. So, is there a happy medium?

All this raises an in­ter­est­ing ques­tion, and one of the things I have been most fre­quently asked by would-be lure an­glers: “How fast should I wind?”

I’ve read many de­scrip­tions of the ‘best way to re­trieve’ by lots of angling writ­ers. These cover the whole gamut of ap­proaches from a dead drift to a non-stop fast wind or, more of­ten, some com­bi­na­tion of stops, starts and jerks, and it’s likely that they all work at times.

Usu­ally, the writ­ers will cover all their op­tions by sug­gest­ing that you vary your re­trieves un­til you find one that works. This is fine if you have un­lim­ited time and re­main stand­ing in one spot while you fish. How­ever, it’s an un­re­al­is­tic ap­proach to lure fish­ing, which is essen­tially a mo­bile ac­tiv­ity.

In ad­di­tion, there are a num­ber of ex­ter­nal fac­tors gov­ern­ing what you are able to do with your lure, and un­less you’re a mil­lion­aire or a lure man­u­fac­turer, you have to take these into ac­count.

Firstly, if you are fish­ing over the shal­low, snaggy ground beloved of larger bass, you’ll need to avoid los­ing a lure each cast. This can be tricky be­cause any­thing that sinks or dives deeply and has ex­posed hooks is go­ing to be at risk. This means that, in these sit­u­a­tions, un­less you keep the rod up and re­trieve like stink, you are go­ing to be lim­ited to ei­ther sur­face lures or weed­less soft plas­tics.

Of course, if you hap­pen to be fish­ing over snag-free sand or in deeper water, then you are much less likely to lose lures, but since the ob­ject of your fish­ing is not lure con­ser­va­tion but catch­ing bass, you prob­a­bly need to be a bit more ad­ven­tur­ous.


When my pals and I first started bass fish­ing with lures, 95 per cent of our fish­ing was with buoy­ant, shal­low-div­ing plugs. They were rel­a­tively ex­pen­sive, but com­pared to buy­ing bait, or even the cost of trav­el­ling to dig or col­lect bait, they were good value. Losses were few once you got to know the area you were fish­ing. I al­ways reck­oned to lose no more than one or two lures a sea­son.

Plugs of this type, the best-known ones were Ra­palas, had the big ad­van­tage that you could eas­ily tell if they were work­ing by the vi­bra­tion through the rod. As long as there

“Few fish in our wa­ters, fresh­wa­ter or salt, need to be lured by ex­press wind­ing”

was a steady tick­ing trans­mit­ted up the line, they would catch fish. If you wound too fast or too slow, if the hooks had fouled on the cast, or even if there was the tini­est piece of weed or de­bris on the lure, they just didn’t work.

I once cal­cu­lated how much water you would cover with a plug cast from the shore. As­sum­ing that your reel spool has a di­am­e­ter of about 4cm, and that one turn of the han­dle rep­re­sents five turns of line on the spool, if you reel in at roughly one turn of the han­dle ev­ery sec­ond, in an hour’s fish­ing the lure might have trav­elled about two kilo­me­tres – quite a lot of water.

I also de­cided that, when fish­ing a Ra­pala, one turn of the han­dle per sec­ond, which makes the lure wrig­gle nicely, of­ten caught me plenty of bass. So, that’s not a bad start­ing point when you first try spin­ning. Of course, it will de­pend a lit­tle bit on the re­trieve rate of your reel, but as I’ve said, as long as you can ‘feel the plug work­ing’, it will be okay.

Since those early years of plug­ging (I’m talk­ing about the 1970s), things have moved on a lot. Braided lines, a plethora of plugs, soft plas­tics and weed­less-hook­ing have all be­come stan­dard tac­tics.

Weed­less soft plas­tics, in par­tic­u­lar, have opened up a lot of bass ter­ri­tory, which was for­merly al­most im­pos­si­ble to fish. Solid ‘weed soup’ and hor­ren­dously snaggy ground can now be fished with con­fi­dence, even if you can’t see what’s in front of you at night or in re­ally rough con­di­tions. EF­FEC­TIVE TYPES Where does this leave us with re­trieve rates? Well, it’s worth con­sid­er­ing the na­ture of soft, weed­less lures. Some of them, such as Slug-Gos, have lit­tle or no in­trin­sic ac­tion. If you wind them straight back, how­ever fast, they will not wrig­gle, flap or twist. This doesn’t mean that the bass won’t take them, but un­less you im­part some ac­tion to the lure by twitch­ing or jerk­ing the line, it prob­a­bly di­min­ishes the chances of a bite.

Over the years, I have caught plenty of good fish on this type of lure, so there’s no doubt that they are ef­fec­tive.

In con­trast, soft plas­tics with waggy tails, such as ar­ti­fi­cial eels, or those with curly tails like the Su­per San­dra, ac­tu­ally have a builtin, fish-like wrig­gle or rip­ple when they are re­trieved. The softer and thin­ner the plas­tic, the bet­ter will be the ac­tion of the lure at slow speeds. Even the slight­est flow of water will in­duce a sin­u­ous un­du­la­tion or tail flap in the most ef­fec­tive types. If you aren’t sure, give them a try in clear, still water and you’ll see what I mean.

All of these lures can be used with ex­posed or con­cealed (weed­less) hooks, and fished with or with­out added weight in the form of lead heads. I rarely add any weight these days, but it de­pends where you’re fish­ing. For cer­tain, though, they all catch plenty of bass.

On the whole, bass will wait un­til an easy mouth­ful comes along

Lures have im­proved a lot since the early days

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