Wrasse on soft plas­tics

Few UK sea fish species fight as hard or as dirty as a big wrasse. What’s more, you can tar­get them very ef­fec­tively with lures

Sea Angler (UK) - - BOAT ANGLER -

It has be­come quite ap­par­ent that wrasse have a rub­ber fetish, and there re­ally is no other method as ex­cit­ing or as re­ward­ing than when fish­ing with soft plas­tics. In re­cent years the soft plas­tic lure revo­lu­tion has changed how many an­glers fish for wrasse, both from the shore and boat. There are five main species of wrasse avail­able from most UK ports – bal­lan, cuckoo, cork­wing, goldsin­ney and rock cook, the lat­ter three be­ing on the mini species list as they do not grow in ex­cess of 1lb. Then there are two ‘rare’ breeds - the Bailon’s and scale-rayed wrasse, again both mini species.

All of these wrasse can be caught on lures, namely soft plas­tics, with the smaller mini species read­ily fall­ing to LRF tac­tics. How­ever, it’s the larger bal­lan wrasse that I’m go­ing to con­cen­trate on here. I’ve man­aged to catch them to just un­der 5lb on soft plas­tics, and the fight they give on lure fish­ing kit is se­cond to none.


Over the years I have found that green lures reg­u­larly out-fish any other colour, and I have proved this time and time again over in Wales and along the south coast. A close se­cond choice would be bril­liant white, but for me it’s the green lure that I go for first ev­ery time.

As far as lure pat­terns go, I have had great suc­cess on small Fi­i­ish Black Min­nows, which have an ar­tic­u­lated jig­head at­tached, and the su­perb HTO Sea Min­nows, which need to be fished on a fixed jig­head.

The method is a sim­ple one, be­ing about as ba­sic as lure fish­ing gets. All you need to do is drop the lure down to the bot­tom, slowly lift and drop the lure just a foot or so, mak­ing sure that each time you bounce the jig on the seabed below. You can flick the rod tip to im­part a lit­tle more ac­tion into the lure if you wish, which can some­times help trig­ger a wrasse to at­tack.

The one thing that this form of fish­ing gives you that fish­ing with a baited rig does not, is a di­rect line to the fish with no ex­tra lead weight swing­ing around.


To get the best sport when fish­ing afloat, you need the cor­rect tackle. There are far too many dif­fer­ent makes and mod­els of rods to list here, but as a guide you should be look­ing at a medi­umto-heavy spin­ning rod, some­thing like an 8ft 10-40g blank is just the job.

The choice of reel should be matched to the rod, like a 3000-sized fixed-spool reel loaded with 15lb or 20lb braid.

I pre­fer braid and it works ex­tremely well for wrasse fish­ing be­cause it al­lows you to keep in con­tact with the lure at all times, feel­ing for the lumps and drops through the rocks. When a wrasse takes your lure you feel an im­me­di­ate rat­tle through the braid to the tip of the rod, and then all hell breaks loose!

I nor­mally use a 3ft length of 15lb or 20lb fluoro­car­bon tied di­rectly to the end of my braided main­line. Braid is not as abra­sion re­sis­tant as mono, and the very na­ture of wrasse fish­ing means that you are go­ing to con­stantly be fish­ing in among the rough stuff.

Not only that, but a stiff fluoro­car­bon leader also helps give bet­ter pre­sen­ta­tion, and, of course, helps mask the pres­ence of your braid as fluoro­car­bon is vir­tu­ally in­vis­i­ble un­der­wa­ter.

I al­ways tie a Break­away Mini Link to the end of my leader, which al­lows me to change lures in an in­stant if I want to. The set-up couldn’t be more sim­ple.


Un­less you are fish­ing from a big cata­ma­ran, where all the an­glers are on one side of the boat, the drift will ei­ther drag your rig away from the boat, or you will be fish­ing un­der it.

The eas­i­est way to rec­tify this is to go heav­ier in your choice of lure or lead­head. By do­ing this you can stay in con­tact with the seabed and keep your lure fish­ing straight up and down, which not only in­creases the chances of you feel­ing the tini­est of nib­bles, but also helps to pre­vent get­ting snagged.

Hav­ing low­ered your lure to the seabed, as the boat drifts slowly over the area, gen­tly lift the rod tip and then lower it back down again, feel­ing for the ‘bump’ as your lure con­nects with the rocks below. The gen­tlest of move­ments lifts your lure slowly, and al­lows it to move en­tic­ingly, which helps grab the at­ten­tion of wrasse in and around that area.

It’s nor­mal when lure fish­ing for wrasse for the bite to be sav­age – you get a thump­ing great hit as the wrasse en­gulfs your lure and makes a run for cover.


I man­aged to grab some great wrasse sport in 2018 over in Dale, Pem­brokeshire, fish­ing with lure guide Jimmy Le­mon.

He spe­cialises in three main species, bass, pol­lack and wrasse, from his boat Bang Tidy, and although this trip was all about the bass, we did take a break for a few hours to mix it up

a lit­tle and headed to one of Jimmy’s favourite wrasse marks.

The ses­sion got off to a fly­ing start, with all three of us (Jimmy, Jim Mid­g­ley and me) get­ting stuck straight into the wrasse on Fi­i­ish Black Min­nows. There were so many wrasse down there that we had the op­por­tu­nity to try dif­fer­ent lures, and on this par­tic­u­lar day, al­most every­thing we threw at them worked.

Although we didn’t man­age any­thing over 3lb, the fish we did catch pro­vided some real rod-bend­ing sport, es­pe­cially as we had all switched over to my DB 7ft, 7-35g, four-piece travel lure rod.

It had been a cou­ple of years since I’d en­joyed such hec­tic wrasse sport with lures, and this ses­sion rekin­dled my love for the method, so it’s def­i­nitely some­thing I’m go­ing to be fo­cus­ing on in 2019. Hope­fully, hav­ing been in­spired by this ar­ti­cle, you’ll give it a go too. ■

Jim Mid­g­ley with a lure-caught wrasse

Try a green or white HTO Sea Min­now fished on a jig­head

The green-back Fi­i­ish Min­nows are deadly

Lure guide Jimmy Le­mon at one of his wrasse marks – note the rocks in the back­ground, it was the same un­der the boat

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