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
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.
ON THE DRIFT
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