One thing every traveller knows is that space is a premium. You can only carry so much when your worldly possessions have to fit in a bag. For the travelling fisherman this can be daunting. Let’s face it; lure fishers are lure collectors when it comes down to it. So how do you make a sensible choice when it comes to packing the right lures for the job if you are likely to be fishing multiple species in multiple destinations? As tricky a proposition as this is, there are some proven go-to lures that will snag more than bottom anywhere you go.
My selections are based primarily on fishing in freshwater rivers and lakes, and saltwater estuaries, beaches and rocky shores. I haven’t delved into fishing the ocean bluewater. I’ve also focussed on fish ranging between half a pound to 30 odd pounds. To hint at the fish this gear may be suitable for – the equipment I fish this stuff with includes a light action 1-5g cast weight rod matched with a 2000 reel; and a medium heavy action 7-21g cast weight rod matched with a 3000 reel. Obviously opinions are going to vary depending on who you talk to, but here is a rundown of seven lures that have earned their place in my international tacklebox.
Wingston’s Tasmanian Devil
The humble Tasmanian Devil, produced by Wingston’s Lures: (http://www.wigstonslures.com.au/), is a fish catcher. It’s that simple. If you are at all interested in trout and salmon, these should be in your tackle box. I’ve thrown every lure I was carrying for no result on non-active trout only to hook up when I tied a Tassie devil on.
The slow, wide wobble characteristic of this lure has been proven worldwide, in fresh and saltwater. There is no restriction to trout and salmon; these lures consistently account for pike and other aggressive predators. Speed up the retrieve and match with suitable colours and you can entice saltwater bruisers. As a sinking lure that flutters on the drop, you can also fish anywhere in the water column.
Blue Fox Rattlin’ Pixee
If you’re interested in chasing big freshwater predators in the cooler climes of the Northern Hemisphere, a solid bet is the Rattlin’ Pixee by Blue Fox (http://www.bluefox.com/). I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for this lure as it sold me on the fact that spoons actually work. I’ve caught personal record northern pike and lake trout on this spoon, as well as nice largemouth and smallmouth bass. I’ve even caught walleye on it.
The weight of the pixee makes is handy for covering a lot of water with long casts, and makes it easy to fish deep down if necessary. A key thing to remember is that fish will hit these lures on the drop. I’ve had a lot of success fishing off the bottom, retrieving a few metres of line before letting the lure drop to bottom again and paying attention to the slack line – strike at any taps while the lure flutters down. As well as the enticing action and flash, the rattlin’ pixee rattles. The red ‘egg sac’ which occupies the central surface of the lure contains a rattle that adds a little extra fish pulling power.
While the pixee is designed as a freshwater lure, it would also have its uses in the salt – maybe not for the speedsters but a lot of big fish are likely to grab it – again using the lift-drop retrieve. If you are thinking of spending a lot of time in the salt looking for said speedsters, or vertical jigging in the salt, perhaps consider something like the Spanyid Raider (http://spanyid.com.au/spanyid/raider.htm), or perhaps even the Abu Garcia Toby (http://www.abugarcia-fishing.co.uk/) – another fairly versatile spoon.
Zerek Live Shrimp
You’re heading to an estuary in search of the local sportfish. You’re going to want to work with tides, fish currents and target structure: such a complex system! Can one lure do all this? No. Can one lure work admirably in the face of the varied scenarios you might encounter? Yes. That lure is the Zerek Live Shrimp (http://www.zerek-inv.com/product/salt-water-craft-series/live-shrimp).
You might think I’m getting a little too excited about this particular lure but the fact is that every estuary in the world is home to some type of shrimp and/or prawn. Nearly every estuary fish will eat a shrimp/prawn if given the chance. The Zerek shrimp is, in my opinion, the best shrimp/prawn imitation out there.
These things cast well, move convincingly with soft plastic legs and jointed tails, stand out with glowing eyes, and make subtle clicks associated with crustaceans via an inbuilt rattle chamber. They are also tough as nails (though don’t leave them in the sun). If I was going to take any one lure into an estuary fishing scenario it would probably be this. I just like fishing them. Don’t forget freshwater prawns and shrimp – the Zerek is a good mimic here too.
Lift and drop retrieves work but I particularly like casting these ones into the zone and letting them gently drift down before giving the rod, held low, a couple of twitches; then just ticking the reel over as I retrieve with the odd twitch to shake the rattle. This causes the Zerek to glide along just like a prawn or shrimp out for a leisurely swim. Takes are hard and arm wrenching.
Rapala Shad Rap RS
No lure fishing selection is complete without some form of diving hardbody. When you think of a ‘lure’ a diving hardbody is what you think of. But naming a single one for the tacklebox? That’s a risky business. So after much thought, and with consideration of the other lures listed here, I’m going with the Rapala Shad Rap RS (http://www.rapala.com/rapala/lures/shad-rap-series/shad-rap-rsandreg/Shad+Rap+RS.html).
These really are nice all-rounders. Fresh or salt, they will produce fish. That kind of reliability is good for the confidence. Being plastic in construction, you have a little more castability than the original Shad Rap; plenty of noise and action; and a lure that will suspend when paused. Tantalising indeed.
They aren’t overly big so that size becomes restrictive, yet still look like a worthwhile meal for bigger fish. Their design sits well at a midpoint between a slim minnow style lure and the fatter shad style, thus appealing to fish interested in both prey types – depending on how the lure is fished.
These lures can just as easily be trolled at constant rates as they can be cast with erratic stop-start retrieves. Colour choice is something I’ve been trying to steer clear of in this piece but there are good selections in the RS range that would suit a variety of fresh and saltwater applications with a potential for overlap. You will know which patterns are most suitable for you.
Heddon Zara Super Spook Jr.
Sooner or later you are going to want to fish on the surface. Every environment has some kind of fish that will hit on top given the right conditions. If I were going to choose one to take above all others, I would go with the Heddon Zara Super Spook Jr (http://www.heddonlures.com/product/super-spook-jr-3/). This lure again sits well in the mid-range size class and keeps a broad appeal. You may think that it looks a little big for a fish like the Australian bass; but they will go it – especially at night.
Where this lure particularly excels is in its walk-the-dog retrieve. There aren’t many lures that pull it off as well, and as easily, as this one. Fish it slow with plenty of pauses and veering glides or crank it across the top, it always rides well in the water. Even the full size Zara Spook seems to sit a little differently. The Super Spook Jr also features a nice rattle ball that contributes to the fantastic castability and ease of retrieve of this lure, and of course adds fishy appeal.
There are plenty of slow moving, turbid waterways that contain good fish. In these situations you are going to want a lure that has a big presence – sending off vibration, displacing water, creating flash and a big silhouette. At times some fish might be a bit shut down and picky in their feeding: something annoying may just make them aggressive. Many will consider a spinnerbait for these situations – but they take up so much room in a tacklebox. And nothing has that thumping vibration that you feel through the rod when you retrieve a chatterbait.
The good thing about the Z-Man (https://zmanfishing.com/store/categories/chatterbait/original_chatterbait) is the price – it definitely won’t break the bank. A few of these in assorted colours and weights are a valuable addition to your arsenal. Originally designed for North American bass, these lures work fantastically for Australian freshwater fish; and many other species that hunt in murky water where vibration is an important factor in locating prey. In many circumstances exchanging the skirt for a soft plastic can entice fresh and saltwater species alike.
Sometimes there is no option but to go soft. Lightly weighted or weightless presentations to glide down into the zone; or heavily weighted to bottom bounce and stir up species that hang down there; soft plastics are made for these situations. Who knows how many soft plastics are on the market. I do know that Berkley Gulp! work. I think that they work really well.
An important thing to remember is that Gulp! baits dry out when exposed to air and so must be kept in the fluid they are packaged in if you want them to last. None of the buckets they come in are watertight, so do yourself a favour and get a fully sealable container to keep them in and save all your gear from stinking like Gulp! while also keeping the plastics fresh.
I would personally go with jerk shad and minnow style patterns (http://www.berkley-fishing.com/Gulp%21%C2%AE-Saltwater-Jerk-Shad/1285431,default,pd.html#sz=72&start=45) for the best all-rounders, and keep some assorted colours and sizes all together in my Gulp! container. This should ensure that you have something to match the conditions you might find while keeping the versatility of the jerk shad/minnow pattern. These patterns are also less susceptible to getting bent into unnatural shapes during storage – a slight downside to some of the other gulp patterns.
Don’t forget to keep a selection of jigheads and hooks for your plastics. You should have at hand weighted and weightless weedless style hooks, simple lead head jigs of different weights and hook sizes, and coloured jigheads. Just ensure that you can fish light or heavy depending on the situation. For all out reliability, TT Lures (http://www.ttlures.com.au/) are hard to beat. If price is an issue something like Berkley Nitro (http://berkley-fishing.com.au/product/nitro-saltwater-pro/) heads are good quality. Coloured jigheads usually have hooks designed to straighten if snagged and then reshaped to continue fishing – don’t use these for heavyweight fighters.
So that’s it. From my experience and preferences, with these lures I would be happy to go forth and fish any of the species I’m interested in hooking worldwide. We don’t always have the luxury of being able to match the hatch perfectly in every situation we encounter; but with these lures you should stand a reasonable chance of finding fish wherever you are.
So what are you waiting for?