Most sea fish have at least some predatory blood in their veins. While some are very much more aggressive than others, most chase lures with a little encouragement. Artificial attractors and lures therefore have an important role to play in sea fishing.
Fish find food by smell, sight and vibration. A lure on its own has no attractive scent, so it relies on the other two sensations for its effectiveness. It follows that fish must be able to see a lure and feel its vibrations for it to work.
You can whizz a pirk or feathers past the big bass’s nose as often as you like, but it’s only the wiggle of a Redgill or the wobble of a Toby that provokes the take. In cases like this you must think about your lure and try to make it as attractive as possible.
On top of an attractive action, changes of
Jigs, pirks, artificial sandeels, feathers, spinners, barspoons, spoons and plugs -there is a huge variety of lures that play on the predatory instincts of sea fish. However, in general you can divide them into two main categories: the ordinary ones that produce a predatory response, and baited lures.
The predator’s plaything
Fish such as bass, pollack, mackerel and cod – in fact many of the main sea angling targets – are free-swimming predators by nature. By the time they reach maturity, they feed mainly on other fish. Lures designed to represent prey fish often score heavily with these species.
With all of these lures, it is movement which causes the strike. Dangle a static jig in front of some pollack, and you might wait forever for a take. Give it a little movement, however…
In places where the fish have little time to grab their prey before it is swept past, or where there are so many predators that competition is intense, almost anything in the right area provokes an attack.
Pirks are usually simple bars of metal, because the pollack, coalfish and cod they are intended for can’t examine critically any potential food item – if they do they’ll miss it. The predatory reflex takes over and the fish snap at anything that flashes past.
However, in other situations – spinning for big, solitary bass, for example — the predators have more time to examine the lure before attacking it. This is when an action that more closely resembles a helpless bait fish can be vital.
Sometimes you’re lucky – the bass are hungry and strike at almost anything. But often they don’t, and you must trigger that involuntary predatory reflex. Generally a lure with an erratic ‘wounded prey fish’ type of action achieves this best. pace, depth and style of retrieve can make all the difference. Sometimes colour also has an effect. Some new combination of lure, colour and retrieve may produce the elusive action that triggers an uncontrollable feeding spasm in the bass.
There are three ways you can bait a lure to help produce more fish. Simple baited lures are really just an ordinary lure with bait on the hooks. The idea is that on top of the visual attraction of the lure, there is also some scent from the bait. Some bait on the hooks may also make a fish less likely to reject the lure until it’s too late. Common examples include baited pirks and baited feathers for cod, ling, pollack and so on.
Attractors are not designed to produce the typical predatory response. Instead they are supposed to provide a visual stimulus in addition to the smell of the bait.
Beads on a snood are a common attractor for plaice, while a spoon or barspoon well up the trace is used while bait fishing for cod. The idea is that the colour, movement and vibration attract the fish’s attention and when it investigates, it finds the bait. Baited spoons and barspoons are used specifically for what are usually regarded as non-predatory fish, such as flatfish and mullet. The baited single hook trails a few inches behind a rotating blade. For flatfish the blade needs to be large while for mullet a small Mepps-type barspoon is best.
Some anglers believe these lures work like other attractor spoons, but others think it’s because fish try to steal each other’s food – and the baited spoon looks like a fish carrying off a food item. Whatever the reason, they can be highly effective.
Almost every type of sea fishing can be improved by a proper understanding of the role of lures. Once you acquire this – and there’s no way other than by using them -you are in line for some very fruitful fishing.