The best description of a plug is a cross between a spinner and a dead-bait. In shape it resembles a dead fish with hooks ready-set. In use it is retrieved in much the same way as a spinner. But a plug possesses advantages that neither spinner nor dead-bait have – it can be made to work with innumerable variations on a straight retrieve at any of many chosen depths. The astute angler can impart sharp, darting, erratic movements, and the series of vibrations produced in this way will travel several yards. The vibrations serve to stimulate the urge to hunt: so much so that a plug may be savagely attacked when a seemingly enticing livebait has been com-pletely ignored in the same swim.

Plugs fall into four general categories that coincide with the depth at which they should work. There are surface lures, floating divers, sinkers, and deep divers. Their shape, especially at the nose, often gives a clue to their working use. But it is left to the angler to actually get the best action from them when he is fishing.

Kinds of plug

Floating plugs are light, usually made from wood, and have a ‘V’-shaped wedge inserted in the nose. There are models made to represent mice, and one has broad arms, or sweeps, that vibrate backwards and forwards during the retrieve; they are intended to represent a surface-swimming fish in distress – rather in the fashion of one with swimbladder trouble.

They should be cast close to the bank, under overhanging trees and bushes and retrieved alternately fast and slow, causing them to dive a few inches under the surface, then pop up to the top. The bow wave caused by this sudden dive is probably the lure’s main attraction.

Floating divers are the most versatile of all plugs. They have lighweight bodies with a medium-sized diving nose (or lip) set into the head. After being cast, they will lie on the surface, only diving when the angler commences the retrieve. The faster the motion, the deeper they will dive – short, hard turns on the reel and then a few seconds with the handle stationary, produce a series of swoops and rises that few fish can resist. They have an added advantage in snaggy waters. By stopping the retrieve when an underwater obstruction is reached, the plug is allowed to float up, and can be coaxed gently past the danger area before continuing with the normal dive and rise action.

One floating plug – if it can be called a plug at all – is particularly successful with pike and chub: the artificial frog. This green-painted moulding, complete with realistically supple legs, often has a small diving vane around the mouth and is worked across or just below the surface of the water. As with all floating plugs, the take consists of a massive swirl as the fish lunges forward. The savage pull that follows can easily catch the unwary angler off guard and break his line. For this reason it is important to concentrate and anticipate a take at any time – even when the line is right at your feet. Often, a big fish will follow the surface vibration several yards and only attack just before the plug is lifted clear of the water.

Sinking plugs

Sinking plugs are for very deep gravel pits and reservoirs where the lure has to sink some way before it can be fished usefully. In order to find and keep the ‘taking’ depth, the count-down method should be used. After the lure has hit the water, the angler counts from, say, one to six, then starts his retrieve. On the next cast, he may count to seven, then eight on the following casts – and so on until a fish is taken. This will probably be the taking depth, and future casts should be allowed the same time before retrieve begins.

Few plugs in this category have a diving vane, all are heavy, and some models have a metal ball sealed into a cavity in the body. When the retrieve begins, the action of the plug under the water causes this ball to rattle, making vibrations that are highly attractive to predators.

Deep divers

The last selection of plugs, the deep divers, are easily recognized by the extra large metal vane set into the head. This broad lip sets up drag against the water when the retrieve starts and causes the plug to dive quickly, at a sharp angle. As with sinkers, the count-down method is the best when exploring a water.

The colour range of plugs displayed in a tackle shop can be quite staggering. But action is more important than colour in a plug, and generally those with green, yellow and a little red coincide with the natural colours of fish and appear to be the most acceptable.

Most important of all is the construction of the plug. Hooks should be neither so large that they dwarf the body, nor so small that they will fail to set into the jaws of a fish on striking. The best hooks are made from fine wire, with well-defined barbs. Most of them are mounted into the body by screw eyes or metal bands secured with screws. These should be most carefully checked, and, if they appear loose, should be removed and re-set with a little Araldite glue to hold them firm. The eye-loop at the head, to which the trace will be mounted, should also be carefully looked at to ensure that it is firmly closed, otherwise the trace will slip free from it during a cast.

One naturally thinks of pike fishing in connection with plugs, and most of the sinking and deep-diving models will take good fish. Size does not seem important where pike are concerned – 4 and Sin double-bodied plugs that simulate the flowing movements of a swimming fish, down to tiny l in minnow imitations, will all produce results. Perch take a running plug, too, especially in reservoirs and gravel pits. Their large, ‘telescopic’ mouths are perfectly capable of tackling the large lure intended for a pike. Chub are appreciative of surface plugs that can be persuaded to make a large disturbance on top of the water – especially the more gaudy, tassel-embellished models. Shallow divers of the minnow size are worth a trial during the winter months.

Unfortunately, the vibrations produced by a plug can, on occasions, make predators bolt for cover. However incomprehensible the response is, it calls for an immediate switch to spinner or deadbait.

But there are few fish that have not, at some time or other, fallen for a plug – particularly in the early part of season, a period when many of the old adult stock have turned cannibal.