In this article I want to cover the rigging of hard plastic lures with lips and how to set them up in your spread.
These types of lures work best when pulled as fast as you can, but in many cases they are always popping out of the water which means that they are not swimming correctly.
When rigging up these lures I have found that heavy leaders simply do not work with these lures as the drag created by these heavy lines upsets the movement of the lure and does not allow them to get to their designed depth and they keep on losing their balance and come popping up out of the water. The smaller the lure; the bigger the problem.
The method that I now use is working well and I can pull these lures as fast as 8 knots without any problems, the smaller lures (Under 10cm) may be limited to 6 or 7 knots. I use a No. 7 stainless trace wire (No. 5 wire for lures under 10cm) and I prefer wire with a brown colour to it. I use a haywire twist to join the wire to the lure with a large loop so the wire does not interfere with the lures movement, and then make the wire 300-400mm long and with a haywire twist and a very small loop tie on a small swivel. I like the Centro size 14 swivel which is rated 80lbs and is really small.
When tying your haywire twist ensure you do this properly with 3-4 loose twists of both sides around each other and then 4-5 tight wraps of the tag wire, at all times make sure there is no kink.
From there I tie my main line 20-30lbs directly to the swivel using a figure of eight knot and use no leader at all, so far even for toothy fish like Wahoo and King Mackerel I have had no problems and the longer steel wire compensates more than sufficient for this.
Ensure that your lures are tracking straight by running them next to the boat and if needed you can tune them by ever so slightly bending the wire loop from the lure that the ring attaches to the nose of the lure in the opposite direction.
These lipped lures can be classed into two main categories:
• Shallow Runners
• Deep Runners
These are lures that run between 1-3m below the surface of the water, the two I use most are the Rapala X-Rap Splash Baits and the Halco Laser Pro’s and I prefer these two brands because I have found that they swim the best compared to other types I have tried.
Shallow runners are the most difficult to keep from popping out and so it is important that you set them up properly. I use the Rapala X-Rap Splash Bait from size 10 up to size 14, the size 14s are very easy to set up and get going whilst the size 10s need to be properly tweaked to get them performing at their peak. The size 10 is my favourite and has accounted for many a fine fish on my boat but they do need to be modified before you use them. The hooks are not strong enough but the lure does have a wire going all the way through the body and so I beef up the split rings to a heavier gauge and I fit thicker hooks like 2X or even 3X of the same size or you can go one size up, and I tie my wire directly to the lure without the split ring. Doing this will ensure that you land the big one when you hook him up without the hook opening out.
Halco Laser Pro’s come with a pair of interchangeable lips and I prefer to use the deeper lip as here you can attach your wire directly to the nose of the lure and not risk losing a fish because the lip came off.
The best position for the shallow runners in your spread is just on the edges of your prop wash in your wake line 5 – 25m behind your boat with closer having produced more fish than those placed further back and 15m being an optimum distance. In fact I have run them 3m behind the boat and had hook ups on several occasions. You also need to set your drag reasonable loose.
These are lures that run from 3m to 10m below the surface of the water. There are many to choose from and although these are easier to pull at a high speed compared to the shallow runners they also need to be tuned to track straight. Most of these lures come with a solid ring, but for those that have a split ring remove it and tie your wire directly leaving a large loop. On the smaller X-Raps I also like to change the hooks and split rigs to heavier ones. With these lures the more line you let out the deeper they run and so you can run them from 5m to 50m behind your boat. When running them close they work best right in your prop wash and also under your prop wash.
You can enhance the depth that these lure run by adding weight into your line, I do this by adding a 16 or even 24 ounce trolling sinker 2,5m ahead of the lure and then I use 80lb line from sinker to lure with 300mm of No. 10 wire and tie my main line to the trolling sinker. Not only does this get your lure swimming deeper but it also allows you to run them faster up to 15 knots which means that you can use these with your Feathers, Bullet Heads, Jet heads and Kona’s.
The best angle for your rod when trolling these lures is as flat as possible, bearing in mind that you cannot run all your rods at the same angle and so will work with +5 degrees to a maximum of +30 degrees depending on your position with the rods closest to the center of your boat being the flattest and those lures running the closest to the boat and the rods on the sides of the boat and a larger angle and the lures running further back. This is done to allow you to do turns without your lines crossing and causing tangles.
With these lures I can easily run a spread of 5 – 6 lures without them getting tangles or you can mix them with Kona’s, Feathers etc. and run up to 9 lines although I do not like pulling that many lines and often run 4 of these and 2 feathers or bullet heads on my out riggers to cover the surface action. Expect many, many multiple hook ups when trolling like this and take note that when the first line goes not to slow down and wait a few seconds for the others to go, then start tightening the drags a little before you take the rod out the holder and only start slowing down when the anglers are already fighting their fish, do not stop just slow down to 2 – 3 knots fighting the fish hooked on the lures that where running closest to the boat first, this will mostly keep the lines directly behind the boat and keep the fish from tangling up with each other.
Lures with Plastic and Feathered Skirts
Now I will cover lures with Plastic and Feathered skirts specifically for targeting game fish. Marlin, on the other hand, is a different subject on its own and I am not covering this in this article, although many of these methods will work for Marlin.
The tackle used for these lures could be 12lb, 20lb, 30lb or even 50lb tackle for general game fishing, the rigging would be the same and just the line class and tackle will change.
Rods & Rod Positions
For trolling these types of lures I prefer a shorter, stockier type rod and these lures are best trolled with the rods standing up in flush gunnel rod holders. I like these rods between 5.6ft and 6.0ft in length and they must be stiff.
The shorter, stiffer rod is going to allow your lures to be pulled more consistently through the water especially at higher speeds as a softer or longer rod will let your lures jump all over and your line can easily wrap around the rod tip which could make you feel very unpleasant when you lose your catch and have a broken rod.
The rods need to stand in an upright position to allow the correct action to be imparted to the lure and minimise line drag.
Lines and Leaders
On this type of trolling setup I prefer to use a high visibility line followed by a 10m clear wind on leader. Typically for a 12lb set up I use a 50lb leader, 20lb I use a 100lb leader, on a 30lb I use a 150lb leader and 50lb I use a 200-300lb leader. On my main line I make a 600mm loop with a Bimini twist, and then join this loop to the Dacron of the wind on leader with a 5 turn improved Cats Pawl.
At the end of my leader I add a heavy duty swivel snap with a breaking strain at least 30% higher than my leader breaking strain and I make a small loop with a 4 turn figure of eight knot to join the snap swivel to the leader.
It is important that you use high quality snap swivels that can clip over properly.
I make my own wind on leaders. The high visibility line will allow you to see your lines when you are trolling.
On my lures I like this leader to be 2.0m long, and on a smaller ski-boat this is important as you do not have the space to work with a long leader when handling the leader when the fish is by the boat.
This leader breaking strain will depend on the lure you are using and on the tackle you are using to troll this lure, it is pointless pulling a tiny feather with a 100lb on a 50lb rig, and you also cannot pull a large Bonito Smoker on 12lb tackle, and so you must match you lures to your tackle. Typically here in KZN 20-30lb tackle is the norm and personally I use 20lb when fishing closer to shore in the shallows and 30lb when going deeper.
On the 20lb tackle my lure leaders can be from 100lb up to 200lb and on my 30lb from 150lb to 300lb. I do not like to use any steel on my lure leaders even when fishing for Wahoo.
There are many different ways to rig your hooks. On smaller lures I like a single dangling hook with beads for the spacing tied directly to my lure leader.
On medium size lures I like using a Pro-Rig which is 2 fixed opposing faced hooks on wire cable to which the leader is connected, this connection will be in the head of the lure and so it is all steel where the fish bites. These double hook Pro-Rigs also help your lure with swimming balance. You can also use a single hook stiff rig although I am not a big fan of them and it is important with this rig to set the hook upright by fixing the rig into the head.
On larger lures a chain gang is the best, and again this must be fixed into the head of the lure, you can also use a Pro-Rig here or a double hook stiff rig with the hooks at 90 degrees to each other.
CAUTION: Using any double hook rig can be dangerous especially to the person handling the leader and chain gangs are the worst for causing injuries, for those who are still learning or have inexperienced crew single hook rigs are a much better place to start.
TIP: Once you have gaffed your fish, put him directly into the fish hatch from the water with someone opening this as you gaff and with the lure still attached to him close the lid, then unclip the lure and replace with another one and reset your spread. Later once the fish is dead and not slapping around you can retrieve your lure. This will go a long way to eliminating injuries.
Lure positions in the Spread
In your wake and prop wash there are certain key areas to place your lures, I call this the strike zone. Do not feed your lures out far behind the boat, the fish are attracted to your prop wash and wake.
Typically I will run 4, 5 or 6 lures in a spread depending on conditions, more wind means less lines so in bad conditions I only run 4 lines but in excellent conditions I will run 6.
I call my positions as follows:
• Short outrigger – Usually 28m behind the boat
• Long outrigger – Usually 30m behind the boat
• Short corner – Usually 20m behind the boat
• Long corner – Usually 22m behind the boat
• Shotgun – Usually 40m behind the boat
• Prop wash – Usually 12-15m behind the boat
You need to plan your lures and where you put them and do not just put any lure in any position, in windy or bad conditions I will only run the outriggers and corners and in my opinion these are the hottest positions in the spread. The smaller lures must be further back on the outriggers and shotgun positions and the larger lures closer in on the corners and prop wash positions.
A nice spread that covers most species from Dorado, Wahoo, Tuna and Sailfish is as follows:
• 5-7 inch feathers on the outriggers with or without birds
• Bad little Darters or Sailfish Catchers on the corners with or without a daisy chain ahead
• Dorado Catcher, Sailfish Catcher or Large Feather on the Shot gun, always runs with a bird.
• Diamond Coyote in the prop wash
These types of lures like to be pulled fast and you can vary the speeds according to the species you want to target.
• 6-7 knots – Tuna & Dorado
• 7-8 knots – Dorado & Sailfish
• 8-9 knots – Sailfish & Wahoo
• 9-10 knots – Wahoo & Marlin
Some tips when trolling that work for me. Run your motors at different speeds about 1000rpm apart as this will create harmonic frequencies that will attract fish to your boat. Run one motor trimmed up high and the other trimmed down low.
Troll in a zig zag pattern when going directly into the swell or in a following sea as this keeps the lures down better and when you change direction some lures speed up whilst others slow down which can induce a strike.
It is true when they say bright lures in bright conditions and dark lures in dark conditions, but water colour also plays an important role.
If you are unsure mix up your spread, typically run bright colours on one side of the boat and darker or more natural colours on the other side.