Tackle and Tactics
Mike Ladle

Information Page.

Soft bait tactics.

I haven't updated the 'Tactics' page for quite a while, mainly because it seemed to me that I'd covered most of the stuff I know about tackle and I'm not in the business of inventing rigs or other bits of gear simply to sell things or in desperation for something to write. Anyway, I get quite a few requests for information on various approaches to sea angling so it may be a good time to update everything on these lines. I'll start with my most recent activities trying out soft plastic/weedless lures because I it's fresh in my mind and may give me a template to follow for other types of fishing.

To begin at the beginning. The 'rubber eel' has been a standard 'pollack (and bass) fishing' lure for a very long time. Essentially it is a piece of rubber tubing pushed onto a hook so that it has a twist and cut to provide a tapering 'tail'. When it's retrieved or trolled it appears to wriggle along through the water and in theory the fish grab it. I remember clearly my pal Dave Cooling catching a very good bass from a local beach by spinning just such a bit of orange/red rubber many years ago. Developments of the rubber eel were slow to appear but anglers (and commercial fishermen) notably in the south west made subtle improvements for bass fishing purposes. Even in the early 1900s Hearder and Son were selling a range of very attractive looking imitation sandeel type baits which clearly worked well (they quote a catch of 643 pollack in six days fishing and 39 large bass in a day). Eventually the paddle tailed Redgill lures appeared along with Eddystones, Deltas and other similar slim waggy sandeels.

Much more recently shads and jelly worms of many types, both weighted and unweighted, gained enormous popularity, initially for boat fishing on the drift or at anchor and even more recently for shore casting. These lures are made of soft plastics and being so flexible will 'work' even on the slowest retrieve or in minimal current. Over in the USA where fishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass in freshwaters is extremely popular, softbaits have been in vogue for a long time. Most of the variations were simply details of size, shape and colour - all very easy to achieve using soft plastics. Lure manufacturers went to town making passable imitations of fish, eels, frogs, newts, worms, leeches, crayfish and the like but apart from the general shape and the amount of wiggle or wag they are all essentially the same. the anglers using soft plastics demanded various amounts of lead to enable fishing at various depths but apart from this the only real innovation (to my mind) was the Texas rig.

Largemouth bass, in particular, prefer to live (and nest) in dense cover. Sunken branches, weed beds and the like are bread and butter for these fish so the lure fisherman must expect big tackle losses. Partly to avoid these losses and, more importantly, to enable fishing right in the snags the 'Texas rig' was developed. In essence it is simply a way of mounting a softbait so that the hook point is hidden (often nicked into the 'skin' of the lure). To make it easier for the hook to contact the mouth of taking fish the Slug-Go type lure was produced. These are simple spindles of soft plastic with a channel or groove along the 'back' in which the hook point and barb lie. In this way the point is shielded from any snags or fragments of weed and can be fished through the densest cover with impunity. Special hooks with a cranked shank and a square bend have been developed to keep the lure aligned and to assist hooking fish.

The down side of Slug-Go lures is that they are almost devoid of natural action and must be worked by twitching the rod or reeling in a jerky fashion. Anyone who has read this year's saltwater pages on my blog will be aware that I have tried to modify these lures to make them both weedless and active. Essentially I simply cut the back half of the lure off and stick on a wiggly tail in it's place. At first I used superglue or special soft plastic glue to join the pieces but a chap at the Weymouth Lure Angling Festival suggested that I should try a hot knife. In fact I now use a small model-maker's soldering iron (another tip) and it works perfectly. Slightly melt the two cut surfaces, hold them together for a minute and bingo - a hybrid lure is born.

Rigging the lures is very simple. Shove the hook in at the front end and bring the point out on the convex side about 1cm back. Push the hook through until the snout of the lure is pressed against the eye of the hook. Twist the hook through 180 degrees and push the point back through the plastic in on the convex side and out exactly opposite. Try to keep it nicely in the mid-line of the plastic and so that the front end of the lure is not stretched or crumpled (nice and straight - it may take a couple of goes to get it right). press the hook point down so that it lies in the groove of the plastic and you are ready to fish. To fish these lures I use one of my normal plugging rods and a reel loaded with 20-30lb braid, a length of 15lb Amnesia monofilament (a metre or so) and a half blood knot connect the line to the lure. Cast out (you should be able get it 20 metres or so - which is plenty) into whatever is in front of you - kelp, wrack, flotsam, rocks - and wind it back with the rod tip held low down and a VERY slow retrieve. Decent fish will almost hook themselves without much of a strike but practice makes perfect.

If you have any comments or questions about fish, methods, tactics or 'what have you.'get in touch with me by sending an E-MAIL to - docladle@hotmail.com

Basic rubber eel.

These bits of tube still work reasonably well but you'll need a swivel because they twist.'

Hearder and Son 'Spinning Sandeel'.

These antique simple lures took massive bags of pollack and bass and no doubt would still catch their share today - but NOT weedless.'

The kit.

My little soldering iron and a Slug-Go lure ready to be butchered.'

The finished article.

Slandra (Slug-Go + Sandra tail).  All that's needed now is a gentle finger pressure to 'nest' the hook point in the groove and make it completely weedless.'

The result.

A decent bass that took my slowly retrieved 'Slandra' lure.'