Lure Fishing with Robbie Northman

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Robbie Northman

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A Love of Hard Lures

THE TACTIC

Growing up around boats and angling on the Norfolk Broads, I developed a passion for lure fishing at a young age. Modern soft plastics were not as readily available as they are now, mainly consisting of pike lures and a few products from the European and American markets. The local tackle shops, however, always had great little selections of spinners, spoons and hard baits. Hard baits really captured my imagination, exciting me with an active and engaging form of lure angling. I still have many fond memories tempting perch along the pads and overhangs. The images are still vivid in my mind – clear water, deep flanks, spiny dorsals, perhaps solidifying my strong passion for the technique even now.

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NEW ENTHUSIASM

Back in autumn I was excited when a delivery of long-casting, perch-size hard baits arrived on my door, and packed them away with big plans for the winter. In the past, I’ve treated hard lures as a warm-water tactic, with reasonable success in cold months. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Across Europe they are used year-round to tempt perch, and in the US prove incredibly effective for bass. Motivated to try something different this winter, I decided to head out and fish exclusively with hard lures, keeping a log of the conditions I had the most success in. Further expanding my perch fishing armoury, and attempting to master a technique I’ve often overlooked. The results have been intriguing, and have led to one of my most rewarding winters, with specimen pike and perch both falling to one particular hard bait style. The twitch/jerk minnow.

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ON TO THE SESSION…

Air temp 11ºC. Water temp 6.8ºC. South Westerly wind, est. 20mph. Air pressure 1005mb and stable. Overcast with lightly stained water. No, these are pretty nice conditions for actively feeding perch, following two days of mild rainy weather after extreme cold and clearing floodwater.

I loaded up the boat at 6:30am and set off to cash in on a morning feeding spell. Side-scanning the river for signs of predator activity, soon finding a productive-looking area to stop. I decided to start on the ned rig, landing a small pike fairly early on, however, after 30 minutes searching the area I hadn’t had a sign of a perch. Confident in the swim, I picked up my hard bait rod, a 7ft 6in 7-23g SG4, armed with the Savage Gear Gravity Twitch 9.5cm. To many it would seem like a big lure for perch, this is the exact reason to choose it. It’s aggressive, noisy, vibrant. Perfect for snatching the attention away from natural prey, producing reaction strikes. I cast the lure, counting it down to around 6ft in 8ft of water, and began to retrieve. I use a backhand twitch technique, using my full arm and body to jerk the lure with large aggressive motions. A turn of the reel handle, twitch, twitch, twitch, pause. I repeat this technique to boat, knowing the bite could come at any time. BANG! The tip slammed around with the ferocity of a pike, followed by the tell-tale head shakes of a perch. Suddenly the fish kited to my right, stripping line as it ran. Unusual for a perch, another small pike maybe? Unsure, I played the mystery fish with a light drag, conscious that this still may be a big perch. My hopes were confirmed as a huge flank flashed below the surface. Bringing butterflies to my stomach in a way big perch do. A couple more short runs and she was in the net. A fish of amazing proportions, high-backed and beautifully deep in the belly. Weighing in at 3lb 4oz, a beautiful perch on an amazing tactic.

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THE END RESULT

I fished on for the morning, tempting a gorgeous almost starburst pike, losing another big perch though a daft mishap with the net, and banking another 2lb+ perch. A brilliant example of when a classic tactic can really reign supreme among modern techniques.

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MY TOP 3 JERK MINNOWS TO TRY

#1 Savage Gear Gravity Twitch
The lure I fished with, and a new addition to the Savage range. Long-casting and diverse in action. A slow sink rate makes it perfect for shallower venues and long suspended pauses. Perfect even in very cold conditions, it’s a classic reinvented.

#2 Rapala Countdown A true classic. The Countdown has been around for many years. It works a treat, jerked or retrieved steady. Sinking at 1ft per second, it’s easy to “countdown” and fish where the fish are. Perfect for slightly deeper venues or fast retrieves.

#3 Salmo Rattling Sting A true suspending jerk bait with a great colour range. Another great lure for suspend-and-jerk style retrieves in shallower waters.

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Molehill

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Good to read that hard lures still catch! Judging from assorted forums and videos we could be forgiven for thinking that predators could only be caught on soft lures, that style of fishing being so popular now.
Fashions come and go in fishing and like a "new bait" many jump on the bandwagon and old favourites are left behind, but the old favourites still produce the goods for those that know.
For me, the single big advantage of soft lures over hard lures is cost, fishing snag riven rivers and the need to drop lures close in these areas a few hours with plugs could prove very expensive (with my casting). A soft lure is a fraction of the price and the single hook frequently straightens in the snag to be retrieved and crushed back to shape with my Leatherman tool.
 
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Robbie Northman

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Fishing with Friends

THE THOUGHT PROCESS

A simple session, catching up with friends on the bank. It’s something easily taken for granted. Looking back, it’s been over a year since I’ve caught up with quite a few of my fishing comrades, scattered around the country. The great thing about fishing companions, besides the good company, is the thought process. Beginner or expert, we all think differently, bouncing ideas of one another. This often leads to more fish on the bank.

A SESSION WITH BEN SMITH

I became friends with Ben soon after he appeared on our local waters targeting perch. Coming from a match angling background, Ben’s all about figuring the fish out. The thought process certainly pays off with an impressive list of captures. It wasn’t long before Ben found a sponsorship deal with SPRO, later signing with Fox Rage as a consultant. Armed with different mindsets and lures, we bounce ideas off each other, often leading to an awesome day’s fishing. One of our favorite methods is to fish total opposites, making sure we don’t use the same tactic until we start putting fish on the bank. Once we find the tactic of the day, we move to similar techniques, with at least one of us trying to improve on it.

THE SESSION

Air temp 12ºC. Water temp 6.8ºC. Air pressure 1020mb+. Water clarity – light stain. Conditions – bright sunshine and no wind. Not my favourite predator hunting conditions, but a beautiful day.

Ben and I had arranged to meet at dawn, knowing our most likely chance of a bite would be in low light. He had arrived a few minutes before me and was having his first cast as I pulled up. Before I had left the car, Ben was in, the tip thumping with the tell-tale sign of a quality perch. A great start to the morning, a plump fish in the low 2s. A small Salmo Butcher crankbait, banking the first fish of the day. Excitement filled us as we set off in search of more striped predators. We arrived in the first planned swim of the day, aiming to cover a range of tactics, and trigger a pressured fish to bite. Ben started on a ned rig, while I worked a small jerkbait around. 20 minutes or so passed without a bite, when suddenly I felt a knock and set the hook. The fish kicked for a moment before dropping off, leaving me with a sinking feeling, while the sun grew more intense. Time was running out. Ben switched over to his successful crankbait while I continued with the jerkbait. Suddenly I hear “I’m in, it feels decent”. I looked over to see Ben into a another quality perch. The tip thumped as the fish pulled small bursts of braid from the reel. Ben quickly netted his prize, another great fish in the mid 2s. Now the sun had fully risen and the bites had dried up. We set off exploring, seeking out any predator willing to feed.


Ben’s fin-perfect 2lb+ perch

Energetic young pike maintain the excitement when the bite slows down

The day proved as tough as we had expected, both of us casting relentlessly for hours. I managed three small pike while working through my lures and a number of small perch. Ben struggled equally. We had expected this, and used the conditions to learn. Switching and changing tactics and lures throughout the day. As evening grew closer we had found a few hot spots, enjoying the attention of small pike and perch. With an hour until dusk it was time to get back on the hunt.


Goby Cranks

MY SALVATION

Having seen the sinking crankbaits produce two quality fish in the morning, I knew I would have to adapt. I had a small problem to overcome. My box was full of sinking twitchbaits, jerkbaits and vibes, but nothing matching the size and profile that was producing on the day. Time to pull an old trick out of the bag. The Goby Crank. A small floating crankbait that’s tempted many chub for me since its release. Perfect for perch, but lacking the diving depth for the venue. The solution is quite simple. I keep a tub of tungsten putty in my bag for rig balancing. I moulded a small piece on to the shank of the Goby Crank’s front hook. Changing it from a floating lure to a super-slow sinking lure. I was able to cast the lure out and allow it to sink for 30 seconds or so, retrieving it really slowly along the bottom.


Tungsten is perfect for a slightly faster sink rate

30 minutes had passed in the final swim. The light had almost faded away and neither of us had had a bite. The river was beginning to show signs of life, small roach breaking the surface in the setting sun. I persevered with my modified crankbait, counting the lure down and beginning another retrieve. Tap tap! Suddenly the rod tip lunged round and I hooked up with a decent perch. This one didn’t run, instead it stayed deep, plodding away under the rod tip before showing a flash of deep grey flank. A few moments later she was in the net. An incredible looking fish with huge shoulders. I quickly weighed her at 2lb 12oz, an amazing fish to end the session on. The sun now totally set at the end of a challenging but very rewarding day. I left the bank armed with a new trick to try on those tough days.


A very deep flanked 2lb 12oz perch

MY TOP 3 CRANKBAITS TO TRY

#1 Salmo Butcher 5cm
A top producer this session, tempting a couple of belting perch. Slow sinking and erratic in action. It’s deadly for all predators.

#2 Savage Gear Goby Crank 4cm With a small tweak it tempted the fish of the day. Fairly deep running, it suits many venues without changes. It’s also a winner for chub year-round.

#3 SPRO Ikiru Joint Crank 3.5cm A jointed crankbait with a super-erratic action. It’s a slow floater and perfect for a range of predators.

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Robbie Northman

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Hard vs Soft Lures

A GREAT RUN OF SESSIONS

The balance between hard and soft lure fishing has flipped on its head this season. In past years I have found myself fishing primarily with soft plastics, switching between shads, ned rigs & creature baits. However, the weather this winter has been unusual. We have had my favourite moody, low-pressure days, but this winter has been bright, high pressure and mild. The usual approach has been hit-and-miss, but pulling all the stops out this season, fishing techniques I neglect, has kept the fishing consistent on what could easily be blank days.

NED RIG SUCCESS

Encountering those tough days, when fish seem unwilling to move or hunt – the solution? the ned rig. Shads, creatures and hard lures, I’ll go straight to these first, but when all else fails you can count on a ned to sort out a quality fish. Small flat jig heads, and stand-up or buoyant baits. Hopping a ned rig along the bottom is appealing to finicky fish, both big and small.


My 2-10g ned set-up. Hand fillers like this are great fun on balanced tackle

NED SESSION

Met with a brief cold front, the water temperature dropped by 3ºC almost overnight. The fish did not like this, retreating to shelter and cover, feeding in very brief spells. Usually dawn and dusk are considered prime time for predators, but when night-time temperatures drop rapidly, I often find the fish switch on mid-morning. I set off to my busy local river at dawn, for a quick fishing fix. Surprisingly, the banks were quiet, just a few keen pike anglers setting up for the day. Starting with the Gravity Twitch and a 3 inch creature bait, I covered ground. An hour passed by, and not so much as a touch. I decided to slow everything down.

I picked up the ned set-up, casting around with a 2g head and buoyant lure. Many ned-designed lures are streamlined, enabling a lighter presentation. Pair that with a medium-actioned 2-10g rod, and those finicky feeders can become slamming takes. I placed a cast into a productive area and began working my lure. A single hop, followed by a 10 second pause. You could almost call it legering. I carried on the process and whack! The tip bounced round and I stuck into a solid weight. The typical thumps of a quality perch began, with little runs between. A very dogged fight on light tackle. I quickly netted my prize. A pristine upper two pounder, glowing in the morning sunlight. I slipped her back, by which time the bank had become very busy. So I packed up and headed home for a well-deserved coffee.


A chunky perch battles beneath the surface

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DEGREE MAKES

Another day and a fresh session. Conditions almost mirrored the first, with the exception of temperature. The air temp had raised significantly, and the water temp another degree or so.

I had full confidence that the ned rig would work. Once again, I was met with a biteless hour, so it was time to change. I decided to pull out the hard lure box, with some new additions. While rummaging through the shed I found one of my old tackle boxes from my teens. Loaded with a few original Rapalas and selection of cheap Big S cranks. Most were shallow divers, with the exception of a Countdown, which I had a lot of fun with, tempting a few perch. With the fish active, I decided to go up in size, opting for a 9.5cm twitch bait, to single out a larger fish. Very quickly I found success, banking a scraper 2. A really pretty, golden flanked fish.


Yellow belly – this one reminds me of its American cousins

The rest of the session proved uneventful, the odd jack pike keeping the confidence up. The light began to shift, so I moved to the next swim. I went straight in with the Gravity Twitch 95, and covered the area for around ten minutes. Suddenly I was met with a smashing bite. Such a ferocious hit, I never needed to set the hook. There was a dead weight for a moment, then the powerful fish used the current to kite off to the side. The rod lunged over, with clicks of the drag as the fish ran. Surely a pike.

My suspicion was wrong as a large flank broke the surface, a quality perch that had managed to roll on the line. Perch are brilliant at throwing the hook. Seeing a large one floundering on the surface way beyond netting range, is a knee-weakening experience. I backed the drag right off, gently easing the fish towards the bank. Suddenly she rolled, untangling from the braid, free to run again. The loose drag absorbed the sudden run and after a few moments I guided her to the net. The lure slipped free as soon as the resistance was gone. What a fish, a beautiful tall-flanked perch in the 3s. A perfect end to the session. I still carried on for another hour, enjoying the sport of some very aggressive wasps, on the classic Countdown. Ending the session with a huge smile on my face.


Deep-flanked, this low 3 put up an amazing fight

The season’s grinding to a close, and the perch sessions are coming to an end. It will soon be time to move on to my next lure fishing targets. Thanks for all your lovely responses. I would like to write some tutorials covering techniques and species. I would love to hear your suggestions on styles you would like to see covered.

MY TOP 3 LURES FOR THE WEEK

#1 Rapala Countdown
Bringing this little beauty out of the box bought back many good memories. I find it fascinating that a lure twice my age works just as well today.

#2 Z-man Tickler Z-man dominate the ned rig market at the moment and the Tickler is by far my favourite. It’s just a little different, making it a great choice for pressured perch. The stretchy material is extremely reactive with other plastics and lures, so it’s best to keep them in the original packaging.

#3 Gravity Twitch 95 It’s been consistent this winter, used most sessions. A good hard lure to start with, tempting perch and pike.


My tackle box find. A very old Rapala Countdown, floating minnow, and a modern X-Rap
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Robbie Northman

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A personal best at 4lb 3oz

A very special season’s end

A NEW PB PERCH

Here we are, the end of our 2020-21 coarse fishing season, and what an ending it’s been. The final week of the season for me has been spent in pursuit of specimen perch. This time of year, with water temperatures warming, the perch can have other things on their mind. In just a few weeks they will be ready to spawn. This can result in either very easy or incredibly hard fishing. If you’re not in the zone you often won’t catch. So, with this in mind, I’ve spent a lot of time searching the river with sonar, looking for shoals of fish moving to their preferred spawning grounds. I think this is a process that takes place over weeks, with fish gradually moving from feeding area to feeding area en route to the final stop.


A side-scan image of a shoal of bream. No doubt there’s some perch among them

A NEW PB

I recently took delivery of some new Savage Gear lures, a range called the Craft Shad which will be released next month. Liking the look of them, I placed one of each size and colour in my bag and forgot about them. A few weeks had passed and I set off for a quick evening session, hoping to locate a perch or two. Arriving at the swim in nice conditions I was very hopeful. The air pressure was moderate and the day had a warm muggy feel about it, with patchy cloud cover masking the sun. Perfect. I rigged up with my Gravity Twitch and a ned rig and worked around the area for a solid two hours. The action was great, but with the wrong species. It was two hours of endless jack pike action. I had around nine, losing a few others, not one was over 4lb. After clearing the area of pike, I sat back thinking about my strategy. I probably had an hour and a half left until dusk, the sun had crept out a little, giving the evening a beautiful glow. I decided to try one of the new Craft Shads in a 10cm size. I chose a colour that would really amplify the light and trigger an active predator. A few casts later I had a pike barely 2lb, I slipped it back and cast over the same area. Whack! I was in again, this one felt very different, head-shaking and trying to stay deep. I knew it could be a perch, and if it was it was huge. I dialled the drag back a couple more clicks for safe measure and readied the net. The fish was under the rod tip at this point and I had yet to see it. I was confident it wasn’t a pike now. I guided the fish towards the surface and was met with the sight of a colossal chunk of perch flank. I took an attempt with the net, spooking the fish, causing it to perform another agonizing run. Second time round my net didn’t miss, and I stood there shocked for a moment at the sight of a truly magnificent Broadland perch. I had banked my first 4 last winter and this fish certainly equalled it. It’s a very rare stamp of perch here with 3s being a magnificent catch in their own right. But I never expected another 4, although there’s always potential for them to reach such a size. I readied the scale and was thrilled at a weight of 4lb 3oz! I’d beaten my PB by an oz. A magnificent fish which, despite its size and age, was as fin-perfect as possible. I slipped the fish back, taking in the moment of release, and almost collapsed with joy. A magnificent perch from a wild waterway. I was done for the day, content in sitting back and watching the sun set.


The sunlight cuts through a Motor Oil Craft Shad

A TACKLE CLASS PB

Micro targets, I’m sure we all have them. Biggest on a float, biggest on a feeder. I like doing it with lures. It encourages me to try other methods. Crankbait fishing has made up a huge part of my angling this year. For years my best perch on a hard bait stood at 2lb 12oz. I’ve beaten that many times now.

I returned for a dusk session in an area I had scanned fish earlier in the week. I had caught here before, tempting a few perch on the modified Goby Crank I used in an earlier blog. The day had been hot and bright, so I arrived at the venue as the sun was setting for a quick hour session. I covered a bit of ground, tempting a handful of small perch. They wanted it slow that evening, cast tight to cover, allowed to sink to the deck, and retrieved just a few inches at a time. I was retrieving the lure when it stopped. I felt a weight similar to catching the bottom. The bottom started kicking and I knew instantly I had a perch, just a very delicate take. The fight was much less adrenaline-fuelled than the battle with my PB, I was in total control as the fish plodded away under the rod tip. The excitement kicked in once I netted my prize. A beautifully proportioned perch, long, deep, and wide. This one’s definitely a good 3, I thought to myself while grabbing the scales, possibly my biggest on a hard lure. At 3lb 8oz it had topped my previous hard lure best by another few ounces. At this point darkness had crept in and I released my catch, ending the session with a huge grin on my face.


My best on a hard lure at 3lb 8oz

I’m writing this blog with one river session left, but for me this season’s complete. Over the next couple of blogs, I plan on explaining tactics and techniques in a little more depth. Before moving on to my next lure target, which I’ll reveal very soon…

A FINAL SESSION

I managed to get out for one final go on rivers. I set out at first light, aiming for a big day on the boat. Winds up to 50mph battered me, making it difficult to fish. By mid-morning I had covered water relentlessly, without so much as a bite. I made the decision to look for some calmer areas, seeking relief as much as fish at this point. It all happened in an instant. I scanned a shoal of perch on the sonar and anchored up. Moments later I was into my first perch of the day, a scraper 2 maybe. I was happy to end the blank. I cast the shad out again, feeling the faintest bite on retrieve. I struck in to a heavy fish, unmistakably a perch. Minutes later a huge perch broke the surface, possibly the fattest I’ve seen. The stunning perch weighed in at 4lb 1oz, a truly great fish and my 3rd wild 4lber. The bites dried up after and the rest of the day produced no bites. I was thrilled to end the season in such a special way.


A 4lb 1oz finale

Craft Shads in the full colour palette



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A 3lb 7oz sergeant that fell to a weedless presentation

Hard, soft or metal

THE TYPES OF LURES I USE, AND HOW TO APPLY THEM TO PERCH FISHING

Hard, soft, metal, each type of lure has its own pros and cons. On some days, one will wildly out-perform the other. With so many out there where do you start?…

In the last few blogs I’ve written about my fishing. Today I’ll cover some proven catchers and how I use them.

HARD LURES

Let’s kick it off with the hard lures, which I’ve become obsessed with recently. Childhood memories motivate me to fish with these lures. Soft lures were not as good back then, and most shops had amazing selections of hard baits. The drawback to hard lures is the price, most good quality lures cost around £10 and up. It’s easy to see why soft plastics dominate the market. There are 3 variants I like to keep in my box to cover most hard lure situations. Crankbaits, twitch/jerkbaits and lipless/vibes.


Twitch/jerkbait, crankbait and vibe

Crankbaits Easily distinguished by a diving vane. They come in floating and sinking styles, with many diving depth variants. Wind them down deep and allow them to pause, floating or suspending, depending on the model. Repeat the process and you’re away. Sometimes, a straight steady wind will be effective.

Jerkbaits/twitchbaits Many of these feature a small diving vane much like a crankbait. The action, however, is designed to complement a much jerkier, twitchy retrieve. You can use a steady retrieve, but a stop-and-go retrieve with sequences of twitches and jerks is often best. Many of this style of lure sink extremely slowly, with set sink rates making them effective at covering certain depths in the water column.

Vibes/lipless cranks Usually a fast sinking lure with no diving vane. Lipless cranks are perfect for covering deep water. They can be fished with all kinds of retrieves, and even vertically. The wedge shape creates a great wobbling motion with tons of vibration. I prefer to let them touch the deck, wind them a few feet and repeat.

SOFT LURES


Shad, ned rig & creature bait

Soft lures come in a plethora of shapes, colours and sizes. A real minefield to new anglers. With so many to choose from, I’ll cover the styles I use most in my day-to-day perch fishing.

Shads/paddle tails One of the most commonly used patterns, designed to mimic baitfish and other aquatic prey. The paddle-like tail kicks and wobbles, creating lots of movement and vibration. Fishing them on open jigs and weedless set-ups works for both. I like to fish this particular style of lure with lots of motion. Big lifts, bounces and short pauses. Sometimes winding straight produces good bites when fish are active.

Ned baits More traditionally fished as a worm/stick-type lure paired with a light domed or flat jig head. There are so many variants and styles on the market now. One thing’s certain – it’s effective. The stand-up profile and low water resistance makes them a winner for finicky fish. I grab a ned set-up when the fishing’s really hard, to bank a few finicky feeders. The ned rig works best for me fished super-slow, with small hops and long pauses. Sometimes a drag-and-pause retrieve is more than enough motion. Many modern ned rig lures suit weedless rigging, and can be really effective fished with dropshot tactics too.

Creature baits Simulating crayfish and other aquatic creatures. These make up a huge part of a perch’s diet. They even seem hard-wired to take them on waters without crayfish present. There are lots of styles, some with a swimming action, while others are designed to have minimal motion. Jig heads, neds, weedless and dropshot. You can fish them many ways. I use multiple retrieves, from aggressive pulls and short pauses, to tiny hops and long stops. Like any lure, experimenting with the retrieve will help find the best bite.

Split tails and pintails are also worth adding to the box. Not my consistent choice, but they have accounted for some great fishing days. I prefer to weedless rig or dropshot these types of lures.


A stand-up shad presentation tricked this one

METAL LURES


A selection of metal lures. Spinnerbait and chatterbait
present at the bottom, plus metal and bladed lures


Spinners, spoons, chatterbaits. Many have been around a long time, and still produce well today. Most work best with a simple straight retrieve. Varying pace or adding quick burst of speed can trigger bites. Some styles, like spinnerbaits and chatterbaits, offer a great compromise, mixing metal and plastic to achieve a versatile lure. They can come into their own, triggering quick reaction bites. I don’t use metal lures as often as I should, when I have, they have often saved tough days. Spinners, in particular, proving effective for pike and chub.


A jerkbait tempted this perch during a very windy day

A few other styles of soft plastics I keep in my box
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This beautiful pike fell for a small twitch bait. An awesome moment shared on the bank with John Bailey

My winter’s pike fishing

BIG LURES DOMINATE

I started writing these blogs while in full perch fishing mode. When perch fishing’s good it’s hard to step away from them. However, met with flooding and freezing conditions earlier in the winter, I turned my attention to pike. It turned out to be an amazing winter with numerous 20lb+ specimens banked and plenty of back-up doubles. I try and make time for pike each winter. Living in Broadland I have some amazing water to go at. Big lures dominate my early season fishing, but when conditions get cold I’ve found up-scaled perch tactics to be an absolute winner. Every season brings new challenges, and this one was no different, so let’s break down the winter’s action.


My favourite Burbot Curl Tails

Adding some rattle for extra attraction

I start my season’s pike fishing around October. People are more conscious than ever about pike fishing in the warm months. While in many deep, cold waters there may not be an issue, we have a unique set-up on the Broads. The rivers aren’t particularly deep, and vast areas of shallow broads and wetland can cause the system to reach very high temperatures. As autumn hits, the water cools quite rapidly, giving us a great opportunity to fish with really big lures. At times scaling down gets the bite, but for the most part the best early season action is had with large lures. My typical early selection is made up of 20-30cm lures, one of my favourite patterns being the Savage Gear Burbot. Worked along decaying weed beds and treelines, takes can be aggressive and explosive. Fish will often chase, engulfing the lure at the boat. It’s as exciting as pike fishing gets. Casting to cover and ripping it back fast. Swimbaits and big jerkbaits can be amazing fun too. Sometimes a little topwater action can get the blood really pumping. This exciting style of fishing usually carries on through to mid-December. Heavy rain and huge temperature drops mixed it up this year, sending the fish into winter behaviour early.


A beautifully marked pike, from an early season session

MIDWINTER MADNESS

Midwinter on the Broads has often driven me mad. While on many venues pike will readily take big lures year round, I find it’s a finesse game here. Through December and January I can locate fish and target them with large lures, and I will often be tempting the odd one, but switching to up-scaled perch tactics like large creature baits, 10cm shads and curl tails often produces much bigger catches. Year after year the small, slower lures have put the best pike on the bank during cold months. At times, I will work the lures painfully slowly, hopping a few inches and pausing. Takes are often delicate. A light tap, and mayhem breaks loose on light tackle. During these months I often watch other perch anglers tame big pike that have fallen foul to tiny lures. One guess is that during this point of their winter migration, they have reached a sustainable weight, and are content feeding on easy targets. Prey like roach and bream fry, densely shoaled in slacks and calm areas.

Towards the end of January everything came together. The pike were extremely active, and witnessing brief outbursts of scattering baitfish became a regular occurrence. The hard lures came into play. Using light rods with strong braid to jerk small twitch baits became my go-to approach for pike and perch. It was a universal tactic, which really performed outstandingly for both species. That twitch, twitch, stop retrieve worked most sessions when I found active fish. The technique put a few 20s on the boat and my best fish of the season. I also found success on other styles of hard lure during that period. Small soft plastics still continued to produce fish on the more difficult days.


Releasing a mid-double, caught on a small vibe bait

THE FINAL MONTH

The final month of the season proved the most challenging for me. I became preoccupied with perch and lost touch. The pike on the Broads are known to migrate throughout the season, often covering large distances closer to spawning time. I spent time targeting my February & March locations, but the timing seemed off. The action was great, catching good numbers of small pike, with the odd double thrown in, but the larger ones eluded me. Once again, it was a mix of hard lures and small soft plastics which tempted the majority of fish. I spent some time using larger 15cm and 20cm paddle tails, usually a go-to at that time of year. The larger lures paid off when I hooked up with a big fish, unfortunately lost on a big run. A few back-up mid-doubles ended the season nicely, alongside quality perch. I even found time to film a couple of sessions, capturing some carnage as a nice pike grabbed my perch lure on light kit.

To sum it up, the season’s pike fishing was a success. Travel restrictions meant I spent much more time on my local waters. I took the opportunity to build a far deeper understanding of the fishing here.

Now, having had a few weeks of downtime, I’m thinking forward to my next set of predatory targets, which I’ll write about soon.


My largest, and probably favourite Broadland pike of the season.
A 9.5cm twitch bait tempted this one, after spotting it chase fry

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grayson

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Indeed , some lovely fish , on the technique I find second only in enjoyment to fly fishing. I did a lot of lure fishing for chub in the Eighties (when it wasn't A Thing as it is now) and caught lots of decent chub (by the standards of the time) as well as pike , trout and perch . That was on hard baits (as we didn't call them then ) - plugs like Big S and similar . I stopped doing it for two reasons - on my waters fly fishing was even better in the summer months , and even with de-barbed hooks I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with using even a single treble. The last chub I had on a lure with two trebles put me off for good - I was not comfortable at so much ironwork on one lure , with a fish being impaled by up to four hook points. If it's a pike with a hard bony mouth it's ok but on a soft-mouthed chub it made me feel profoundly uneasy .

When the whole light lure/drop shot thing started taking off I was intrigued , then addicted , finding it nearly as much fun as fly fishing, and far more subtle than any lure fishing I'd done before. I love techniques like the Ned Rig , where the pace is slowed right down and most of all I so like the ease and convenience of using a single barbless hook . I may dip my toe into hard baits again , but I remain cautious about multi trebled lures . Any way my concern might be allayed I wonder?
 
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Robbie Northman

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Shore release

The next mission

CHANGE OF SCENERY

As I mentioned previously I’ve been taking some downtime. I packed away the lure rods in exchange for a change of scenery. Over the past few weeks I’ve been enjoying some spring tench fishing. Targeting them my favourite way, on the float and ‘pin. The rivers also opened up for game fishing on the 1st. So I set out on some local chalk streams for wild trout. Fly fishing is something I really enjoy, it shares a similar technical approach with lure fishing. While the pike and perch are spawning and the sea still cold it really fills a void. I continue with my trout sessions throughout the season. I’ve always taken a traditional approach to the fly, this year I’m looking forward to trying some larger streamers. There are some huge fish out there that rarely appear in catch reports, and chasing one down is my mission. Anyway, spring is here and trout aren’t my only target.


A colourful male tench

A COASTAL JOURNEY

Over the last few years my love of coastal fishing has really grown. In the past I’ve fished in freshwater through and through. At least until I turned to bass. Bass began to capture my imagination years ago, however it wasn’t until I really started to figure them out that I became addicted. Amazed at how strong they fight in a fierce tidal rip, I spent long days hoping to connect with a giant. I managed fish to 9lb but that lure-caught double still eluded me. It’s a target I will keep setting out to achieve, and hopefully I can crack it. Early spring can be challenging for bass here. Wind, rain and cold conditions can switch fishing on and off, turning the sea to a muddy soup. Not my best opportunity to catch that double. Instead of targeting open coastline, my local estuaries will be my lifeline. While big bass are rare in these places, great numbers of schoolies can make an exciting session on the right tide. I’ve often found they come and go fast on the flood, and windows to catch them can be brief. On some venues you can almost follow them as they make their journey.

It’s a lot of fun. Fishing for estuary bass is crazy at times. I often use light kit, a perch set-up at around 3-15g cast weight and 13lb braid. At times when they’ve been small I’ve grabbed the 0.5-5g LRF (Light Rock Fishing) rod. A one pounder gives an amazing fight on such finesse tackle. Some of the estuaries run clear, while others are horribly muddy. But they all produce. The clear venues are easier to target with casting metals, hard lures and realistic shads catching most of the time. While the muddy water can be more challenging. Bright colours often work for me. Although around the top of the tide as the flow eases the colour often improves on the estuaries. This can trigger a feeding frenzy.


Bass don’t have to be big to be fun. Estuary fishing can produce many fish on light tackle

Hopefully, towards the end of the month, conditions will be more stable and the sea warm. Finally I can take on the task of tracking down some big coastal bass. Soft plastics and shallow hard lures will be my go-to approach. On tricky days long casting metals like the Surf Seeker will be a safe bet. I will be covering ground, rain or shine, walking and casting until I find the fish.


This big bass fell for a sandeel soft plastic

POWERHOUSE WRASSE

Once lockdown ends I hope to do my annual trip to the South coast. My goal will be to target wrasse and enjoy some LRF fishing. Wrasse are a species I really miss when I’m away too long. I was first introduced to them on a holiday with fishing friends. They are powerhouses that get your adrenaline going whenever you hook a decent one. They have a paddle like a tench, a saltwater attitude, and an eye for snags. When you hit a big wrasse it’s hit and hold, pushing the tackle to near breaking point. Not to mention they are one of the most amazing looking creatures I’ve seen. Fishing for them is a blast, walking miles, accessing remote places, being isolated. It’s a great experience. The gear is simple, heavy perch kit with weedless lures. Shads, creature baits and worms in the 2-4 inch range are perfect. The retrieve is almost similar too. Unfortunately, the wrasse love tackle graveyards, feeding and living in rough, rocky terrain. Be prepared to lose some kit.


A beautiful wrasse

The LRF (Light Rock Fishing) is the total opposite. Fishing tiny artificial lures in just about any kind of water for micro-species, some weighing little more than an ounce. It’s extremely fun, with so many unusual mini-species scattered around the coast, it’s often a mystery what you’ll pull out next. I’m fairly new to it, but there are anglers that really specialise in this style of fishing. For me it’s a fun way to pass time during the slow parts of the tide. Even a fairly small rock pool could be home to a mini-monster.


A giant goby, king of the rock pool

With UK holidays being the main option this summer, why not give the coastal fishing a go?

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Robbie Northman

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Gravity Stick Bass

Coastal bass fishing

MY APPROACH

We’re getting closer, but high winds and snow storms have put my coastal plans behind a bit. Being sand and chalk in East Anglia, it colours up quickly. A few more weeks of warmth and reasonable conditions, and the bass should turn up. This week I’m going to expand more on my upcoming bass fishing plans. I will cover some of the lures and approaches I use to target bass.


A mixture of lures

HARD LURES

Hard lures are a popular choice for bass anglers. There are tons to pick from, and collecting them can become an addiction. Some rare patterns can fetch a high price, with anglers seeking out unique designs from the global market. There are many styles to choose from, some which work like sweepers, while others have actions suited to a straight or stop-and-go wind. I prefer long slender profiles that can be wound and jerked, giving a flashy erratic retrieve. One pattern I used a lot last season, when the big sandeel and launce moved in, was the Savage Sandeel Jerk. The big 17.5cm version was my go-to lure. Long and heavy, they have a good casting range. Winding them a few metres, before adding some aggressive jerks, often proved the best retrieve. Bass hit them hard and it’s a pure adrenaline rush. You get that sensation like you’ve hit a wall, before the drag starts peeling off. For most situations hard lures around 14cm and 20g are perfectly suitable for bass. Many feature clever weigh systems to improve casting range. Diving depths between 3ft and 6ft suit most venues. Many topwater lures fall into the hard lure category. I don’t use them often but enjoy pop and walk styles for explosive takes.


Alex Mason joined me to catch his first Anglian bass, tempted by a Shimano Assassin

METALS

Casting jigs and inline spoons make up a large part of my box. Extreme casting range makes them perfect for covering water. When using these I like to keep mobile. Often walking long sections of barren coastline while casting. Covering ground will often locate a shoal of fish. Most of my metals are 15g – 35g, and up to 14cms in size. Sometimes an active retrieve, working them near the surface, produces fish. Often for me, jigging them back and covering the water column will pick up fish. It pays to experiment with retrieves. Many metals like the Savage Seekers will spin on the drop, and rise in the water column quickly. This makes them perfect for a jigging retrieve over medium depths of water, while being able to fish them right through the shallows. Classics like the Toby spoon are still really productive today, and many people have a few kicking around the lure box.


An awesome bass which slammed Lee’s hard lure

SOFT PLASTICS

Soft plastics are by far my most effective lure for targeting bass. I like to fish them with an aggressive jigging approach in rough conditions. The Savage Gear Sandeel Kits are a great selection to start with, offering plenty of options. They’ve produced a lot of fish for me. The jig heads have a stinger eye, perfect for attaching an underspin blade. I’ve found the flash makes a difference in choppy, milky conditions. Weedless options may suit some venues better. The Storm 360GTs and Fiiish Black Minnows are perfect options. Weightless and weighted worms are a great choice suited to a variety of venues. Long casting options like the Wave Worms and Gravity Sticks can be fished in many ways. It’s incredible how much action you can get from them. Twitching them back over rock and reef. Working them high as a top water. Sometimes less is more and creeping them back produces exciting takes.


Sandeel shad with added flash

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

The type of kit I use and what I look for when searching for bass. When it comes to rods I look for one that covers all the situations I might face. When confronted by miles of sand, chalk and shingle, carrying multiple outfits isn’t an option. A long rod is perfect for bass fishing and aids casting. I use a 9ft 6inch, 15g-42g casting weight model. This covers me from my lightest to my heaviest lures. With bass often being hard hitters, a rod with a fairly soft tip is favourable. Lots of flex reduces hook pulls, while plenty of power in the lower blank will absorb big runs. The downside to a soft-tipped rod is reduced hook sets on big weedless lures. You often have adjust for a bigger strike or consider faster rods, if that’s your primary style of fishing. When it comes to reels, 3000-4000 sizes offer great line lay and casting ability. Many saltwater options are available, but washed down and maintained properly, even cheaper reels will hold up to the job. Although as I’ve found out in the past, dropping them in salty, sandy, water wrecks them fairly quickly.


My set-up, and a decent bass on a sandeel imitation

Braid between 17 and 20 pounds holds up great to regular abuse. Lighter braids are better for some situations but I find I’m replacing them more often. Matching fluorocarbon makes a great hook length, attached with the FG knot, it will stand up to abuse. I’ve began to favour long fluorocarbon lengths of 12ft or so, due to its brilliant abrasion resistance.

Lastly, location. The Anglian coastline doesn’t have as diverse a habitat range as other coastlines. We have sand, sand and more sand. The occasional bit of shingle and chalk reef exists. Any structure from an artificial reef, pier, groin or estuary mouth can hold fish. Covering ground around these areas is effective. It’s great to travel light and just fish as you go. Flood tides are great for covering freshly submerged structure. It pays to fish all stages of the tide on new spots, feeding habits can vary from location to location.

With restrictions now lifting, I have plans to try something I haven’t done before, which I’m looking forward to covering in next week’s blog.

The post Lure Fishing with Robbie Northman #8 first appeared on FishingMagic Magazine.

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Peter Jacobs

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Another interesting piece. Lure fishing is not my cup of Early Grey but I do enjoy these features.

One question, what restrictions are being lifted?

I thought the current restrictions were from January 2020. Anglers are now required to fish for bass on a catch and release basis during January, February and December of 2020. From 1st March to 30th November 2020 anglers can retain two bass per angler per day, provided they reach the minimum size of 42cm.
 

markg

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Good article, clear and great pictures, I must try more lure fishing for Bass, I tend to like float fishing or just plain bottom fishing but I will see if I can buy some of those lures in the tackle shop next time. School bass should start to be moving in soon but there is always the chance of a big one. Bass are one of the best fish in any water, fighting abilities, looks and size and a tasty fresh meal if you want but I only keep one a year, that's if I catch one which has not been the case last year. Maybe trying a bit of lure fishing will change that.

I don't know what the current rules are Peter, as I said I rarely keep one anyway and if it was over 6lb-ish I put them back anyway, I have always thought they have the right to swim to the end of their natural if they have got that big, I am the same for any fish; I may keep one if it is about 3lb or 4lb and that's it, my reasoning is I have earned one meal a year from my efforts. I am the same with mackerel, keep about six and have one meal a year from them, the rest go back. I like to poach the fillets in half white wine and half water with some herbs and chili powder to taste, just cover them and bring to the boil and switch off the heat and leave them, nice cold as well. The thing is mackerel are becoming scarce as well, year by year there are fewer of them and I reckon they will be the next crises fish. Back to Bass, they have been messing about with the bass regulations for a few years now, changing them frequently, it's hard to keep up with so I just carry on doing my own thing. But how the casual sea angler, the day tripper and the once a year angler keeps up with it is anyone's guess, I don't think they do, they just keep any fish they feel like.
 

markg

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Your telling me you can't use the Internet to search bass regulations for your area? I don't believe that I'm afraid. Your either dim, ignorant or looking for an argument!
If that's to me I will just ignore that, I was not looking for an argument and I just know my own conservation methods will not flout any regulations whatever they are so no need to look them up, and if they are then one medium sized bass a year is a lot better than any regulations they may pass, more environmental bass friendly, any species environmentally friendly in fact and a lot easier to follow. If you could not understand that, then you haven't been able to understand what I said.
 
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markg

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I fully understand the comments in the later part of your 1st post. It's simply pathetic to say anyone who has the Internet like yourself cannot find the current bass regulations online! Get a grip
You still haven't understood, I never said that it is not easy to look them up or I couldn't find them and as I have explained there is no need for me to look them up. I think I will pass on this, apart from you being personally insulative and not understanding it I think it is you who is just looking for an argument. It will only spoil a very good thread on a good interesting subject to some so pass.
 
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Robbie Northman

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I definitely meant the lift in restriction, as in the ability to travel for a UK-based holiday. My stance on bass generally is that I am catch-and-release orientated, although I don't begrudge people taking the occasional table fish. Certainly a big bass which has survived, despite all challenges, I send home to pass on their genetics to the next generation. I'm hoping to grow that 10lber after all.

Regards, Robbie
 
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Robbie Northman

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A big brown trout on a PVC Mayfly for Sam

A new challenge. Lure fishing for Trout: Day 1

THE FLY vs THE LURE

Trout on lures. It’s not something I’ve done before. In the past I’ve caught the occasional trout on lures as by-catches, while targeting other species. But I’ve never attempted to catch one by design. It’s something I’ve been keen to try but haven’t, due to location. Home for me is East Anglia, and while we have small populations of trout, our regional by-laws allow the use of artificial fly only. So over the last few years I’ve become addicted to fly fishing. Searching out small streams and overgrown river sections, in pursuit of wild trout. Last year I spotted some particularly large fish, possibly well-established stockies, but monsters none the less. I knew that the best way to target these large predatory fish early in the season would be with streamers. But before tackling that mission I planned on learning more about lure fishing for trout, and combining the two tactics.


A Norfolk chalk stream wildie. My springtime passion

BLACK WOOLLY BUGGER SCORES

A change of venue was needed, so I got together with my good friends Rob and Sam, aka the Twins. They kindly took me to a few of their locals where lure fishing for trout is allowed. I was keen to have a go at a new tactic, but first I wanted to see just how effective it was next to fly fishing. We met on the bank early with plans to tackle an urban venue, holding a mix of both stocked and wild fish. It was a cold, crisp morning and bites proved difficult to find, but as the daytime temperatures began to rise, the fish became more active. It was a slow start for the twins on lure tactics, so I persevered with the fly. After a few fly changes and a conversation with a local fly angler, I decided to try a Black Skull Head Woolly Bugger on an intermediate line. I worked through each swim, heading upstream, working the fly with short quick strips. It wasn’t long before I hooked my first fish of the day. The take was subtle but the fight that followed was amazing. The fish took off downstream like a rocket. Despite using a fairly sturdy 5wt set-up, I struggled to turn the fish and soon realized I’d been following it for at least 60yds. Finally, the fish began to tire and after a few more speedy runs it was in the net. My first trout of the day.


My first brown of the day

TIME FOR A SAVAGE GEAR MAYFLY

I continued to fish through the morning managing a couple of follows, another banked fish, and one lost at the net. It was proving to be a productive day, meanwhile the twins had been struggling to convert follows into takes with their crankbaits and micro spoons. I really thought that the lures would be by far the most effective tactic, but perhaps due to conditions they weren’t responding to a more aggressive approach. With lunch approaching, it was time to explore our findings and experiment. The twins had tried micro soft plastics with little success, but I had also struggled with streamers, outside of dark black or brown colours. In my backpack I had some 50mm Savage Gear PVC Mayfly. A micro soft plastic, not too different in profile to a small Woolly Bugger or Damsel. Even better, they were in black. I gave a few to the twins to try on their tiny 0.8g jig heads. They fished them through much like a euro nymphing rig. Casting upstream, allowing them to bump the bottom, maintaining perfect contact, all while imparting micro-movements. They fished them through the flow, allowing them to lift and hang at the end of the run, very soon they produced some quality fish. The tables were turned, and this time I was getting thrashed. Both Rob and Sam managed some real beauties up to the 4lb mark. The direct contact of micro braid on a delicate rod set-up made a real difference. The success of the lure-nymphing approach persuaded me to mix up my tactics and try a bit of nymphing myself.



The Twins set the pace once they dialled in their lure-nymphing

SUCCESS ON NYMPHS

I set up a team of nymphs under a New Zealand wool indicator and glanced through the fly box. I picked a tungsten Shrimp as the point fly to get the rig down, and French Nymph on the dropper as the black and red theme had proved effective already today. There had been a few olives hatching, so I was quite confident in my choice. It wasn’t long before the indicator buried and I hooked into a quality fish. Plodding upstream steadily I took it slow, conscious of the much finer hook and light tippet. A change of direction and fast downstream run raised my blood pressure quickly! The hook held and the final fish of the day was in the net. A few quick pics and another great fish released.

A great day had come to an end with all of us enjoying some awesome, urban trout action. The fly had paved the way finding the winning tactic on the day. But once mastered, the lure had been so efficient in picking apart a swim. I left the water keen to return and have a go at targeting them on lures myself.


An indicator fly rig

The Mayfly and Fish Skull Woolly Bugger

Stay tuned for next week’s blog, and Day 2 of my trout fishing adventure. The lure rods come out and the trout are ferocious.

The post Lure Fishing with Robbie Northman #9 first appeared on FishingMagic Magazine.

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