Lure Fishing with Robbie Northman

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Robbie Northman

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From Pike to Perch

Another busy week began with preparing boat and tackle for some hard graft fishing. Rob, Sam (the twins), and their mum (Mary Ann) were due to visit for their annual holiday. This time I booked time off to join them. We planned on using two boats to tackle three Broadland river systems in search of pike and, of course, perch. Changeable weather would make the fishing challenging, but with any luck we would achieve our targets and learn more about venues I rarely get the chance to fish. The mornings and evenings would be spent in search of perch, while afternoons would be spent casting big lures for pike.

We encountered rain, wind, sunshine, high air pressure, and lows. Good, bad and changeable conditions made the fishing challenging. However, through graft and perseverance we ended the trip with around 50 pike to mid-doubles. The larger fish followed, but proved difficult this time round, with the water being incredibly clear. The perch, however, stole the show. Although we only fished short sessions for them around prime feeding times, we finished the holiday with numerous twos from a variety of venues. Too much to cover in one blog, so I’ve chosen the highlights, best captures and tactics to cover this week.

Session one, and Sam was my boat partner for the day. It was a clear dawn with the morning sun clearing the clouds. A bright cheerful day with the odd patch of light rain forecast. We decided to stop off at a couple of perch spots before dedicating the day to targeting pike. The morning looked promising, and I knew we had a shot at some quality perch. It was a fair motor down to the area I planned on targeting, but with conditions like this the time passes by quickly.

We dropped into the first spot and I instructed Sam on the area we would target first. I had yet to rig my rod so Sam started early, casting a Z-Man Fluke into the swim. A few bounces of the lure later and he was in. A strong fish had taken the lure, kiting around the front of the boat. Sam dialled back the drag, knowing it was a good fish, when suddenly everything went slack. The mystery fish had shaken the hook. Whether it was a pike or perch remained unknown, but after another 15 uneventful minutes in the swim and a snagged lure we moved on to the final spot.

The next spot would be a gamble so we decided to fish opposites. Sam chose a bright Savage Gear prototype shad, while I fished an SG creature bait. A cast later and he was in. A solid fish made a quick run around the boat. But at the ready, lunging with the net, I landed his prize. Sam quickly cast again, hooking another within seconds. I changed to a similar lure, hooking up too. While Sam netted his prize, mine shook the hook. A bittersweet start to the day, with both of us losing fish. Thankfully, I redeemed myself that evening.


A cracking brace of twos for Sam. A fast jigged shad produced the takes


Meanwhile on boat two Rob was having success. This one fell for a firetiger shad

Session two and Mum’s the word. Mary Ann jumped aboard my boat for this session. Fairly new to lure fishing and keen to use all styles, the challenge for the morning was a PB perch. We stopped off at an area that usually holds a couple of nomadic fish. A resting spot. A solid snag pile where only the most weedless lures work. I suggest she try dropshotting with lobworm around the snag pile, while I remained at the ready for the inevitable battle.

It wasn’t long before we saw the first fish of the day around a pound and a half. A few minutes on from that, and she was in again. This time to a much better fish which fought hard in an attempt to reach the snags. A new PB by an ounce, and I was treated to a great dinner that evening, earning an extra helping.


Mary Ann’s PB. Demonstrating that dropshotting with lobworm can be very effective.
A great way to understand bites and line control before transitioning to lures.
It catches a few belters too

An evening fish. During the run back from a tough day’s pike fishing, we decided to drop by one of the snag piles. I expected a fish or two to be holding tight to the feature in bright conditions. So I decided to rig up with a new Savage Reaction Cray on a cheb head and fish in the snags. I cast into the feature and slowly worked my lure back, feeling the lure and line bouncing off the timber, snagging a couple of times, but quickly freeing the lure with a ping of the braid. I felt a few taps in the process, briefly connecting with a fish.

Once again, I repeated the process. Suddenly, I felt a thump as a fish inhaled my lure. Setting the hook I felt the tell-tale head shakes of a decent perch. The rod hunched over on tight drag as I pulled the fish away from the snags. A short, powerful fight followed as the fish dived back to the cover. I wasn’t giving an inch, and soon netted my prize. A beautiful perch.


This long perch looked amazing in the evening sun

A crayfish pattern, engulfed

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Perch Fishing – Autumn Tactics to Try

Autumn has arrived, and the predator fishing has really begun to kick off.

Last week I wrote about my perch sessions accompanied by the twins and their mum. With so much to cover, I didn’t really get a chance to dive into the tactics. So this week I’m going to cover the lures we used, alternative options, and why we use them and how to retrieve them. With some captures from the week that’s just passed.

Autumn perch fishing can be challenging and fun. Cooling water temperatures trigger them to feed in short aggressive spells. While slower static tactics work, I like to have a set-up ready with faster reaction baits, waiting to capitalise on periodic moments of action when the bigger fish feed. Here are some of the tactics my friends and I have been using to tempt perch this autumn.

NED RIGGING

The ever faithful Ned rig, and associated styles, are perhaps the easiest methods to come to grips with. They work all year round through most conditions. Easy to fish and effective. A good stock of Ned baits have become a staple in most perch anglers’ armouries. Fishing them is simple, light balanced tackle paired with relatively light weights, contact is key. Fish as light a weight as you can while maintaining good feel.

If you have to fish heavy in your river, try free-running Texas and Carolina rigs. Keep the movement subtle and crisp, small hops of the rod tip with brief pauses is a great place to start. From there you can add or remove aggression, raising the height and distance of the hops, even slowing down to a drag. Many takes come on the drop or pause. How long to pause is a good question. There’s no exact science, and it varies from venue to venue with conditions etc. 1-3 seconds is a good start, but on some occasions dead-sticking the lure for 10 seconds or more will entice a take.


A selection of Worm and Ned-style lures

A crayfish-style Ned bait tempted this pretty perch

SHADS

Shads are not just a bottom lure for jigging, rather a tool for searching the water column. Match the speed to a fish’s mood in much the way you might fish a spinner or crankbait. I might see a shoal of roach on the surface in 12ft of water and want to run a lure slowly and consistently 9ft down, mimicking a wounded straggler.

The running depth and speed of a Shad vary, depending on the choice of jig head you pair them with. A bulky profiled 9cm Shad paired with a 3g jig head may be the perfect solution for running at a depth of 3-5ft in flow. If I want to speed up the retrieve, slow it down, fish deeper, or pause the lure, I’ll alter the jig weight. A lethal method when fish are feeding aggressively, or to search bodies of water, accounting for my own PB.


Shads on various jig heads

CHATTERBAITS

Finesse Chatterbaits certainly have their moments. They are quite versatile, whether used as a search bait or jigged. Productive at night, they also work in clear and murky water. I’ll often give Chatterbaits a few minutes in a quiet swim before moving on, they regularly entice a surprise. I find they come into their own in areas with a lot of baitfish.

When fish are spoilt for choice, giving them something different which appeals to multiple senses can often grab a quick bite. Straight retrieves and jigging retrieves can both work. I prefer curl tail and creaturebait trailers, although shads work too.


A bass-style Chatterbait (top) with finesse versions below

This quality perch fell for the middle Chatterbait set-up

CRANKBAITS

One of my favourites for covering water. I’m rarely without a selection of Crankbaits. I prefer tighter-actioned fat-profile Cranks in warmer water. Experimenting with different running depths and colours is the key to making them work.

Floating and sinking Crankbaits both have their moments, although floating versions are a little more forgiving when working over snags and structure. A steady wind is perfect, adding pauses and stops once locating fish, to induce better takes.


Sometimes you can’t beat a Crankbait for finding fish

CREATURES

Creature baits or Crayfish imitations come in many styles. But, I think they fit into two categories, with some that cross over between. There are those that are designed with minimal movement, and flat or natural appendages for slower techniques, and those with wild flapping arms and lots of movement that suit faster or steady retrieves. Both are equally effective, and don’t have to be fished in any intended way.

For slow winter fishing I prefer the first style. The rest of the time I love a Creature with lots of action. Jig, dropshot, weedless, as a trailer. Perch are hardwired to eat them. Whether out of primal instinct or curiosity, Crayfish imitations work on many venues, including those which seemingly have no crays. I enjoy fishing the flapping style on heavier weights. Moving them fast and close to the bottom with very brief pauses. The takes are often very aggressive.

There are many other styles of lure to try, but these are the ones that have been the most prolific for me so far this autumn and in the past.


Crayfish imitations catch big perch. The natural style (top) vs the swimming style (bottom)



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Piking Problems

Alongside tracking down perch we’ve been out targeting pike. Usually, October is a month full of insane action, aggressive takes, and numbers of hungry pike. This season has been a little more of a struggle. Pike numbers are certainly in decline, and with the recent approval of the great broad project, Broadlands’ fishing future remains uncertain.

Despite over seven years of study and analysis, proving that Hoveton Great Broad is an essential habitat and major spawning site for bream, the Environment Agency folded to Natural England’s plans to separate the waterway, and remove the fish in a bio-manipulation project. Flushing the research down the river as eagerly as the water companies ditch sewage in a downpour. It seems our favourite aquatic inhabitants really are being defeated in many ways.

Anyway that’s enough rant for one blog. There are still great fish around, and struggling is as much down to my poor fishing decisions as any other problem. So it was time to find the solution…


Fish like this beautiful double have made regular appearances.
The real big ones still remain elusive.

Lure size and clear water have been the biggest factors that have influenced our fishing in recent weeks. Rain water has had a very different effect here, cleaning out the broads rather than colouring them. This clear water has presented some interesting challenges. While casting our regular pike size lures we’ve had an abnormal number of lazy follows and aborted takes. During the day the side-scanning sonar is picking up few fish in the river, with more showing after dark. Night lure fishing is one option of course, but how do we capitalise on our daytime sessions?

Fishing closer to dawn and dusk has produced fish, that leaves a very long quiet part of the day. Moving to tidal areas where the water is more coloured has helped with putting a few fish on the boat. The biggest factor influencing success seems to be lure size. Small lures pitched into deep cover have been successful at singling out daytime fish. Explorative casting with flashy little vibe baits and jerkbaits have proven productive too.

When it comes to chasing down consistent pike it seems going bigger has been the key. While in past years I’ve found 15-20cm lures to be plenty large enough, it seems now they want a proper meal. It’s been time to pull the big lures out, and fishing with giant 200g-plus swimbaits and tailbaits seems like the most consistent way to get the bites. I found myself raiding the box of big bait classics. Lures like the Savage Gear 25cm Line Thru Roach and 30-40cm Burbots.

Fishing with lures like these is tiring, 8ft 6 heavy swimbait rods, with a power winch of a bait caster, loaded with 80lb braid. The difference has been phenomenal, no more lazy follows just slamming takes. The average stamp has still been relatively small, with scraper and low doubles, however we’re getting somewhere. I’m sure as the rivers cool and colour up the bigger fish will begin to show. It’s still early after all.

On to a few catches.



Sam tempted this pike on a small lipless crank, a little 9cm Rapala. We had set out early that morning in darkness, arriving at the first spot of the day in heavy mist. After a short while fishing in the area we noticed our lures bumping the backs of baitfish quite high in the water column. I suggested we switch from slower shads and tailbaits to lures with a little more action, picking out hardbaits. The change quickly produced a few fish. Then suddenly, Sam’s tip slammed around and he was in to a better one. On light tackle the fight was fierce, the fish used the flow to full advantage. Expecting a fish much larger we were surprised, but not disappointed, when a pretty low double breeched beside the boat.

Ben also experienced results with smaller hard baits. After a morning’s perch fishing, we moved into a shallow area where predators often hunt. Working away with a range of lures the swim was uneventful until Ben rigged up a KVD Jerk. Flashing and twitching the lure along the drop-off in hopes of a perch or pike, his wish was quickly granted. A slack line take followed by a steady run from strong pike. The subtle approach had worked again and Ben quickly netted a double.





I on the other hand, continued to persevere with the big lures, hopeful that I’d tempt a giant. Well, the giants were elusive, but upscaling did bring some great action. Casting the big lures shallow and drawing them out of the cover produced some really exciting action. Fish in the low doubles inhaled the giant lures at the side of the boat. The fight’s just as hectic on the heavy gear, with more power and contact direct to the fish. Noticing the resistance, they try hard to shake the hooks, often leaping and tail walking in the end stages of the fight. Exciting fishing.





Next week it’s back to perch, with trips to some new venues planned over the next few days.



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Monsters Emerge

It’s been an eventful week, many miles travelled across countless venues, with plenty of perch action and lots to write about. So where do I start? Let’s begin with the changing conditions and first leg of my journey.

A weather front had set in, smothering England in a cloud of conditions that predator anglers dream of. A long high-pressure front has drawn to a close, replaced by wind, cloud, rainstorms and more importantly, low air pressure. It was a sudden drop, within a day it had plummeted to the sub 1000s, and the drop continued to 990mb. These are conditions I relish for a big fish. While they sometimes take a while to adjust, a steady week could lead to a great chance at catching a giant. I crossed my fingers, hopeful the smaller stamp of fish would slow down and the big ones would feed. In these conditions it can feel dire at times, but once you get it right you’re rewarded.

I hopped in the car southbound, ready for a couple of days filming. Beforehand I had to drop by the twins’ (Rob and Sam) place in London. With a day spare, I was keen to experience some Southern perch. We arrived at the canal in darkness for our first spot of the day. As expected, in the conditions bites were few and far between. Then we found them. Sam cast a creaturebait tight to a far bank bush, hooking up to a great perch at 2lb 12oz. Moments later he was in again, an almost identical fish.

I quickly covered the area with my lure, hooking up to another solid perch. A few jagged runs later and the line went slack! It was gone. My best chance at a really big one for the day. Not disheartened after losing a fish we carried on. Trying some river sections too. All in all a great day, with some lovely perch and bonus pike. We never quite matched the morning’s action and the real monsters remained elusive, wondering if I lost it that morning.

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These Southern perch are very pretty.
The first difference I noticed, the rosy fins and plump bodies

The next morning began with a drive further South West, and later North, on a two-day video shoot for the Savage Gear UK YouTube channel. The plan, to create a series of fishing tutorials that also showcase an amazing range of lures coming later this year. To make the challenge interesting, we decided to mix things up. Instead of doing all the fishing, I was joined by Ed Betteridge from Prologic. Ed’s an accomplished carp angler with very little lure fishing experience.

Now here’s the challenge, to tutor Ed on the rigs, techniques and control needed for lure fishing, while ticking two targets off the list over two independent sessions. Target one, a PB perch or 2lber, and target two a PB Zander. Canals would be the venue of choice, and we certainly had a mammoth task ahead. After building confidence with smaller perch, Ed fished with finesse. It was time for me to take a step back.

Sure enough, an hour or so later he connected to a much better fish. The rod hunched over and Ed yelled out with excitement. I sprung into action, bounding down the towpath, net at the ready. Arriving without a moment to spare as a sizeable fish thrashed at the surface, I lunged towards it. Seconds later and it was in! Kicking off what would become a great two days for Ed.


Ed was happy to achieve a PB. Although it didn’t hit the target 2lb, at 1lb 15oz it’s as close as you get

It seems fitting to write about monsters. Typing away on Halloween Eve, ghosts, ghouls, but I prefer monsters from the deep…

Keen to capitalise on the low pressure conditions I ventured out, braving the high wind, gloom, and showers. Fishing was tough, a bite here and there, with long periods of inactivity between. One return trip to the car for a fresh set of dry clothes, it was one of those days. The average stamp was great, keeping me motivated. While searching for a big perch I caught a few pike up to low doubles, and a handful of chunky perch in the pound plus range.

Time was running out. With darkness beginning to take over, the bites dried up on conventional soft plastics. I spotted a swirl around scattering fry, close to structure, and quickly rigged up with a crazy blade jig and cray trailer. I cast towards the action, unsure if this was a perch or pike, hopeful for either. The jig hit the deck and I flicked the rod tip, creating aggressive bounces, triggering the blade’s motion before pausing and letting the cray do its work. Bounce, sink, pause, repeat. Super-focused knowing a fish was in the area, it felt like an eternity as I continued my repetition.

Sink, pause, bang! A ferocious take, I set the hook hard, the fish responded by ripping several yards of line from the drag before kiting to the left. A pike? My instinct told me to take it steady, backing the drag off slightly, allowing the fish to take another short run. The head shakes began, thumping through the rod in a much more perchy style. I’ve been fooled before. Suddenly! Through failing light I caught a glimpse. The epic proportions made me uneasy, certain a four pound perch was on the end of the line. I coaxed the fish towards me, net at the ready and stomach in mouth.

It was over! I stayed silent, revelling in the moment, gaining my composure. At 48cms on the comp measure, this fish was big, amongst my longest. I was surprised when the scales only read 3lb 14oz. A crayfish away from that magical 4. One corker of a fish and my best so far this winter, a tough one to top, but there’s plenty of time yet. Watching that beauty return to the depths had ignited my perch passion, eager for the weeks ahead.


My monster from the deep, 3lb 14oz


Length or weight? I enjoy knowing both.
While amongst my longest it’s far from my heaviest


My new favourite chatterbait combo produced the bite


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Night Time – Bite Time

We’re back at that time of year where the days seem unsettlingly short. Light at seven, dark at four. All too often difficult to juggle fishing alongside many other commitments. Weekends on the bank seem busier than ever, difficult to find that peace and quiet. I often find release by fishing at night. Perch and pike will feed long into darkness, particularly in areas with artificial light, clear water, or heavy angling pressure. There’s one species that consistently feeds through darkness… zander.

Zander are a species I began to target more over past years. Aside from the odd reservoir session, I only dabbled in zander fishing. After catching a few big ones on the reservoirs, I set my sights on a Fenland double. It was a journey across countless venues through varying conditions, but I managed to achieve my goal with some great back-up fish. I was keen to return the following season, then Covid happened! As my nearest zander fix was over an hour’s drive away, I was unable to fish for them and placed them in the back of my mind.

With the beginning of the week’s weather still consistent and low air pressure, I decided to head out and meet some friends for a social session. With the guys at work through the day, night fishing would be the only way to catch up. What better a way to do it than zander fishing? We fished casually, chatting away, casting in the darkness, deciding to work a specific area in the hopes they’d switch on. It wasn’t long before a few small ones made an appearance, falling for small paddle tail shads. The action was slow and the bites very finicky, although conditions felt good for a quality stamp of fish.

Suddenly, I watched my friend’s rod lunge over as a decent fish hit the lure, shaking its head for a few moments before dropping off. He had struck hard, but unlucky, left with a single puncture on the lure and kinked fluorocarbon. No doubt a sizeable zander. We continued fishing, working our way through the lure colours to find what they wanted. I had been fishing natural, but chose to switch over to a white 7cm shad. I worked the lure through the darkness with twitchy vertical pops of the rod tip and controlled drops. Often zander will hit the lure as it sinks, so I try to maintain good contact.

Sure enough, as the lure dropped through the water I felt a faint tap through the rod and set the hook. As the fish kicked and thrashed in the current, I was certain it was zander. The tell-tail shakes and short runs gave it away long before it emerged thrashing at the surface. After my best attempts at knocking the fish off while disorientated in the darkness, it was finally in the net. My first quality zander in over a year. Wow, it felt good to get off the mark on this fascinating species again. I slipped the fish back, enjoying the release through torchlight, happy to end my session, eager to return and try again.


Dropshotting can be deadly for zander, tonight they were tuned into the jigs

Off the mark! My first decent Z of the winter

A CHANGE IN CONDITIONS

I was joined by Stuart and Matt for some lure fishing on the Broads. Stuart visits every year, but for Matt it would be the first time. Stuart has some tough-to-beat PBs, while Matt, being new to lure fishing, was in with a real shot at breaking his. The conditions were going to be tough, crystal-clear water and a sudden shift from very low to very high air pressure. This can really kill the bite. Despite the odds being stacked against us, the perch hunt began.

We covered two river systems in search of stripes, finding an unusual amount of small jacks on the feed. These crafty devils are great at giving you the illusion of a giant perch, up until that tell-tale cucumber shape appears. Great action none the less, with Matt managing his PB pike after spending some time with the larger lures. The perch were seemingly planted hard on the deck and amongst structure, unwilling to feed in any great numbers. We persevered with an array of tactics from shads, creature baits, ned rigs etc.

As the light began to fade the action increased, and we made the decision to move to a new area in search of a better stamp. Half a dozen casts later Matt was in, creeping a ned rig along the bottom with long pauses. This produced a much more positive bite. A powerful fish stayed deep, making short runs around the boat, much like those crafty small pike, but the fast head bumps made us certain it was a perch. I readied myself with the net as a striped flank broke the surface. A quality 40cms 2lb 7oz perch was landed – Matt’s new PB. Certainly a memorable trip.


Stuart took a trip down memory lane, catching perch at a favourite location


A PB perch for Matt…


…and a PB pike on the 20cm goby shad

Next week I’m jumping out of my element to try something new, I’m excited to write about the experience in what will hopefully be an action-packed blog.



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The Zander Cup

Last week I ended my blog with plans to try something new.

Alex Mason and I decided to team up and enter our first UK lure fishing competition. ‘The Zander Cup’ at Rutland water. A team competition with a longest total length format. No minimum size and one target fish, zander. The goal would be consistency and efficiency. Catching non-stop would be the key to placing high in the ranks, and with some incredibly skilled anglers competing it would be a true challenge. Alex has fly and lure fished the reservoirs for years, while I’ve fished Rutland just once before. Both of us are new to competitive angling and had planned to have at least one practice session before the competition. Unfortunately, with busy schedules that didn’t happen. We were going in blind!


Alex at the ready

I arrived at Alex’s the night before the comp to rig the rods, pack the gear, and scoff a 12 inch pizza, ready for an 8.00am meet at the lodge. Morning came, we arrived to a busy car park, full of keen zander anglers itching to get fishing. After a briefing, loading boats, and a quick social, 52 anglers / 26 boats motored off to the start line. We followed shortly after, once I figured out how to start the engine. Go! We all took off at a top speed of about 4mph to our chosen spots. After 10 minutes or so we arrived, setting up for our first drift of the day, and realized we hadn’t attached lures yet. Alex rigged up with a 4 inch fluke, while I tied on a smaller 7 cms shad.

We threw the drogue overboard and began our drift, surrounded by many other boats, this must have been a hot area during pre-fishing. Within moments Alex was in, boating the first fish of the day. A quick photo on the measure and release. Woohoo! we were on the board. I quickly matched his lure, boating another just as Alex hooked in to a zander, finishing the first drift with four fish. We re-positioned for drift two and soon landed another four small zander.

Repositioning for drift three, we were coming to the end of the first hour, as more boats gathered on the productive zone things began to change. Over the next few drifts we managed just one fish and some very finicky bites. Watching others battling through similar problems, Alex and I agreed on a decision to move, seeking out fish in a less pressured area of the lake.


Marking and targeting specific contours with c-map charts

A big zander holding on the deck. We were looking for groups of smaller fish

I used the chart on my Lowrance FS9 to pick out likely contours in the lake bed, which would hold fish, then we scanned over the areas with live sonar to look for signs of life. My hunch proved correct, we found a concentration of fish hanging around a very small drop-off. I set some way points and we set up for our first drift in the new area.

This time Alex fished with his proven lure, while I switched back to the small paddle tail. Bang! As the lure hit the deck, Alex set the hooks on a better zander at 66cms. I followed shortly with a 55. We continued on, catching a better stamp of fish until the lunch report came in. We were just two fish from third place with a larger gap for second and mammoth task for first. Ryan Dolby and Jim Starr were just a metre behind, then the gap was vast.

We knew we would need eight fish an hour to the boat to secure a podium finish. A tough call had to be made. We had managed that in the first spot before the bites died. In spot two, however, we were boating four-five per hour and creeping up the leader board. Do we stay or do we go? A decision that could help or haunt us…


A 66cms zander for Alex

Another handy 50cms fish. My hat took flight,
luckily I had my buff at the ready to keep my head warm

We decided to stay, hoping we would make up the difference with a better average stamp of fish. We continued fishing hard for the next two hours, doubling up at times, certain we were secure for fourth, hopeful to creep into third. Suddenly! Disaster struck! A competition angler’s worst nightmare. While lifting a 50cm+ zander from the net to measure, Alex got spiked, dropping the fish back into the water. Realisation hit us and Alex was kicking himself, it happens and we soon laughed it off, joking about a 50cm gap for third.

I myself had cost us a few important fish. While measuring and submitting the catches, I had a tremendous take, setting the hook with my left hand I was nervous through the fight. A heavy fish was on the line, thumping through the rod. I tried hard to keep the pressure on, yet everything went slack. Painful! The size and frequency of our catches began to reduce in spot two. We decided to gamble, heading to a final area Alex has fished in the past.

Time for one last drift. Immediately after throwing the drogue Alex was in and so was I, two fish close to the 50cm mark. As the minutes counted down we managed one more before heading back to the jetty with five minutes to spare. Idiots! We had arrived back at the jetty for 3.45pm, mistaking that for beat return, when in fact it was the end of submissions. We laughed it off, knowing we could have had another drift in the productive area. At the same time exhausted, relieved to be done for the day.

The reports came in, and the guys in the top three had fished exceptionally well with a secure lead. It was now a battle for 4th 5th and 6th. We finished in 5th place, 84cms or two fish behind 4th and with the guys in 6th just 18cm behind us, who captured the biggest zander of the day. Alex and I were thrilled with 5th on our first competition against seasoned competition anglers. We will definitely try again soon.


The final results

Congratulations to the comp winners.

1st place – Alan Robson & Andy Dougan.

2nd place – Egidijus Venckus & Romualdas kokstis.

3rd place – Thom Hunt & Kevin Cox.




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A Triumphant Return

After a little rest and recovery from the weekend’s competition it was time to head back out on the water. The air pressure remained high, the wind had dropped, warm daytime temperatures filled me with confidence. It was time to get the boat out again in search of a few bites. I loaded up and set off on a long motor towards my chosen location for the day.


This beautifully marked pike made an appearance during a quick stop on route to the comp

I arrived in the first area, working every inch of the river, hopping from spot to spot, covering structure and open water with both hard and soft lures. Hours passed by with just a few wasps and missed bites for my efforts. It wasn’t looking good. The sun was high at this point and the water gin-clear. With nothing showing on the sonar it seemed the fish were either hard on the bottom or holding tight to structure. I decided to move on in search of deeper and more coloured water.

Finally! After hours of searching and scratching for bites I found a few fish. Casting around a ned rig I tempted one, then another, and then another. They were small but plentiful, surely a few bigger fish were on the prowl. Given the aggressive nature of the takes I switched over to my favourite Gravity Twitch jerkbait and began teasing it through the swim. A few twitches, long pause, half-turn wind, I repeated the process. I felt a small tap and struck, quickly feeling the head shakes of a better perch. I landed the fish, a great little scrapper around a pound and very lightly hooked.

I cast again using a similar technique, this time a few tentative little taps. I persevered, catching a few more then switched back to a more static ned rig to clean up the stragglers. I spent a good hour cycling between the ned and Twitch consistently catching fish. Eventually I hooked up with a bigger perch, plodding away around the boat. I soon gained control and netted the fish. A chunky specimen around a pound and a half at a guess. It was an enjoyable hour or so of fishing, eventually the bites dried up and I had to resume the search.


The Gravity Twitch 95mm tempted a better stamp of perch


Dusk was drawing closer, and after experiencing a brief feeding spell I was certain they would switch on as the light levels fell. I returned to my original plan, moving from spot to spot in search of predators on the feed. It started slow but as dusk drew ever closer the bites began to increase. Small perch were beginning to show in numbers, but I couldn’t break through to the size I desired.

Almost dark, I decided to gamble. Motoring ten minutes to an area I expected to find a few bigger fish. I started in the swim with a creature bait hoping to single out something larger. Fishing it with aggressive lifts and long drops on a light jig head. Lift, drop, pause, repeat. While the lure sat paused for a second or so I felt a tap and struck. My 2-10g Custom UL hunched over, I was in!

I gained ground, quickly cranking the fish towards the boat with clicking drag, then it woke up. The perch fought back, making aggressive dives to the bottom of the river, there was little I could do but back the drag off and hang on. The usual perch fight takes place once you hook them, this one certainly saved the best ’till last. Continuing its escape attempts until it breeched and I made a quick scoop with the net. With little time left to fish I didn’t weigh this one opting to grab a quick measurement. 45cms, a cracking fish, an old warrior guessing by its looks.

The light was gone and after a few casts with the creature baits I decided to try one last tactic before packing up. I picked up the rod with the Gravity Twitch rigged up. Hopeful that a combination of the rattle and slow-suspending presentation would grab the attention of any predators feeding under moonlight. I searched around with a twitch and pause retrieve. Twitch, twitch, slam! A fish hit the lure with ferocity jolting my arm and taking metres of drag. This wasn’t a perch!

I tightened the drag on my 7-21g Casting Combo in an attempted to slow the fish. Eventually, I managed to turn it, spotting a large boil on the surface. I manoeuvred the fish towards the boat. A second bout of energy and the fish took off, running towards me and straight under the boat. I dropped the rod tip beneath the water, coaxing it out, and a long flank broke the surface. A quality metre-plus pike. A few failed attempts and she finally hit the net. A great way to end the session, now in total darkness.


A quality perch to finish on

This big pike was more than welcome


The post Lure Fishing with Robbie Northman #40 first appeared on FishingMagic Magazine.

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Robbie Northman

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My Favourite Weedless Perch Rig

When it comes to rigs, particularly for perch, we all have our preferences. My favourite, which has remained at the top of my list for a long time, is the Jika rig. The Jika has been around a while now, yet I still use it on a regular basis. It’s one of the easiest, most versatile weedless set-ups to use. Today I’ll cover my Jika set-up, when I use it, and how I work it.

What is the Jika? The Jika rig consists of an offset hook and weight mounted on a split ring. Most anglers have done away with the split ring, instead using a micro clip. This makes the Jika compatible with both fluorocarbon and wire traces. It’s incredibly simple to set up. You open the clip, either on the trace or leader, whichever you choose, slide the hook on to the clip, point up, then slide on your chosen weight, close the clip, add a lure, and you’re ready to fish. Easy!


Jika components

Ease of use. Using other weedless tactics, Texas, Carolina and cheb rigs require either an additional clip, or re-tying to change the hardware. Weights, hooks and lures are very easily changed when using the Jika rig. This is an incredibly important aspect for me when it comes to mid-winter fishing.

Perch can be really fickle in cold conditions, often I want to fish as light a weight as possible, or drop to a smaller lure and hook. This can really make a difference for confident bites when moving from fast water to slacks etc. In freezing conditions, re-rigging or rummaging through tackle boxes is not pleasant. I’m often armed with a few hooks, weights, and lure options in my pocket for easy changing.

Advantages of the Jika. A huge range of movement makes the Jika rig perfect for creature baits, small shads and ned lures. The hook and weight move freely, allowing the lure to drop vertically, with a fair separation from the bottom before it settles. Combined with floating soft plastics, it allows a great stand-up profile. I prefer to use the Jika rig with longer pencil-style weights. Pear and bomb designs work great too.

The longer weights allow you to fish over silty, soft bottoms with lots of debris. They knock and move over small snags and obstructions, and don’t sink as far into silt as conventional rigs, allowing you to ensure your lures are snag-free. The little puff of silt the weight makes as the lure glides along the bottom often triggers fish as a visual attractant. To sum it up, the Jika is a great rig over silty, hard and snaggy bottoms, but it does catch weed a little more easily than Texas and cheb rigs.


A wide range of movement

How to fish the Jika. Although you can swim the rig, the Jika performs best fished close to the bottom. Aggressive vertical jumps with a controlled drop work well; due to the flexibility of the hook and weight, the lure will swim down on the drop settling briefly upright. This is often when the takes come. Feeling the lure through snags and debris is effective. Drag, lift and pulse the lure, feeling your way around the structure.

Crawling the lure over silt works great too. With the weights often being around an inch long you can drag the lure along silt and sand. The weight will work the bottom, stirring it up, while the lure flutters above. A slow steady retrieve works great for this, add pauses of varying length, depending on the feeding mood. If you haven’t tried it yet give the Jika a go.


Engulfed, Jika with a ball-style weight

A PUZZLING WEEKEND

Aside from fishing, the rest of my past week was spent at Lathams Fishing Tackle in Potter Heigham. Each year we hold a Savage Gear open weekend at the store, with a few of us on site offering tutorials and demos. The weekend is always a great success in my eyes, with many local youngsters dropping by to learn a little bit more about lure fishing.

This year was no different, with some great young anglers turning up. Jamie, Rory, Rowan, Liam, to name a few. All absolutely mad about fishing. Unfortunately, the weather was pretty extreme with driving rain, wind, hail and sleet. We did, however, manage a few casts during dry spells.

It was quite a troubling weekend fishing-wise. Usually we would encounter a good number of pike with our combined efforts. This year they were incredibly elusive, with a handful of small fish banked and one good one lost.

Back in Easter the Broads received yet another huge salt surge, killing hundreds of thousands, if not close to millions of fish. With changing weather and more North Westerly winds battering the Norfolk coast, these events are becoming more frequent and severe than ever.

During our weekend at Lathams, I encountered John Currie from the PAC who was monitoring salt levels during yet another surge, tying in with the end of our show. It’s a worrying truth, threatening the very future of fish stocks on the Broads, the only solution a tidal barrier at Yarmouth. But, with the EA letting us down on other issues surrounding angling, such as the Great Broad Project, will the Broads ever receive the help it needs..?


Rory joined me on the bank for a tutorial. He had banked a 20lber to deadbait a week before. Now his sights are set on a big perch

Our new videographer Ben managed his first perch on a lure, he topped it shortly after with a fish around a pound.
After years of fishing, finding something new has peaked his interest, now he’s hooked!


I fished into darkness determined to catch a pike. As I slipped this one back, I wondered what the future holds for the Broads



The post Lure Fishing with Robbie Northman #41 first appeared on FishingMagic Magazine.

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Robbie Northman

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Wet Weather. Short Sessions

This past week we’ve endured rain, rain, and yet more rain. Despite having to put on wellies in order to reach the boat, I managed to get out on the water during calmer spells for a few short sessions. The variation in conditions this week proved interesting, with different styles of lure and tactics working on different days. Although not every session resulted in big fish, the numbers have certainly been good on those small stamp days, perhaps the recent influx of cold water is finally beginning to make them shoal. It does generally get better from this point of the winter on.

Armed with confidence and a score to settle after a tough weekend at Lathams, I arrived at the shed to retrieve the boat. I hadn’t quite realized how high the river was! The jetty was well underwater, and my boat shoes wouldn’t help. So after the short delay I finally made it on water at around mid-day. I motored over to the first spot, certain I would find fish and get off the mark quickly. That was not the case. After 40 minutes searching water with suspending jerk baits, I was yet to get a bite. I swapped over to a crayfish on the Jika rig and decided to search back over the water. Aside from a few tentative taps and pulls on the claws I didn’t land a fish.

I decided to scale down further, rigging up my 2-10g Ultralight set-up. I dropped down to 7lb fluorocarbon and tied on a small prototype plastic. This little lure comes out later this month, and has already been a banker for good perch. At just two inches in length and very realistic, it’s been a winner on tough days. I rigged the lure up on a 3g head and proceeded to work it around the swim. Big vertical hops and long drops with extended pauses, I wanted the lure to be visible falling through the water column while being slow enough for lethargic fish.

Hop, drop, bang! While the lure was sinking, I felt a solid tap and set the hook, realizing instantly I was in trouble. Drag screamed on the reel and the braid sung in the wind, I knew instantly this was a pike. No wonder the perch weren’t feeding! I kept the drag light and rod movements subtle, knowing I was on totally underclassed kit. The pike quickly turned, swimming toward me, before bolting off on another screaming run at the boat. I managed a quick glimpse at a fish, easily mid-doubles.

Trying to maintain composure I once again eased the fish towards the boat, working it to the surface. It caught sight of the net and bolted, water erupting as the fish turned. Observing a shorter run, I tightened the drag and manoeuvred the fish towards the boat, net at the ready. She spotted me again but it was too late, in position I blocked the pike’s path and it swam reluctantly into the net. A cracking fish at bang on a metre and around 17lbs. Not the intended target, but I was happy. After releasing the fish, I continued on my perch hunt, fishing was difficult. I managed very few bites, tempting a handful of small fish before moving on.


I was thrilled with this quality pike on the perch kit

Vibrant markings on this thick-backed fish

I arrived at another likely location, this time starting with the small lure that had gotten bites throughout the day. Fanning my casts around the swim for twenty minutes or so, I was still without a bite. I decided to switch tactics, running some crankbaits and jerks through the area. This time I had a follow from a smaller pike around 8lb or so, but still no committed takes. I should have bought the pike kit. I made one final change, certain fish would be in the area. This time I set up a 9cm Reaction Cray on a very light Jika rig. I planned on fishing quite aggressively, hoping the large flapping claws would trigger a reaction.

A few minutes later I felt a thud on the drop and set the hook, instantly feeling the tell-tale head shakes of a perch as it ran back to the depths. This one was a powerful fish, non-stop diving to the bottom as the rod hunched over. Eventually I eased the fish to the surface, netting my prize. A great fish of 40cms that I left un-weighed. I continued on with my session, as darkness drew closer the bites began to tail off. The recent trend of last-minute fish had come to an end.


A beautiful perch

I often measure good fish I don’t plan on weighing

With a gaping mouth a 9cm cray is no problem for a hungry perch

I often wonder what makes fish alternate between low light feeding and daytime feeding. Certainly, with perch I’ve observed that in periods of cold water with freezing nights they seem ready to feed in daylight. While when the water’s clear or temperatures are consistent, they become most confident at dusk. Of course, they can feed at any time in between. Yet another mystery to ponder in the quest to understand more about predator fishing.




The post Lure Fishing with Robbie Northman #42 first appeared on FishingMagic Magazine.

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