July 14, 2011
Great Pike Baits
When it happens at a distance, and it often does, you can just barely see and feel the subtle wobble and flash of the lure as it's gently pulled forward, left, then right — then left-right. You're walking a Miniature Dachshund, not a Jack Russell Terrier. Jaws open and the lure disappears amid split-second recognition of what is happening. The hook-set is instinctive.
Big fish always do the same thing and, again, you can see it happen: Feeling unusual pressure, hooks still not set into flesh, jaws again open wide to get rid of this bony thing, the head makes one violent shake and the lure slides and the hooks catch — the fish crunches down hard, probably to really kill the thing, reopens and shakes again. But it's too late.
It is the nature of all great lure designs to inspire confidence because of the way they look and feel in action on the water. Over the last two years I have fallen in love with the newly introduced Rapala Glidin' Rap. I've fished it now in over a dozen situations during every season from spring through late fall and it has been one of just two or three of my most effective lures for big fish.
The Glidin' Rap is what I call a flat glider (it's flat-sided), and while it can be fished aggressively, it's really designed to be fished slowly and subtly. The X-Rap SubWalk, by comparison falls into a general category with other more traditional gliders like the old Eddy Bait, the Reef Hawg, and a bunch of more modern designs. The SubWalk can be fished slowly and subtly too, but it's designed to be fished more aggressively. The two Rapala lures are in the lineup to compliment one another.
I have fished other lures in the same category as the Glidin' Rap over the years. The first was the Bagley B-Flat, introduced in the late 1970s. This lure style has no lip. A combination of design elements, the most distinctive of which is relatively flatter sides, allows it to wobble gently but distinctly as it's pulled forward. Most of various lures in this category wobble like this on a slow, steady retrieve. You can fish these flat gliders on a straight retrieve and get fish to eat, but the key to transforming the lure into something almost irresistible to pike is this: With the rod tip pointed down, just ever so slightly touch it or nod it down about 6 to 12 inches, pause, then nod down again 6 to 12 inches, and continue.
Reel up some but not all of the slack line on the pause. It's important to pull through just a bit of slack on the pull forward. It's the sudden, gentle removal of the slack as the rod tip comes into hard contact with the line and then the lure that causes the subtle wobble-flash-glide on the stroke.
The lure performs well at long distance when the rod tip's pointing up at about 10 o'clock. At about two-thirds of the way in on a cast of some 50 yards, the rod tip must switch to the down position.
Most of the flat gliders stay shallow, rarely diving more that a foot or two; so in clear, flat water you can see what they're doing, often even at 50 yards. It's exciting, because you can see and feel the lure flash and wobble almost in slow motion as it barely moves forward, first left, and then right.
On a gentle 6-inch rod-tip nod, the bait might flash back and forth just a time or two and not move more than a foot. On a 12-inch nod it might flash 3 or 4 times and move a little more than 2 feet. Not a jerk, but a nod. Firmly but gently stroke with the rod tip. The rod tip is you and you are a brush painting a picture of the rolling prairie, not someone beating a rabid mouse to death.
Or, hold your hand in front of you, fingers on top of each other, palm to the inside, just down from your face so you're looking down on top of the knuckles on your thumb and trigger finger. Ever so gently roll your hand from side to the side in a swimming-wobbling motion. Easy does it. You see your palm and then you don't.
When you get on the water, first work the lure close to the boat. It's all about gentle wobble and subtle flash. You know it when you've got it. And once you've got it, you've got pike. That's the essence of success with flat gliders. The rest is detail.
Rod, Reel, Line — Most of the flat gliders run 5 or 6 inches long, but even larger lures can be worked perfectly with a 7-foot 6-inch flippin' stick, coupled with a wider-spool low-profile reel and 20-pound Berkley FireLine Crystal or Sufix Fuse, which is easy to see against clearer water. The white line is a tracer to help you get visual connection with your lure at long distance.
The use of a superline of one kind or another is critical, because the no-stretch qualities are required to get the right action with minimum rod-tip movement. FireLine's a smooth fused line while options like Spiderwire and Power Pro have a rougher surface because they're braided. I like the smoother FireLine in this instance, but it's up to you. Twenty-pound is way heavy enough unless you're fishing around heavy cover. Spiderwire and Power Pro are a bit thinner than FireLine, so I'd go to 30-pound if you use them. Substitute a round reel if you want — no big deal. Yes, you can make long casts with these combos and still get hooks set at distance.
Leaders — In clear water I add a four-foot section of 20-pound fluorocarbon on the end of the 20-pound fused line, then use about an 18-inch section of 20-pound American Fishing Wire Surflon Micro Supreme to connect to the lure with a small loop knot. The FireLine-to-fluorocarbon and fluorocarbon-to-wire connections are made with back-to-back four-wrap uni-knots. In darker water I tie the FireLine direct to the wire. If you're making hard casts to get distance and catching a fair number of fish, you should retie the line and leader connections several times a day.
Another option is a Terminator Braided, Pre-Rigged Titanium Leader of 12 inches, testing 50 pounds. This leader has a sturdy cross-lock snap on the end to make changing lures easy. I don't like the snap in this situation because it adds just a tad more weight to the end of the leader. See what you think.
Lures — A few flat gliders have always been on the market since the Bagley B-Flat hit the scene in 1978. The early 6-inch Bagley was a good pike lure. It's available now by special order. I remember beginning to fish it about 4 weeks after pike spawned and they were prowling over newly emergent weedbeds. The 8-inch B-Flat of that era was considered more of a muskie lure although it also accounted for a ton of pike.
Bagley President Mike Rogan remembers a conversation in early 2000 with old Jim Bagley, one of the most famous lure designers of all time, now deceased. The B-Flat was designed to mimic the ciscoes and whitefish that often die during late summer, floating to the surface and struggling there — a dinner bell for big predatory fish. Today's Bagley B-Flat 8 has a through-wire harness, just like the early lures in production from 1978 through 1982. If you still have some they're apparently quite valuable among lure collectors.
Salmo offers two options and I've used them with success over the years. The two lures are a study in contrasting design, with the Fatso being a slightly rounder-bodied lure (a hybrid flat glider) and the Slider being a true flat glider.
You can feel and see the difference in action between the two lures, but I haven't spent enough time with them in different situations to say which one's best when. I had several fine outings with the Fatso just after it was introduced about 10 years ago. We fished areas on Lake of the Woods just outside of Whitefish Bay in mid-July. It was a muskie trip, but big pike were so prevalent and on such a rampage that we ended up fine-tuning tactics for them. That meant in the end fishing almost exclusively with the Fatso. Spinnerbaits, bucktails, traditional gliders, Suicks, and Bobbies. It was the Fatso the fish wanted.
Several other companies in this category include Muskie Mania Tackle and their Magic Maker, a cool-looking 6-inch option, while Sebile has a suspending Stick Shadd in 6 inches, and sinking Stick Shadds in 6 and 8 inches. The Sebiles are hot. They're made of slick, hard plastic and look and feel tremendous in the water. I think Sebile is the only company on the market offering sinking flat gliders.
And there's the Rapala Glidin' Rap.
More on Working the Lures — The subtle nature of flat gliders is the reason they work well, but at times you must be willing to experiment with retrieve cadence. At times, ripping the lure a time or two gets a fish's attention, while the gentle flashing follow-up gets the fish to go.
One retrieve I often find successful is to cast and let the lure settle, then with the line tight to the lure and the rod tip pointed toward it at 10 o'clock, firmly snap the rod tip all the way down toward the surface of the water, one, two, three, four times, moving the lure 4 or 5 feet left, then right, then left, and right. You want the lure to stay down — don't jerk so violently that it comes to the surface.
This probably is a technique more attuned to gliders like the X-Rap SubWalk than to the Glidin' Rap, so at times it pays to just switch lures. Still, at least right now, until the fish get used to these lures once more anglers start throwing them again, it usually pays to stick with a flat glider. They are just one step short of magic for pike.