Tuesday, December 05, 2023

A fishing lure junkie

by Warren Illi
| June 22, 2023 12:00 AM

As you read this column about fishing, my wife, son and friend from Kalispell will be on our way to Northern Manitoba for some world class fishing. In preparation for that trip, I must sort through my vast array of fishing lures to decide which lures I will take on this trip. This is a fly-in resort, so our baggage is limited to 50 pounds, including my rain gear, clean underwear and fishing tackle. As a bona fide collector of every type of fishing lure ever made, I am tasked with the pre-fishing chore of sorting through my array of fishing tackle boxes to see what lures get the honor of going on this fishing trip.

The weight restriction for this fly-in trip requires a self-imposed limit of just one small 12” x 12’’ x 10” fishing tackle box. Inside this tackle box are five clear plastic boxes each with 6 to 12 compartments to hold various lures. Each compartment holds 1-3 lures. So, roughly speaking, I’m limited to only about 75-100 lures. Included in this small tackle box, I must also carry a spool or two of extra fish line, steel leaders, spare reel, long nosed pliers to extract my lures from the toothy mouths of northern pike, bug spray, tape measure to measure the length of my big fish and a fish scale to measure weight of my big fish. All these other pieces of necessary fishing gear limit my lure selection space.

Guess I could cut back on my clean underwear, in-order to carry a wider selection of fishing lures! Now, I will admit that I will likely not use 90% of the fishing lures I take. I have my favorite lures for walleyes and northern pike, which seem to dominate what I choose to tie on the end of my line each morning. The fishing routine at this fishing resort is to fish for walleyes during the first hour or two each morning, in order to catch and keep 5-6 walleyes for our shore dinner. Every day the guides cook a fresh lunch of pan-fried walleyes on an island campsite. So, the first order of the daily fishing routine is to catch enough walleyes for lunch.

In the United States, catching the elusive walleye fish is usually a challenge. They are generally felt to be the best eating of all freshwater fish, but can be very hard to catch. But not these Canadian walleyes. They always seem to be hungry. So, lure selection for catching our lunch walleyes is relatively simple. All you need is a lead jig and twister tail. The lead jig is simply a ¼ to ½ ounce lead jig head attached to a sharp hook. The jig’s primary purpose is to sink your presentation or lure, down into the water column, to the depth of the fish. Of course, jigs come in a dozen or so sizes, shapes and various colors, so a variety of jigs are needed in your tackle box. Then, you need to add a soft plastic twister tail on the jig to add attractiveness to the jig head. Jig heads are small, while twister tails are large and gaudy. It’s the twister tail that attracts the fish and gets it to bite your presentation (lure). As expected, plastic twister tails come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and colors. So, your tackle box must include a variety of twister tails.

Then, I must choose my primary lures for catching pike. I think the all-time favorite lure for northern pike is the Dardevle spoon. The original Dardevle spoon was about 3-4 inches long and weighed about ¾ of an ounce. The original color was red with a broad white stripe down its convex side. The concave side of this spoon was silver. Now Dardevle spoons come in a wide variety of sizes, colors and shapes. The standard Canadian fishing spoon for northern pike is the Five of Diamonds. This lure is identical in shape to the original Dardevle spoon, except it is a yellow color with five red diamonds on the convex side. It has caught millions of pikes.

Last year at this resort, the lure of choice for big pike was a large metal spoon, gold or brass colored, either smooth faced or having a hammered brass surface. Two years earlier, the favored lure was a Minus One lure, which is actually a bass lure. It has a small plastic lip that allows the lure to dive no more than one foot underwater. It is designed to be fished in weedy habitats, to run shallow under the water surface, but not deep enough to snag dense lake bottom vegetation. We fish mostly in shallow water, less than 7-8 feet deep. Pike, with eyes on the top of their head, like to lie near the bottom waiting for a bait fish to swim above them, then dart up and grab a meal. So, the Minus One lure worked well.

Actually, I think any flashy spoon-like lure will catch northern pike. I recall fishing on a Canadian lake with my older brother, Marshall. It was one of those days and lakes where we caught pike on almost every cast. Marshall liked to fool around. He said he was going to invent a new lure. He took an old- fashioned bright silver beer can opener, tied a steel leader on the front of it and a treble hook on the back of it. On his first cast with the beer can opener lure, he hooked a nice northern pike. If you are younger than 30 years old, you may have to ask your dad what a beer can opener is.

My tackle box will also have a lot of other pike lures. The red-eyed wobbler is a silver spoon with two bright red jewel-like eyes. My red-eyed wobbler could not be left at home. Then there are the many buck-tail lures which are a mix of brass or silver metal spinners, followed by a bushy bunch of colored threads and a big treble hook. The spinners rotate around the front of the lure, giving off flashes of sunlight and a thumping sound that attract big fish.

Then there are the countless plug-type lures that are designed to resemble bait fish. Plug lures come in a wide variety of shapes, colors and designs to attract fish. Plugs are designed to run on the surface of the water, dive shallow or dive deep. Plugs also may be hollow, with steel pellets inside to rattle, which is supposed to attract fish. Many plug lures have some red on the sides, to stimulate a wounded bleeding bait fish. This lure concept suggests that a wounded baitfish will be more attractive to a predator fish since it should be easier to catch and eat. Once I cleaned a nice sized pike that had two baby ducks in its stomach. I have no lures to stimulate baby ducks.

A fishing lure does not have to catch a fish to be successful, just attractive enough to catch a fisherman or buyer. I have a clear plastic lure that encases what looks to be a swarm of small bait fish swimming in a tight school for safety. The concept is that a larger fish will spot this dense school of tiny bait fish, then swim up to it, open its mouth and suck in a bunch of little bait fish. The lure concept seems valid, but I don’t think I have ever caught a fish on this lure.

One of the most successful lure companies in the world is Rapala. These well-designed lures are world famous. These tend to be plug type lures that come in a very wide variety of sizes, colors and shapes. They have become almost the standard type plug type lure for fishing . My tackle boxes have a variety of Rapala lures that have caught lots of fish.

Overall, I will eventually sort through all my lures and select those that will go on this fishing trip. On the afternoon before we fly to our Canadian resort, my wife and I will visit the huge Cabela’s store in Winnipeg. You can bet that I will walk out with another fishing lure or two. I am always looking for the secret lure that will catch a world record fish. Dream on Warren!

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