I have been looking on and at times actively participating in a number of forum threads on this site that have covered various aspects of lure fishing, from tackle preferences, lure debates, and most importantly session reports. Although the views are very much varied, the underlying tone has been extremely positive. The sense of excitement and intrigue coming from others is undeniable and I wanted to tap into this. I wanted to find out what it is about lure fishing really draws people in.
Opening the mind and experiencing new things
Although I do occasionally have a go I have never been entirely convinced by the enticements of lure fishing as I have always thought (erroneously as it happens) that I would be limited to targeting a few specific species. I have also always held the slightly cynical view that lure fishing has been a niche playground for tackle tarts, and to certain extent, elitism by those that indulge it over other forms of fishing. To quote another SWSF stalwart, it’s just fishing with a load of posh string and expensive balsa wood isn’t it?
As I alluded to in a recent blog post, I really do want to open my mind and in return I want to gain an appreciation for other areas of angling that I have previously dismissed. However with this obviously prejudicial mindset I could not simply write this piece from just a first person perspective, I felt I needed to interrogate someone else who has completely caught the bug and tap into the reasons behind it. I could think of no one better to use as a “guinea pig” than one of my regular fishing buddies, Toby Harnett.
The allure of lure fishing
Toby has morphed from a part-time lure dabbler into a full blown addict, complete with his very own dedicated lure drying line (in his kitchen!), over the past few months. He has immersed himself in it, became a local fishing celebrity by getting his picture in a well known blog by a well known fishing photo-journalist, went for a guided session and most importantly he has caught fish and set a personal best for bass. He is the perfect guy to grill for information on why lure fishing is so enticing and what all the fuss is about.
I could not think of a better way to dig a little deeper into the attraction of lure fishing than actually getting out there and seeing this particular breed of angler in the wild so I caught up with Toby on a session to speak to him and get his views on the subject.
As Toby got down to business kitting up, I got the interrogation underway as I was keen to glean as much information from him as possible during this relatively short session. When quizzed why he had taken the step into lure fishing, Toby answered pretty candidly, “I suppose it was initially just curiosity, something different that I had read about and was keen to find out more.”
After taking some time to concentrate on his kit and reflect, he went on to expand his answer and highlighted some of the other attractions he had discovered from getting out on some lure sessions. “Convenience plays a part, not having to worry about bait and not having to pack a 2 ton tackle box is a bonus – it allows you to be spontaneous and nip out for an impromptu session without any real planning.”
As he was obviously eager to get a lure in the water I let Toby get on with it while I observed for a while. Off he went looking for a prime perch to base himself. “It certainly keeps you fit, all this clambering over rocks” he yelled over his shoulder. “Lost nearly a stone in weight since taking this up”, he added with a satisfied smirk on his face.
Looking back up the hill that we had descended to get to the mark, I thought to myself that he had a point as I certainly was not looking forward to the lung busting ascent back up once we were done, especially on a day where it seemed even the mercury in the thermometer might be at risk of freezing.
Second mortgage needed?
As he worked away, I could not help noticing the difference between Toby’s kit and the gear that I use. I generally use my trusty battered old spinning rod, a constant companion for more than a decade, coupled with a decent yet simple spinning reel. Toby, however, had a shiny, relatively new specialist lure rod perfectly matched with a high quality reel. Although he had been fortunate to win the gear in a raffle, it still looked relatively expensive so I thought I would try and be a bit more provocative so I asked Toby what his view was if I said that you had to have state of the art, expensive kit to do it.
“Nonsense!” was his immediate response. “Like with any sort of fishing you can catch on the cheapest or the most expensive of gear. You can get some real bargains out there for quality, specialist gear. What is more important is getting the right advice to ensure that the gear you are buying is exactly what you need and suits the type of lure fishing that you’re planning on doing.”
He went on to highlight that his original Bushwacker lure rod (before he won an AnyFish AnyWhere (AFAW) rod in the raffle at the Art of Fishing shop opening) retails at approximately £60 but had the feel of a far more expensive rod. He did concede that he thought that over time the more expensive gear would shine through, in terms of durability & build quality as much as anything else. He also noted that the level of refinement is very noticeable commenting that the AFAW rod was much lighter than the Bushwacker making for greater comfort on those lengthy sessions.
Controlling the inner tackle tart
Following on with the gear theme I commented that I had the impression that lure angling was an indulgence for the ultimate tackle tart. That got a smile and an unashamed confession, “I freely admit that I’m a tackle tart and that I’ve been sucked in by the glossy pictures and shiny, pretty lures – well they are nice to look at aren’t they?”
We also discussed the various investments that Toby had made in accessorising, from the waders, to the multi pocketed jacket and the lure boxes and it was clear that they all had a purpose. Toby freely admitted that he did not think they were all a critical pre-requisite to taking up lure fishing but they did contribute to the enjoyment of the experience by making it more comfortable. I challenged him to pick a single piece of kit that he would recommend to any perspective new-comer as a “must have” (not including the rod, reel and lures themselves).
The response surprised me as he picked a really functional item forsaking some of the more shiny stuff. He chose his forceps/pliers.
“You’ll need them for anything you do – unhooking fish, cutting line etc.” He advised. “I’ve recently bought some 8” long Rapala pliers with tungsten carbide teeth that can cut braid as well as mono, fit split rings, cut treble hooks and also act as a pair of forceps. It saves carrying multiple different tools around.”
After showing me the pliers he put them back into one of the umpteen pockets in his jacket, another seemingly practical possession. It turned out to be even more functional than I originally thought as it included a self inflating personal flotation device (PFD). Wearing a buoyancy aid whilst shore fishing had never occurred to me but it made perfect sense given the size of the swell coming in and Toby’s position at the end of a rocky outcrop.
He put it into an all too realistic context for me recalling a recent mishap where he ended up in the water after, in his own words, foolishly trying to get back a lure that had snagged. The PFD inflated as it should and would have played an even more important role had he bashed his head and lost consciousness which is an eminent possibility given the rocky terrain.
It really brought home the importance of safety to me and really got me thinking about the times I had been balanced in a precarious position, spinning or float fishing in just shorts, t-shirt and a pair of sandals, and with little regard for the power of the sea. Needless to say, I gave myself a mental clip ‘round the ear for being so irresponsible.
Some useful lessons learned
I knew that Toby had recently fished the Weymouth Bass Festival alongside some long established lure anglers that he had met through various fishing circles and it was clear he had absorbed a huge amount of knowledge on the back of this.
I wanted to tap into this so I asked for a few examples of useful lessons learned. The response was immediate, “To read the water and understand where the fish should be. This is probably the most important thing that I’ve learnt since taking up lure fishing.”
This point was evident from just observing Toby earlier scouting for the optimum spot to fish from, deliberately taking into account the terrain and the swell amongst other things. Everything seemed to be tactical and to a certain extent planned even as far as just retrieving the lure.
Toby elaborated on this, “You can often fish the same lure in a variety of different ways from a straight retrieve, to a retrieve, pause and twitch, popping, and at different depths just by raising or lowering your rod.”
I could tell that Toby’s final tip came from learning the hard way. “Get control of the fish before trying to unhook it!” he ruefully reflected. “Not having caught loads of fish before, particularly bass, this was something that was not apparent to me until having to deal with a lively bass with sharp spines in its fins, razor sharp gill plates and 3 treble hooks flying around, all in very close vicinity to your hands.”
Wise words and something I could fully relate to after having my best summer bass season in recent years. Those inevitable cuts and grazes make for a painful experience when combined with lashings of salty water.
Evoking the senses
The fish had evidently not read the script and were conspicuous by their absence so I asked Toby to describe the feeling of hooking into a fish on a lure – what made it so special? I knew straight away that I had asked the right question and had teased out perhaps the biggest draw of lure fishing. The response was full of passion and enthusiasm.
“It’s so sudden. You may have been quietly casting and retrieving your lure for hours and then WHAM!! FISH ON!! Your heart starts pumping and your knees trembling. I reckon that the feeling is emphasised because you’re holding the rod in your hands when the fish smashes the lure.”
I let Toby get on with more of an extended fish and settled back to observe proceedings and was just blown away by the serenity of the scenery. Despite the noise of swell and white water crashing on the rocks it was just so tranquil, positively therapeutic in fact. Watching Toby and a couple of other lure anglers working away, it seemed that they had entered a Zen-like state, completely absorbed in their own world and focused on the area in front of them, feeling every vibration of the lure through the rod as they worked them in a specific, methodical way.
I think it was at this point that it all clicked and I really started to get an appreciation of the draw of lure fishing. It was clear that my outlook on the subject was changing and I was starting to regret my previously reluctant attitude.
Successfully balancing the best of both worlds
One of the reasons for my reluctance to give lure fishing a chance seems to stem from an irrational fear of perhaps liking it so much that I ended up forsaking my fishing roots. Bait fishing has always been my passion and I have so many fond memories of growing up learning to fish with both my father and grandfather. I looked to get Toby’s take on my concerns and stated that a lot of lure anglers seem to move solely to that side and forsake other forms of fishing. I asked him whether he was going to do this and whether he felt that he could combine both.
“No I’m not going to do that, certainly as far as I feel at the moment anyhow and yes I think that I can do both.” Touching on the key reason why, he went on to add, “I’ve met some good friends through SWSF and bait fishing. Many of these people don’t lure fish regularly so to keep in touch with them I will definitely still go bait fishing.”
I must admit I liked his answer as it just summed up the camaraderie and value of friendships within the wider angling world.
Acknowledging the error of my ways
I like to think that I am reasonable enough to admit it when I am wrong and this is one of those cases. I readily dismissed lure fishing for a number of reasons, many of which I outlined at the beginning of this article. However just spending a day getting another person’s perspective blew many of these out of the water. Even if some pre-conceptions remain, rather than just carry them with me I have seen enough of the upside to lure fishing to give it the benefit of the doubt.
I owe a massive debt of gratitude to Toby for taking the time to meet up with me, putting up with my endless questions and for just being so candid with his answers. I have seen Toby’s transition into the world of lure fishing and it seems to have been such a positive experience which fills me with optimism not only for my own foray into the area but also for any other potential fledgling lure anglers. It truly is an area of fishing that is accessible to all.
Barely scratching the surface
Now I have barely scratched the surface here and it was never my intention to try and cover absolutely everything to do with lure fishing. That would be impossible and would quite probably fill quite a hefty book. I wanted to tap into the psyche of a passionate lure angler recently immersed in the discipline as well as sharing the evolution of my own candid views.
If you are interested in finding out more about lure fishing there is plenty of resources out there. From dedicated websites like The Lure Forum, to the opportunity of guided sessions conducted by an experienced lure angler. I would also be remiss if I did not mention that there are a number of dedicated lure angling shops on our doorstep in the south-west. As well as selling all the kit you could possibly need to get into lure fishing, they also throw in perhaps the most important commodity of all – good, solid advice.