A prime consideration when working any lure, at any time of year and on any type of venue, is the depth that the lure is being run at - whether you’re casting or trolling. Sometimes this is not so critical, but most times it will be, and getting it wrong can adversely affect your catch rate. The days when predators will hit any lure, regardless of the depth it is being fished, are few and far between, so getting it right has to be a basic but important consideration.
Various factors will affect where in the water column the predators will be lying ready to ambush their prey. This is where your lure also needs to be. It’s no good fishing a lure well above the prey fish, or worse still, below them. Predators might make extra effort to come a little higher in the water for prey, but rarely do they consider foraging deeper where they do not expect to find them. I am considering common UK freshwater predators here, but this principle applies whatever predator you fish for around the world.
The depth of the water column you are casting into needs to be understood first of all. From a boat, an echo sounder offers a massive advantage in determining the depth, and it will also help you to pinpoint prey shoals and show what depth they are swimming at. Throughout the day (and night), you may often see prey shoals change depth, and predators will following them accordingly, or sometimes they might wait for them at the depth they prefer to attack them. From the bank, it takes a lot of trial and error to build a similar picture, but working progressively deeper with the correct lure eventually builds a basic understanding.
Having determined a basic knowledge of the depths, you then need to find at which depth the predators are feeding. It takes time to understand patterns of behaviour of predators in any venue, and the way in which they move up and down in the water column, but it is essential to do so. Waters of shallow to medium depth (down to approx 20ft) are easiest to come to terms with, whereas deeper waters can have quite complicated prey and predator movement. For example, some predators move from deep to shallow water at feeding time, whereas others might wait for deep water prey shoals to rise in the water before attacking them. Once determined though, it makes choosing the right lure much easier.
Feeding depth goes hand-in-hand with feeding times. Your best chance to catch a predator is to fish at its feeding time, and of course fish your lure at the correct depth. Feeding spells can often be very short, sharp affairs, but if you miss them you still have the chance to catch predators that are digesting prey, and they often drop into deeper water to do so. Zander and perch are typical of this behaviour, but pike will do so too at times. Those that are digesting prey can be harder to tempt and are often quite challenging, but nevertheless are worthy of your attention, especially if they offer the only chance during the session.
While understanding the feeding depth equation is vitally important, it should be apparent that it is never that straightforward. Clearly this points to a searching approach which covers the depth column until a result occurs. The Rapala Countdown was one of the first lures designed to search in this way, and since its introduction there have been many other lures that fit this bill and cover a whole range of species and venues. In water down to about 10ft, I would also recommend the Scatter Rap Countdown, BX Swimmer, Clackin’ Minnow, Max Rap and X-Rap Countdown. For depths down to 20ft I recommend theClackin’ Rap, Jointed Clackin’ Rap and Rippin’ Rap.
Spinners, like the Blue Fox Vibrax range are also useful for working at various depths, and there are many soft plastics in the Storm range that can be worked in all depths. The Knock’R Minnow has been very effective for finding pike in all depths, and the Wildeye Swim Shads have been useful for scraping the bottom for both pike and zander.
There are so many lures to choose from in the Rapala/Storm ranges; they cater for sea and game fish too. It’s up to you to find the ones that meet your requirements, and you will find a considered approach much more productive and satisfying than a ‘chuck it and chance it’ approach which will only lead to frustration and lost lures. Good fishing!