There are many cheap lures on the market today. They might look very similar to a Rapala, but I can tell you that this is only in their appearance. In terms of their fish-catching capabilities, they are often worlds apart. It's true that when predators are in a carefree mood, they will attack any lure, but when the going is tough, you need a lure that has the technical properties built into it which will tempt them to strike. This is where a Rapala will catch you more fish!
Widely misunderstood types of lure are the 'suspenders' and 'slow risers'. They are perfect for difficult-to-tempt predators which need plenty of time to inspect a potential meal before attacking it. This is typical behaviour when water temperatures are low or when they are very well fed (or both!). Suspenders and slow risers stay in the strike zone much longer than a regular lure which will either sink or rise quickly to the surface. These types of lures have their uses too, but not on the situations described.
Amongst my favourites is the X-Rap Jointed Shad 13 cm. A new colour for 2014 is Walleye, and I have had one for a few months for testing. It is perfect for working down to approx 6 to 7 feet, but can be cranked slowly to shallower depths. Since I was first introduced to the X-Rap Jointed two years ago, it has been a great pike catcher but, in a recent cold spell, even this great lure would not catch. No other lures were producing either with water temperature around 4 degrees centigrade. It looked perfect in the water, but could I make it even better?
When I cranked it to the margin, I could see that it rose from the depths of about 5 feet in about 8 seconds. That's very slow compared to a regular floating diver. The rise rate cannot be predicted with total precision because of the weight of the trace being used. This means that the Rapala engineers have to get it balanced for an average weight of trace. Could I fine tune it to allow for this?
It would take a long time to explain the procedure, but basically I needed to add just two-thirds of a gram to the lure to obtain the optimum rise rate. By adding a couple of turns of copper wire to the front treble, I increased the rise time to no less than 22 seconds! That's how finely-balanced these lures are, and such balance would be impossible in production when the weight of the trace (and also the type of mainline being used) would affect them.
Now imagine the weapon I had on the end of my line. I had a lure that I could crank down to about five feet and, with the very slowest of retrieves, it would stay there. Even on the pause, I could see in the clear water that it seemed to be totally suspended. I could give it gentle taps and twitches or just leave it hanging on the spot with the knowledge that it wouldn't sink into weed or rise too quickly if a pike came to inspect it.
To test it, I had to take it to a 'hard' water as it would be a real test rather than an easy water where catching may have been down to other factors. On a water where I had not caught a pike on a lure for three months due to the low water temperature, and it was not through lack of trying, I had two double figure fish in a four-hour session. Both hit the lure while it was stationary and I was not turning the reel handle.
Straight from the box, the X-Rap Jointed is one of my first 'go to' choices, but in extreme conditions, a little experimentation can make the best even better!