How to catch fish on metal casting lures
IMAGINE you’re stranded on a desert island; a very fishy desert island, and you’re allowed to take only one lure. What would it be? The first thing that pops into my head is a metal casting lure. Why? Because these seemingly simple lures are built to catch fish. They’re incredibly versatile with a long list of species willing to take them. They’re also versatile when it comes to techniques and retrieves and territory where they’re fished. And finally, they’re bullet proof! As an “all-rounder” the good old metal lure ticks a few boxes and they’re here to stay.
As mentioned, metal casting lures attract many different species. Down south they’re dynamite on fish like tailor, salmon, kings, bonito, tuna and more. Further north, all sorts of predatory species will eat a metal lure. Mackerel, tunas, trevallies and a host of species all find them irresistible.
It’s not just saltwater fish that find metals hard to refuse. In the fresh, trout, redfin and most natives will walk a well-presented metal casting lure. They really are the lure for all species.
Matching the hatch
Why are they so effective and versatile? Most predatory fish feed on small baitfish and that’s exactly what metal lures imitate. Many modern lures are very lifelike in colour, scale patterns, length and profile. While all of these features are important, it’s the flash that makes a metal lure deadly and really triggers fish into biting. Many of these faster predatory fish don’t have time to appreciate a pretty scale pattern; they’d rather whack the shiny thing flying past their nose.
While the flash is important, colours still make a difference and it’s worth experimenting to find out what works best in your local area.
Metal vs jig
What’s the difference? The general consensus is metals are made for casting while jigs are made for jigging vertically. There are no hard and fast rules and no one will get upset if you decide to drop a conventional metal, or casting lure, beneath the boat and start jigging. Likewise, as previously mentioned, casting micro jigs from the shore is also perfectly acceptable and a very effective technique.
Because metals are designed mostly for casting, the sizes usually start smaller, around 10 g, and on average end around 100 g. Jigs on the other hand are usually heavier and run up to about 300 g or more for deepwater work and big fish.
Most jigs these days also carry assist hooks, which area attached near the tow point and offer two ultra-sharp swinging single hooks.
This brings me to the debate about single vs treble on metal casting lures. Some people prefer singles, other believe trebles offer an advantage. Singles are easier to remove from fish, remove from people, are sometimes stronger and hold better in the fish during the fight. Trebles can leverage and dislodge during a fight, although they do offer a good hook up rate. It’s a personal preference and depending what fish species you chase, it may or may not make difference. The other thing to note is most metal casting lures come fitted with trebles. That means an additional cost of buying single hooks and fitting them yourself. Retrofitting with single hooks could also have an impact on the action of that lure. And depending on what you’re chasing, many of these lures have a very short life with bite-offs common, so retrofitting could become unnecessarily expensive.
Another retrofit option is to buy the aforementioned assist hooks and replace the trebles. This offers several advantages, but again, it comes down to cost and how important you deem it is to “pimp your lure”.
On that note, another important factor when chasing larger fish is to ensure you don't tie off to the split ring. Most switched on anglers are adding a solid ring to the lure for tying off leaders. This eliminates the risk of break-offs. I wouldn't worry about it for smaller species, but if you're chasing that fish-of-a-life-time, why risk tackle failure over something so simple and preventable?
Do you cast and crank or wind slow? That depends on the species you’re chasing and often the design of the casting metal. Most metals are designed with a sleek profile and can be wound in fast to attract speedsters like tuna and mackerel. Your lure is imitating a fleeing baitfish and they’re often in a hurry when there are predators about.
Some lures are fatter or feature designs in different profile and are less conducive to winding fast. These metals still work and are best on species which prefer a steady retrieve. Fish like salmon, tailor and a bunch of northern species don’t mind slower retrieves. The tendency to wind flat out with high speed reels isn’t necessarily always the best option.
Fishos are spoilt for choice these days. Back in the day, high speeding spinning fans sourced a few imported metals or locally made “half by quarters”. These rough lures didn't look like anything special, but caught a lot of fish. A lot of fishos made their own, which kept costs down if fishing around toothy predators or unforgiving rock platforms.
Move forward a few years and we still have a few basic lures on offer at the right price, plus a bunch of more expensive premium lures. I prefer to go for a quality metal built strong enough to withstand the crunch and teeth of a large fish. You'll also want a lure with strong hooks and split rings. An inferior lure will soon reveal itself after landing a few fish.
Amongst the pack are many different varieties of metals. Some are thin, others are fat, some are dead straight, while others, like the Bumper Bar lures, feature a shape curve. They all work and it's a matter of choosing one depending on the species you’re chasing. If you want something for versatility, the Halco Twisty, Spanyid Raider or Sure Catch Knight are hard to beat. These lures work across a range of speeds and over the years have accounted for an astonishing number of fish world-wide.
Choice of tackle will largely depend on your target species and fishing location. Metal casting lures are hugely popular off the rocks where the ability to cast and fight fish around rocky ground dictates the sort of gear you use. Longer rods, somewhere around 9 ft or more, are favoured and allow you to belt out a solid cast.
On a boat, you'll want a shorter the rod, yet still have it long enough to give you an adequate cast. I prefer a 7 ft rod on a boat. It's long enough to cast, but not so long that it becomes a nuisance in the confined space.
Jiggers on boats have the luxury of sing a shorter rod (because they’re not casting). The shorter rod allows for easier jigging and much more effective fighting of fish. The exception is micro jig rods which are slightly longer and feature slower actions. These rods are designed for smaller jigs and mostly smaller fish, although it’s surprising what you catch on them! For casting, micro jig rods will work, however I prefer a faster action rod for optimum distance. It’s a compromise and one rod unfortunately won't cover all bases.
Whether you choose spin or overhead, many people choose a high speed retrieve for casting metal lures. This allows you the freedom of increasing the retrieve speed if needed. The flipside is high speed reels aren't so efficient for fighting big fish. Again, it’s a compromise.
As for line, most people prefer to use braid and connect a length of fluorocarbon or mono leader via a FG knot. If you're chasing mackerel, you could opt for a short length of wire to prevent bite-offs. You will however risk spooking fish with wire.
Be a metal head
Metal casting lures are still just as important and effective in 2017 as they were during their heyday in the '70s. Their versatility and fish-catching ability makes them an essential item in anyone’s tackle box. Winter is prime time for any number of metal crunching speedsters across most of this country, so grab a handful of metals and get out there!