Pimp your lures!
BEING known as a “pimp” has, until now, not been a good thing. Most of us know that pimping is an activity that sleazy men in purple suits are involved in, usually on street corners. Well, I’m here to put things straight. Pimp is also relevant to angling, specifically in regard to adding “bling” to improve a lure’s effectiveness.
Cool streetwise anglers, like myself, express our pimping activities as “Adding Bling to Improve the Sting”. ABIS is an acronym that is becoming popular in the inner circle of pimpers. Yo homie! Anyway, enough of the hipster banter. Let’s instead be clear in our thinking about what lure pimping can achieve. It may come as a surprise to realise that a pimped lure in the hands of a mediocre angler will probably never catch as many fish as a “straight” lure being worked by an attentive and active angler.
It’s important to realise that bling does not replace effort or knowledge. Neither does it compensate for laziness. The primary ingredient for catching fish on lures is the angler, not the lure. Do you vary retrieves and change lures till you find a fish-catching pattern? Do you actively think about conditions, structure and your knowledge of the target species? Can you cast accurately over distance and “work” the lure to entice a strike?
If you can’t do the above, then even the most blinged up lure in the world will probably fail to catch you fish. The fact is you need to develop a range of vital skills to successfully catch fish on lures and you need to employ those skills continuously while out on the water. That said, when you compare the overall effectiveness of a pimped vs. non-pimped lure, the pimped lure wins hands down. And that’s exactly why tuned-in anglers are almost always unrepentent pimps.
One of the most active and ingenious lure pimpers that I know of is a guy by the name of Kelvin Williams. Kelvin is what I call a “thinking pimp” and is always trying new things. He comes up with ideas that I’d never try in a million years. He’s an innovator, and while some of his thinking comes to nought, he regularly comes up with the goods. On a personal level, Kelvin has helped me out with spinnerbait skirts and styles of soft plastics and I know that he and Fisho’s David Green have a great handle on UV paint and barramundi lures. Kelvin is an A-grade pimper without a doubt! While some bling on a lure may add to an increased strike rate, most of the work keen pimpers do is to ensure that once hooked, the fish stays hooked. It is in this area of this fascinating subject that we will concentrate.
Not all lures arrive out of the box with top quality trebles. I always ensure that my lures run chemically sharpened hooks because they are the sharpest trebles available. A hook point is sharp when it feels sticky when run across your skin (be careful when you do it). Nothing pins a fish as well as a quality chemically sharpened hook. Retro-fitting new hooks on your lures is much easier if you invest in a decent set of split ring pliers. You may need a couple of sets, from heavy duty models for replacing hooks on barra or blue water lures to the “split ring tweezers” used to swap the tiny trebles on bream, bass and trout lures.
Changing hooks can affect how a lure performs. In some cases this may be detrimental – ie, oversize hooks comproming action – but you can also use different hooks to your advantage. For example, swapping the factory hooks with slightly heavier models may result in a floating lure becoming a suspender. Or a heavy rear treble on a surface lure may cause the tail to sink and provide better hook ups on “sipping” bream. As you can see, something as seemingly insignificant as a new set of trebles can have a major impact on how a lure works … Bear in mind that some species – barra, mangrove jacks and GTs instantly spring to mind – require extra strong hooks. In this scenario your pimp may be replacing good hooks with stronger, better hooks.
Many anglers prefer to run single hooks as opposed to trebles because a well-placed single offers a far more secure hook-up. When a treble has two or three points embedded in a fish’s jaw, it is likely to include upper and lower jaws or even the outside of the jaw. When a fish fights and/or jumps with wild head shakes, jaws open and heads shake to and fro, and when hooks are in opposing locations, the forces of the fight can tear them free. Not so with a single hook. Be sure to use a hook that has an eye in straight alignment with the shank and bend (gape) of the hook. Offset hooks (with an angled eye or gape) are not suitable for lures because they inhibit the action of the lure and in the worst-case scenario, cause it to spin during the retrieve. Lightweight hooks are also good, with the Siwash saltwater fly hooks from Gamakatsu being a popular choice in the less brutal applications.
Assist hooks come tied onto short lengths of kevlar or braided cord and are traditionally used with metal jigs (although some come standard on various blade or vibe brands). These small, lighter assist hooks can also be used very successfully on hard-bodied lures. All you need do is either replace the trebles with assists or add them to the rings holding the trebles. Assist hooks can also be used with soft plastics and are secured to the bend of the jig hook or through the eye of the jig hook itself. These free-swinging assist hooks are generally smaller and lighter looking than you might think would work – but don’t be put off, they are in fact deadly sharp and extremely strong.
Double or “W” hooks have been used by lure trolling game fishermen for years, and given that this style of fishing can involve a long day on the water for one strike, each strike is important and a lost fish is a disaster. Double hooks are an effective option for lure casters targeting species that are likely to jump when hooked. Down south that means tailor and salmon while barra, threadies and queenfish are the likely northern candidates. The idea with DIY double hook construction is to align two hooks in an opposite orientation – for example, the eyes at one end and the gapes at 180° to each other (on a flat plane) and then secure them with a segment of heat shrink plastic over both shanks. Carefully heat the plastic over a lighter or with a heat gun and, presto, one double hook! A wrap or bind of light, flexible wire can be used in conjunction with the heat shrink to construct a more durable double hook arrangement. These hooks are deadly when rigged on metal lures and they work also well on softies and hard-bodies.
Doubling Split Rings
We’ve all come to accept that while surface lures offer the most exciting form of lure fishing (there’s nothing better that watching a fish streak in and smash your lure), the pay-off comes with the fact that surface lures offer a poorer hook-up rate than other lures. A really effective means of increasing the rate of successful hook-ups with a surface lure – and other lures – is to add extra split rings to the lure. Hooks swinging on two (and sometimes more) rings are more mobile and longer. Hence they’re more effective. Once secured in a fish’s mouth, the hook connected to multiple split rings is less prone to tear free – especially with jumpers like barra. When adding additional split rings to your lures, be sure to use the strongest yet lightest ring you can. Quality split rings are more expensive than the everyday variety, but in real terms they are still dirt cheap. They are particularly when you consider the cost of the you-beaut Japanese bream lolly you just purchased!
Adding a Solid Ring
Like many keen fishos, I don’t like to attach a lure to the mainline by placing the knot in the split ring commonly located at the nose of a lure. I worry that the line may either open up the ring and slide off during a long fight or, alternatively, wear itself through on the sometimes burred end pieces in the opening section. So if a lure comes with a split ring on the point of attachment I either remove the split ring or add a solid ring to the split ring. I haven’t seen small solid rings, so for lures sized for bream, bass or barra, I remove the split ring all together and attach direct to the lure’s tow point via a loop knot. On larger lures, say those used to target mackerel, mulloway or GTs, I’ll add a solid ring and tie either a loop knot or a Uni knot to the ring. The solid ring has the added advantage of allowing a large lure a more flexible tow point, which can facilitate a slight improvement in lure action.
To be honest, I’m not an expert paint “blingster”, but I am experienced in the highly technical aspect of adding black permanent marker to bass and cod lures. Black added to any surface lure is always a winner for night time angling and it comes in handy if the tackle shop doesn’t have black lures when you need one. Bass find bright green and black divers to their liking and I have a few ancient Knol’s Natives that have had several pimps with the black marker.
While leaders aren’t technically bling, it’s important to avoid fluorocarbon leader when using delicate surface lures for bass and bream. FC sinks and inhibits the action of smaller “walk-the-dog” style lures or cicada imitations. The idea is to use a shorter length of monofilament leader. All you need is about 60cm of whatever size leader is appropriate.
So there you go, pimping your lures by adding a bit of bling in the form of upgraded hooks, terminals and even colours is a simple but very effective means of improving your catch rate. Just don’t wear purple suits,