Using lures that “suspend” is a gun way to catch big trout, writes SCOTT GRAY.
THE versatility and design of trout lures has changed dramatically over the years. Nowadays there’s loads of choice when it comes to selecting a lure to use at your favourite fishing spot. Over the past few years I’ve experimented with a range of floating and sinking minnow style lures with great success, but have found a new appreciation for the versatility of suspending minnows in a range of situations.
For many years it was quite simple: select a floating minnow for casting in the shallow runs or a sinking minnow in the deeper pools. It wasn’t until I experimented with suspending lures that I increased my catch rates in a range of situations, in particular when fishing the plungepools like those at Hopkins Falls in southwest Victoria, as shown on the Free DVD packaged with this edition of Fishing World.
I first started using suspending minnows when I had trouble getting my lure down under the large beds of foam below the waterfall. The floating/diving models just couldn’t swim down. Sinking minnow lures were a great option at the time, but often you had to wind them in quickly to keep them from the rocks below. Usually you couldn’t see where the rocks were, so unfortunately plenty of lures were lost to the bottom.
Over the past few years Rapala has come out with a range of suspending minnow lures including the Freshwater X-Rap, Max Rap and the Husky Jerk (as seen on the DVD). The key features of these lures are that they dive down when being retrieved and when the retrieve is paused they sit neutrally in the water. This allows you to fish the lures more slowly than you would normally have to as you’re able to impart action to the lure in either slow or fast bursts with pauses in between allowing you to keep your lure in the strikezone as long as possible.
All of these models come with internal rattles. This feature makes them ideal to use in locations where there’s plenty of noise in the direct area (such as roaring water) and also when the fish need a helping hand to find the lure due to discoloured water.
During the high flow months of winter and spring brown trout stocked into the Hopkins River migrate to the base of the waterfall. This waterfall acts as a natural barrier to any further upstream movement by the trout. It also creates excellent habitat as the holes below the falls are deep and there’s plenty of food being washed down from above. As the water starts to subside the water begins to clear and for a period of three or four weeks there is excellent fishing below the waterfall; it’s simply a matter of finding the right lure to catch the fish.
At this time of the year the water is usually a little discoloured and the fish are very opportunistic, which makes them ideal targets for lure casting. Basically if the fish can find the lure, they’ll smash it. The main components of their diet are large galaxias minnows and gudgeon. As a result I use larger lures from 8-13cm.
This plungepool environment can be quite brutal on your tackle and there are always a few broken bibs from hitting rocks repeatedly and plenty of leader chafing as well, so for this reason I usually use fluorocarbon leader of at least 4kg. While the use of this sort of leader for trout fishing may attract a bit of a ribbing from your friends, you’ll be the one at the end of the day who lands the biggest fish.
To target trout in this location you just need to focus your casting on the foam and current lines (which are usually mutually exclusive) below the waterfall and you’ll find the fish right under the foam. The plungepool foam collects food items as they wash downstream and provides great cover for baitfish so this is the best place to find the fish. This technique works well in large waterfalls like the Hopkins, but also works well on smaller versions and below impoundments.
Suspending minnows are deadly on big brown trout. Their ability to swim under the foam, “hang” in the strike zone and create noise via rattles make them my No.1 lure for working the foam lines. Try one next time you’re fishing a tailrace below an impoundment or plungepool and I think you’ll improve your catch rates!