Get the vibe: How to use vibe lures
I AM far from mastering this style of lure but have managed to deceive a wide range of both freshwater and saltwater species during my relatively short journey. I have caught plenty of bass, cod, bream and snapper with a few school jews, barra, coral trout and whiting. Given that a newby like myself has had success right off the bat is indication that these lures are well worth using.
Whether fishing in deep water and a specific piece of fish-holding structure appears on your sonar screen or chasing fish you'd be hard-pressed to find a more effective lure than a vibe. Whilst it's true that heavily weighted soft plastics will also work on a vertical drop, vibes provide the added edge for success. Weighted vibes sink quickly and when fished over the structure with a lift and drop action, their shimmering body and wriggling tail seems to be regularly irresistible to large predators holding up on the structure in question. Vibes can be fished tight onto structure and kept in the zone longer than plastics, which tend to "swim" with a greater degree of lateral glide than vibes.
Vibes can be worked at any depth the angler wishes. Whilst primarily designed for fishing in deep structure laden water, they can be worked from just below the surface by pulling up the lure as it approaches the surface of the water to commence retrieve upon splashdown. Alternatively, the lure can be allowed to reach the bottom (line goes slack) before it is worked back. Small vibes are effective on the flats when chasing whiting if they are not striking surface lures. In addition, they can be worked along drop-offs and through deep holes during drifts between flats, which is ideal for whiting, bream and flathead. Larger vibes lure plenty of oversized flathead as well, so the choice is yours! Similarly, vibes are deadly on tropical estuarine species such as barramundi, mangrove jacks, queenfish and threadfin salmon. Small vibes worked in drains will lure juvenile barra one after the other and when cast to cruising threadfin, can result in awesome catches of these wonderful fish. Although, given how well vibes work in tropical estuaries, it can be argued that anglers should remove the middle hook to minimise damage to the fish and accidents to anglers. After watching a few forward trebles being retracted from fingers and a tummy, I only fish with a rear treble in these fish-rich nursery habitats.
Given the great variety and price range available, the decision on which vibe to purchase should reflect two factors. Cost is the main factor to consider given that soft vibes are cheaper than quality hard bodied vibes. Soft vibes are a good option in snag-filled country where the likelihood of losing your lure is high. Casting and sinking vibes amongst submerged timber is risky in deep water although a long-handled lure retrieving pole or weight mitigates against losses. In the shallows, you can usually unhook a vibe with your rod tip (be careful) or get into the water to get it if it's safe to do so, which it isn't if crocs or stingers inhabit the region. When fishing for estuary mulloway or mangrove jacks a soft vibe provides peace of mind to get right amongst the structure which is where the fish will be. Offshore anglers, such as those chasing bottom dwellers such as snapper, kingfish, mulloway or coral trout most often use soft vibes for similar reasons. When on the ocean, a great technique is to set a soft vibe within 2m of the bottom and place the rod in a holder to allow movement to be imparted by surface conditions ie as the boat moves with swell or chop. The subtle action that results can draw a fish when even the best worked plastic or micro jig falls short. However, it pays to keep an eye out for reef peaks that appear on the sounder on you are drifting otherwise you will probably catch your vibe on the bottom. Hard-bodied vibes shimmer beautifully when they are lowered back towards the bottom after a lift, but good ones can be expensive. Still, there's no denying their effectiveness.
Apart from cost, lure quality is the second factor that should be considered when purchasing vibes. A well designed and outfitted vibe can have a superior action and carry quality rings and hooks. They can have superior actions enhanced by subtle profile design features and sliding weights, so the adage you get what you pay for is generally applicable. Of note is the action that occurs on slack line as the vibe falls back during a lift/sink retrieve because so many strikes occur on the drop. With so many available, I'm reticent to name my favourites, so a chat with experienced vibe anglers or tackle store staff is the most efficient means on making purchases that suit particular regions and species.
The situation and prevailing conditions determine the weight of vibe that will be most effective. The general idea is to use as light a vibe as possible, whilst still sinking to the desired depth as it's the slow fluttering sink that you're after. In calm estuarine waters, smaller 5 — 20 g vibes are ideal, however as tidal flow or drift speed increases, heavier vibes will be required. Same as out to sea where water depth and drift speed are determinants to lure weight. i.e. a 12 g vibe might be ok in 20 m of water on a calm day, 25-50 gram may be best in deeper and windier situations.
There are a couple of tried and true retrieves that work with vibes, so try them before experimenting with individual variations. Perhaps the most common is a gentle and slow single lift and drop, just above the bottom. Simply cast out the lure, allow it to sink to the chosen depth and work it back by lifting the rod tip (just fast enough to feel the action of the vibe), then sink it by lowering the rod tip so it can sink. It's important to retrieve just enough line to keep in touch with the lure during the sink as bites can be as subtle as a single, light tap through the line. Repeat until the lure has returned and then go again The key with this retrieve is to be patient and limit lifts of about 30 cm. A slow wind and sink is another popular retrieve, particularly in situations where fish are schooling midwater. Bass anglers use this type of retrieve when targeting fish in dams as they do school midwater when their spawning clock becomes active, even though they won't spawn in a dam. There's also the fast retrieve (ripping) followed by a pause to sink and vertical lift and sink. As mentioned earlier, experimentation is the key for a given day and during a given day as fish change their preferences regularly, although more than varying retrieves, it's important to keep track of the retrieve used when a fish took the lure! When fishing over a clear substrate such as sand or gravel, the vibe can be bounced across the bottom via lifts and drops of the rod tip or as a result of a slow drift. The effectiveness of this retrieve is much greater than might be expected. The retrieve that does not work with vibes is an erratic rod whipping movement because the result will be a tangle of line and trebles.
Note though, that in any situation of water flow, be it tidal movement, a blue water current or wind generated movement within an impoundment, most fish will be holding face first into the current so they can see approaching prey. As a result, vibes should always be cast up current and worked back with the flow. This is important for several reasons. Firstly, fish get a better visual on the lure as it approaches, without the need for them to turn to see it. Thus, ambush feeders with a tendency to hold in a camouflaged position, are more likely to detect the lure early, and is often the case, be teased into taking it. Secondly, a prey item, in this case the lure, looks more natural moving with the current than against it. A movement towards a predator may just appear to be an oblivious or sick prey which might up the anti sufficiently to trigger an attack. Finally, when vibes are worked with the current, it is easier to keep them at the desired depth as they tend to plane up towards the surface when pulled against the flow.
As far as tackle goes, there is no need to purchase specific gear, rather just use what you already use with other lures for given species. That said, if you aren't using braided line as yet, it's time to switch from mono because some vibe bites can be very subtle. For my bass fishing I use a 2-4 kg bait cast outfit, a 1-3 kg spin outfit for bream and whiting, a 10-15 kg spin combo for snapper and river cod, and mulloway. For dam cod, barra and reef beasts a 20-24 kg outfit provides the grunt when required.
The choice of leader strength is more complex. Always use the lightest leader possible (and a loop knot) to maximise lure action and to lower detectability by fish, without compromising your ability to land fish. i.e. leaders used around shellfish and rock must be stronger than leaders used over clear sand flats. For example, I use 2-3 kg leader on bream, 10-15 kg on snapper and 24 kg on barra and coral trout.
Vibes come in a variety of styles and sizes. Vibes look like fish when viewed from the side. Those lures made from a thin metal are generally referred to as blades, but I think they are vibe lures. Lures most generally referred to as vibes are made from hard or soft plastic or a hybrid combination of both. All types are effective but there are some situations that favour one style over another.
I prefer to use hard bodied plastic vibes when chasing bass. I usually use them when fishing wild granite rivers when the rising sun shuts off surface bites and fish leave the shallows for the security of the depths. These rivers have some timber along the edges, but it's usually limited. Submerged rock outcrops with associated overhangs, cracks and other nooks and crannies are the predominant structure fished. Some of the holes are large with water over 10-15 m in depth being common and quite often there will be a ridge of rock running down the middle. These spots are perfect for vibes and the next 50 cm+ bass to fall for a vibe at lunchtime won't be the last. Hard body vibes throw out a very tight vibration as a result of their rigid body and many models have rattles incorporated into their design, both of which combine to create a greater calling-card than plastic vibes. In deep dark waters, where fish are spread through various locations, the lure should be able to draw fish into the open, and these lures do that! The same idea applies to discoloured water which is a common scenario in freshwater, be it a dam or a river where tannins and nutrient colloids (materials in suspension) keep colour in the water. A fun way to fish these vibes is to drop them beside cover and slowly work them up and down .. watching a fish blast into sight, attacking the lure is a blast.
The last fish I saw grabbing a vibe was a large cod ... I was sitting on a rocky point, stretching my legs after a few hours in the kayak, working my vibe on a rod length of line with the rod in my off hand and an apple in the other when a 80 cm cod appeared from under the rock at my feet and sped off with my lure. Unfortunately, the bass-sized trebles were crushed flat on the first run ...bugger! But if nothing else, I'm keen to get back on the water as soon as Covid restrictions allow!