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By Capt. Pete Rosko
The creation of the 1/16 and 1/10 oz. Sonic BaitFish (SBF) has expanded its reputation as a highly versatile lure, especially for freshwater species. As a youngster, I grew up near Lake Erie in Northeast Ohio. I use Lake Erie as a microcosm for the many rivers, lakes and reservoirs that I have fished between there and my Port Angeles (Wash.) home. The beauty of the SBF is it has no “closed season.” By this, I am inferring that it can be fished in open water and through the ice, either by casting or vertical jigging.
I love fishing structure, especially reef and island ledges, rock piles and large boulders. Every March, one of the major walleye spawning migrations occur in the western basin of Lake Erie. For me, this is like dying and going to heaven because the western basin is a vast “minefield” of almost every conceivable lure-snagging and fish-attracting rock formation. The shallow water, over the tops of these rocky reefs and rock piles, are spawning targets for walleyes.
Trolling is not an option. Therefore, for years, leadhead jigs, tipped with a minnow, were cast into this structure as the most effective technique. Because sinking is its only inherent action, leadheads also easily snag. The result is a minefield of lost leadhead jigs.
It was the 1/10 oz. Sonic BaitFish that dramatically changed decades of frustrating snags in rock structure. Not only does the 1/10 oz. Sonic BaitFish have an inherent fluttering injured baitfish action, it also has a swimming action on the retrieve that minimizes snagging. On its cast, most strikes will occur on the fall or afterwards while the Sonic baitfish is methodically bottom-bounced through the structure. This is a finesse technique for me with no snap jigging. In previous Mack Attack articles, I wrote about how to set up your drift, or how to anchor to a target, to be highly successful in catching fish.
The following is my technique that relates to successfully fishing snaggy structure in Lake Erie or anywhere else.
Whether on a slow drift, or when anchoring, success depends upon strictly adhering to the following techniques:
Your vessel setup must be directly up-current or upwind, whichever is strongest. Directly means that, if you boat will be drifting, the correct setup with enable it to drift right over your taret that is holding fish. Directly means that if you will be anchoring, the correct setup will enable you to cast in a straight line right to your target, without a bow in your line, where all sensitivity is lost. Never sideways to your target unless it is dead calm! You must be able to feel the Sonic BaitFish working through structure on the retrieve! Without that sensitivity of a direct straight taut line, you have no idea what your Sonic BaitFish is doing.
With the Sonic BaitFish, always fish with braided line to maximize the feel of the lure working over and through the bottom structure. Generally, 10-15 lb. test braid, with 2-feet of 15 lb. fluorocarbon, or clear monofilament, leader will work well. The snap, which comes in the packaging of the Sonic BaitFish, must be used to maintain the action of the Sonic BaitFish. Any tie, except for a loop knot, will kill the sensitive action of the lure.
Selecting the proper rod
A 6 1/2 ft. medium-heavy, fast-action spinning rod is about right for this technique. The tip of the rod should not bend more than a third of its length. A 10 lb. walleye will panic in shallow water and dart for structure without a strong rod preventing that.
Use the most effective hook types
Use a single hook on the tail section of your Sonic BaitFish, as opposed to a treble hook, for more strength and more positive hook sets.
Ensure a sharp hook point
Constantly check the hook for sharpness, especially after a missed strike. Fishing rock structure has a dramatic effect on dulling hooks, resulting in missed strikes and poor hooksets. To test your hook sharpness, lightly drag your hook point over your thumbnail. If it does not dig into the thumbnail, it is dull. To remedy this, lightly stroke all three sides of the hook point with a fine tooth file towards its tip until no rough burs are felt during the filing process. This is called triangulation. Then, give it the thumbnail test. A carbon steel file is prone to rust, even in freshwater. WD-40 should be liberally used on the file to prevent rust and sheathed, if possible. A rusty file is almost useless at attaining a sharp hook point. Over many of my years, I have witnessed thousands of missed strikes because of dull hooks. Include me with that group. Many were witnessed with underwater cameras.
Remember, a Sonic BaitFish is like a knuckleball in its action. It is not a stationary target, like a piece of dead bait under a bobber. Many gamefish, like salmon, slash at the fluttering and darting Sonic BaitFish after being instinctively triggered to strike its injured baitfish action. That is why most anglers never experience the true strike of a fish hitting a metal jig.
Once your cast is made to your target, let the Sonic BaitFish flutter towards the bottom on a fairly tight line. If a strike is not experienced, slowly bottom bounce the Sonic BaitFish back towards the boat, using only wrist action with a cadence of one short rod lift, matched with one full turn of the reel. The shallower the water, the more vertical the rod position should be during the retrieve.
Fishing with small, natural-appearing metal jigs, like a 1/16 or 1/10 oz. Sonic BaitFish, have created fish-catching opportunities never previously imagined with larger metal jigs. Even with my wildly successful original metal jig, the Crippled Herring, its present smallest size is only 1/2 oz. In contrast, the Sonic BaitFish is available in four sizes smaller than 1/2 oz. With these “micro” Sonic BaitFish, I have now been able to fish next to fellow Crappie and Yellow Perch anglers, using live minnows, and outfish them with a bare Sonic BaitFish.
One final tip: When the fish stop biting, your first move should always be to downsize to a smaller Sonic BaitFish. As renowned Pacific Northwest writer, Terry Rudnick, once stated, “small lures catch big fish!”