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The Story of the Sonic Bait Fish Lure - Part 3

The Story of the Sonic Bait Fish Lure - Part 3

By Pete Rosko

Read Part 1 and Part 2

From my previous articles on the invention of the Sonic Bait Fish, it is clear that this lure combines the best features of the Crippled Herring and Kandlefish. Like its predecessor lures, the Sonic Bait Fish has proven successful in freshwater, saltwater, and ice fishing worldwide.

As with many things in life, a series of small successes are necessary to achieve significant success. Those small successes had a lot to do with the Crippled Herring and Kandlefish paving the way with multiple fish records for the Sonic Bait Fish to follow. The success stories pour in daily. 

Mack's Lure Pro Staffer, Mike Hall, and his son (Thom) told me they were vertical jigging with the 1/10 oz. SBF on the Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Utah, and with that “mighty mite” of a lure, caught channel catfish up to 10 pounds and wipers (striped bass hybrids) and walleyes up to 6-7 lbs. 

Eight years ago, eleven-year-old Will Tibbels landed a Lake Erie modern-day record 14 lb walleye on a ¾ oz silver Mack's Lure Sonic Bait Fish with his line attached to the back.  

The best stories come from personal experience: In celebration of my mom's 95th birthday on October 26th, I decided to jig for Lake Sutherland kokanee, 15 miles west of Port Angeles, Washington.  For whatever reason, I wanted to see if I could catch 95 kokanee to match my mom’s age. 

It was the beginning of a perfect fishing day for me: light rain, calm water, and no jet skiers or other boaters on the water to cause the kokanee to be on a negative bite.  I was alone and jigging for kokanee in 15-30 feet of water with alit-upscreenon my fish finder.  It was literally a hook-up on every drop with ¼ and ½ oz Sonic Bait Fish. The kokanee attacked the Sonic Bait fish, whether attached to the nose, tail, or back. Glow Orange is always my top pick for pre- and post-spawn kokanee in the fall season. Any color worked that day, and all three attachments were equally effective. By the end of that day, I had not seen another boat on the water, and I had tripled my mom’s 95 years on this good earth. I stopped counting at 300 kokanees caught and released that day.      

Sonic Bait Fish: Three attachment points make the difference.
So we know the Sonic Bait Fish is a thinner version of the Kandlefish, but it goes a step farther by offering three different attachment points: the nose, tail, or back. Having three attachment points is what makes it so effective in the water. Each attachment point varies the lure's action and fishing technique for maximum versatility.

Attaching the line to the top of the back creates a strong side-to-side vibration during the lift and fall. The nose attachment is designed for vertical jigging, while the nose and tail attachments are suitable for casting, jigging, and trolling.

When attached to the nose, the Sonic Bait Fish has a wider range of action during the fall. On the other hand, attaching it to the tail narrows the horizontal range of action, resulting in a faster fall.

Casting and trolling result in little difference in the darting and vibrating action when moving horizontally.  (By attaching to the tail, some anglers believe that the eye, positioned closer to the tail hook, triggers more strikes.)  


Valuable tips that work for me when fishing the Sonic BaitFish (SBF)… 

1. Plan your fishing trip and inform others about your plans.
As with any road trip, plan your fishing trip to make your outing on the water successful.  Identify your primary and secondary fishing spots relative to the weather and tides (if fishing saltwater).  Advise family members or friends of your plans and when you will return from your trip.

2.  Check your equipment before heading out.
This includes my towing vehicle, boat, trailer, and fishing gear. The fishing essentials include food and water, licenses, registrations, rods, tackle, safety gear, a First Aid kit, weather apparel, phone and electronics, cooler/ice, fuel, and repair kits. 

3. Utilize your fish finder to locate fish and adjust your positioning accordingly.
Once I have reached my fishing destination and successfully launched my boat, I turn to the most valuable fishing information source on my vessel. Nope, it’s not a fishing buddy sipping down an early morning cold beer.  It’s my other buddy, my electronic fish finder. Before getting my boat on plane, I ensure my fish finder is on and working perfectly. Before arriving at my fishing destination, I reduce my boat speed to obtain an accurate reading on my fish finder screen. I do this because I look for legitimate fish marks on the screen as I scan the perimeter before reaching my primary fishing location via GPS coordinates or visual landmarks. 

 Often in saltwater, tides, and wind will often reposition the fish and bait fish that usually hold tight to predictable structures at your favorite spot. Predator fish follow two primary instincts. Those being, where is my next meal, and how do I best conserve my energy before finding my next meal? 

In both cases, the fish and bait fish will leave my favorite spot for calmer water in a down-current eddy or in the calm water confines of a nearby protective kelp bed. There are two saltwater extremes when it is challenging to catch fish.  They are when the tide (especially a falling tide) is racing and when it dies.  Knowing tides and currents is critical for any angler’s success!  If you love vertical metal jig fishing as much as I do, you want your boat to drift at a moderate speed where your line is straight down and not stretching.  

PRO TIP:  The most effective lure action that triggers the instinctive strike of a predator fish is its vertical, downward flutter!  No other lure type does it better than the metal jig when the fishing line is straight down!!!  

Here is my example. I often cast the Sonic Bait Fish directly (not sideways) down-current when the wind or tide moves my boat too fast. This action allows my Sonic Bait Fish to have a better chance to reach the bottom where the fish are. When I feel my gear touch the bottom, I immediately startbottom bouncingthe Sonic Bait Fish back to me on a horizontal line angle. I am actually swimming the jig and not truly fishing it vertically. But the closer the line gets to the boat, the more it becomes vertical. Then, when it becomes fully vertical (directly below the boat), the strike occurs because the jig is no longer swimming. It is now being vertically jigged as it vibrates on the lift of the rod and flutters on the lowering of the rod. 

Remember: the upward movement of the jig attracts fish, but the vertical downward flutter causes fish to strike the jig instinctively.


PRO TIP: Always point your rod to the target when jigging or jig-casting!  It’s like sighting your rifle to a target. This will maximize the control of your working rod, maximize the feel of your lure working in the water, and maximize your hook sets. Never fish with a bow in your line or sideways to your target because you will lose every advantage in the previous sentence.

4. Attach the Sonic Bait Fish to different points depending on your desired action. 

Nose Attachment: I almost always attach to the nose of the Sonic Bait Fish and do so with a snap with a round bend to maximize its action, whether casting, jigging, or trolling. For trolling, use a snap swivel to minimize line twists. This attachment allows maximum darting, fluttering, and vibrating horizontal action when casting and trolling. Also, this attachment is very effective for vertical jigging. Do not tie directly to the Sonic Bait Fish, as this will adversely affect its delicate balance, especially for the smaller sizes. If a snap is not used, tie a loop knot instead. 

Back Attachment: This attachment is exclusively for dead-sticking, vertical jigging, and jig casting, but NOT trolling. It has a unique pronounced side-to-side vibrating action on the lift that is duplicated on the drop. It is both an attracting and finessing lure. Its far-ranging vibration on the lift attracts fish in dark and murky water.  It is also a finesse lure when dead-sticking (holding the rod still with no jigging), whether when ice-fishing or when fishing in open water. Although the rod is held still, the tidal flow or water current will cause the lure to rotate. This imitates a suspended bait fish that is slowly finning at rest.  It is very effective for many species, including kokanee. 

The back attachment point results in the vibrating action of a fouled metal jig when being retrieved. A metal jig can be hook-to-line fouled by over-jigging, turbulent water, or a fish dislodging the jig during its frantic attempt to unhook itself. The result is that the jig is retrieved sideways instead of nose first. Countless times, I experienced chinook, coho, and pink salmon following the vibrating fouled jig all the way to the boat. Attaching the line to the back of the Sonic Bait Fish now duplicates that vibrating action on the lift and the drop.  

Tail Attachment:  It does everything the nose attachment does but at a lesser circumference on the fall. As a result, the tail attachment falls faster than the wider-ranging nose attachment. It is also favored by anglers who like the eye closer to the hook. 

5. Different finishes work better in different locations, so experiment to find the right one for your fishing area.
consider Glow White and Glow Chartreuse to be two universal finishes that can be effective in any part of the world, whether fresh or salt water.  All of the Sonic Bait Fish finishes are very effective. However, their effectiveness will vary with location and species of fish. 

PRO TIP:  Glow finishes work better than metallic finishes in the Pacific Northwest because of its darker water. Chinook and Coho salmon prefer Glow Chartreuse. Pink Salmon go for the Blue Silver (not Pink); and Kokanee can't resist the Glow Orange. Lakes Crescent and Sutherland trout strike the Blue Silver. 

Metallic finishes work better in Florida because of its clear and sunny water. In both regions, I have caught many fish that chewed all the paint off the Sonic Bait Fish down to bare metal. That’s because its fish-catching action was never affected, and that lure action was more important to the fish than its superficial finish.  PRO TIP:  If you need shine on a bare metal lead alloy lure, just scrape the sides of the lure with the blunt edge of your knife. 

6. Use hooks with a wide gap and deep throat for better hook sets and less lost fish.
Especially for the Sonic Bait Fish's smaller sizes, all its hooks should be self-sleeving double hooks for quick changes and fewer lost fish. But they are not because they are not readily available from suppliers. My next choice is a siwash style hook with its wide gap and deep throat. The compromise is a treble hook, which lacks a wide gap and deep throat. 

7. Use a fine-tooth file to sharpen hook points regularly for optimal performance. This is my nextbest buddyon my boat!  If you do not religiously use a fine-tooth file on your vessel, you deny yourself a distinct advantage and depend more on luck in catching fish. Far too many times, I have witnessed a very expensive rod and reel combo resulting in multiple lost fish because of a dull hook point that could have been avoided with a $15.00 fine tooth, carbon steel file.  

PRO TIP: Gently stroke your file toward the hook point as it searches for any interfering roughness. The shape of the hook point area is triangular. So, slide your file over each of the three sides until no roughness is felt with your file.  Then, give the hook point its ultimate sharpness test by lightly sliding it over your thumbnail, not your skin.  If the hook point digs into the nail, you are on the fast track to landing more fish. You missed at least one bur if the hook point does not dig in. Search out the entire circumference of the hook point with the light stroke of your file until all roughness has been removed and the thumbnail test is successful.  It will seem like a waste of time for most anglers until you see the results of your efforts. After that, using a file will become second nature to you.  Remember, constantly check that hook point during your entire time on the water.  That next strike just might be a new world record!

Caution…I use and love the Luhr Jensen file because it does a superb job for me.  However, it is made of carbon steel and not stainless steel.  Carbon steel rusts!  If it rusts slightly, it will become dull and almost useless in feeling with burs that need to be removed.  REMEDY…To keep it new for years, I keep my file in a homemade sheath with a sponge lining that holds my WD40 spray residue against its carbon steel body. As long as that sponge lining is moist with WD40, there is no need to spray the file constantly. Just return it to its sheath after each use. 

8. Choose the appropriate rods and reels for the depth and fishing style.
I usually fish with spinning rods in water shallower than 75 feet and baitcasting rods in deeper water or when trolling.  I will only use a baitcasting rod in shallower water when I need to fish with a line-counting baitcasting reel for suspended fish.  Spinning reels have no line counters.  Most of my rods range between 6 – 6 ½ feet and between med, med-heavy, and heavy action.  I like heavy-action rods for better hook sets and controlling the fish when jigging, especially in deeper water.  However, one of my favorite rods is for the 1/6, 1/10 & 1/16 SBF.  
It’s the 6ft. G. Loomis IMX SJR 720 mag-light. Ex-fast spinning rod (spooled with 6lb. braid mainline and 6 lb. fluorocarbon leader, attached to a small snap.) 

9. Use braided mainline and fluorocarbon leader for salmon and freshwater fishing.
For all of my salmon and freshwater fishing, I fish with 15-30 lb. braided mainline and 10 -25 lb. fluorocarbon leader with a duo-lock snap at the terminal end.  Note: Refer to the exception when fishing with 1/16-1/6 oz SBF as noted above.

10. When fish stop biting, downsize your lure to match their preference.

WHY DID THE FISH STOP BITING ON MY SONIC BAIT FISH?  As with fish, humans stop eating when they feel they have eaten enough.  However, there always seems to be a time when they see that specialdesert" and cannot resist another bite. That desert to a fish may be a tiny injured or struggling bait fish.  The wise angler’s first move is to quickly downsize their Sonic Bait Fish to the smallest size that they can effectively offer to that fish. 

11. There are many articles and tutorials available for further information and tips on fishing with the Sonic Bait Fish.

The Mack Attack archives have many Sonic BaitFish (SBF) articles with valuable tips to improve your knowledge and enjoyment of the Sonic Bait Fish. YouTube also has many tutorials on fishing this versatile lure.

As a takeaway, remember the secret to success with the Sonic Bait Fish is to first locate the fish on your fish finder so that the Sonic Bait Fish can take over and do the rest for you. Learning to use your fish finder effectively is part of the joy of learning and succeeding.

You might also enjoy this “Port Angeles Coho Fishing” video of the Sonic Bait Fish.


Until our next visit in August, be safe on the waterCapt. Pete

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