These lures weigh in at about one-sixteenth of an ounce, yet they can catch whopper fish in the summer. FRANK SARGEANT
BY FRANK SARGEANT Tribune correspondent
Published: August 3, 2013
Updated: August 3, 2013 at 06:37 PM
If we really just wanted meat in the cooler, a hand line and a chunk of cut fish would probably work best. Sport fishing is about sport - as well as fishing. And there's no way to make it sportier than to pick up a tiny ultra-light wand and challenge your piscatorial adversaries with it. The mini-tackle is a lot better than it used to be, and there are more choices - at a wider range of prices. This makes it easy to pick up an economy-class UL rig and give it a try to see if it's for you.
If you enjoy the strike and the fight as much as the fillets - or maybe you're totally a catch-and-release angler - odds are you'll find each fish delivering a lot more fun on the mini-gear. Down-sized tackle delivers an amazing variety in catches because there's hardly any species that doesn't eat inch-long minnows, shrimp or crawfish. Ever notice the size of baits snook often eat under the lights at night? They're hardly big enough to see, which is why fly-casters have so much luck with them - the tiny white flies they toss are a good simulation of the glass minnows these fish eat. In fresh water, bass also undergo this summer downsizing on food as they eat the millions of fry-size shad and other baitfish spawned in the spring. I've been having some amazing trips the past few weeks playing with a ultra-light Shimano Syncopate 1000FG spinning reel and a Stimula 6-6 rod with 4-pound-test mono, tossing an assortment of 2-inch-long topwaters from Rapala, Rebel and Strike King, and occasionally tiny spinnerbaits including the Blakemore Road Runner and the Mr. Crappie Spin-Daddy. I've caught hundreds of largemouths from 6 to 15 inches long, a whole lot of bluegills and white bass, a few crappie, a 4-foot long gar, a 4-pound channel cat and one stray largemouth over 20 inches long. That's a lot of action for mid-July, to be sure. It wouldn't win any tournaments, but it sure has been fun. And if you're looking for a way to get your kids or grandkids turned on to fishing artificial lures, I can't imagine any better approach. I haven't tried it, but I'm willing to bet that these little lures would absolutely murder Spanish mackerel, and probably pompano, too. And of course any fish you stick on 4-pound-test is a handful - even a 12-inch trout can put up a significant battle, and if you stick a 30-inch snook or a keeper red, look out. It will make you a better angler - but you'd better take a good supply of lures, just in case. The little lures are also really great entertainers for kids and grandkids because you're constantly catching fish - anything that swims in fresh or saltwater will eat a 1- to 2-inch baitfish. Basically all you - or the kids - have to do to get a bite is throw something like the F-05 Rapala or Rebel F-4 to breaking fish and twitch it sharply. The fish do the rest, usually instantly. It's not unusual to have one fish jump off and another get on before you can retrieve the lure. And of course when that stray bass 15 inches long takes hold, you've got your hands full with 4-pound-test. It will make you a better angler, teach the kids a lot about fighting fish and make for some great memories. The UL gear is inexpensive - the Syncopate goes for around $26, the Stimula rod about $25. You can get other open-face packages for even less, but best to stick with these rather than the closed face spincasters because those little Zebco's, wonderful in bait fishing, create too much drag when you're trying to throw ultra-light lures. (Zebco makes some good UL open-faced reels, however.) There are three keys to throwing sixteenth-ounce lures: First, use 4-pound-test mono, which is much lighter, more flexible and easier to cast than even 6. (In saltwater, you'll need 18 inches of 25 pound test leader, or else.) Second, fill the spool completely. The 4-pound-test is much less likely to jump off the spool than heavier line, so you can fill to the very lip, which greatly increases casting distance. And third, choose a rod at least 6 feet, 6 inches long. Ultra-lights tend to be short, particularly those made for stream fishing, but the longer the rod, the farther you can power out a tiny bait. That's about all you need to know. Throw a mini-lure on ultra-light tackle at just about anything in fresh or salt water at this time of year and you're in for a fight.