With an incredible variety of lure designs on the market all claiming to provide the unrivaled mimicry and action needed to fool trophy game fish, it’s hard to pick just one family of artificial baits for every application. Fortunately, shallow water anglers don’t have to be choosy.
Our tackle bags are overflowing with soft plastics in every shape, size and color combination. Some are smelly and sticky and some aren’t. We also have boxes stuffed with various stickbaits, jigheads, poppers and imitation shrimp that look good enough to eat. Still, if you are as anxious as we are to increase your inshore score, the one thing you absolutely need to have in your arsenal is a variety of twitchbaits.
To take full advantage of these realistic fakes you have to think like a fish. Not like the snook or trout you are attempting to persuade, but the wounded baitfish you are attempting to imitate.
For the sake of this editorial, let’s define a twitchbait as a small, oblong shaped hardbait available in floating, suspending, slow and fast-sinking models. The eyelet where you tie the leader is generally positioned on the nose of the lure or just above its eyes. The location of the eyelet directly influences the resulting action and facilitates precision maneuverability. While twitchbaits may be small, they pack a serious punch and are absolutely deadly across a wide array of venues in their ability to tempt a long list of prized inshore predators.
Twitchbaits work extremely well for several reasons. First and foremost, the 2014 crop of twitchbaits perfectly mimic local forage species in both shape and size, while also sporting incredibly realistic patterns. Color is also important, but remember that presentation is key and a neon pink Twitchin’ Rap worked correctly will out fish a detailed and lifelike Live Target mullet imitation fished with an improper retrieve.
To take full advantage of these realistic fakes you have to think like a fish. Not like the snook or trout you are hoping to persuade, but the wounded baitfish you are attempting to imitate. Manufacturers like MirrOlure, Rapala, Live Target and Unfair Lures have gone to great expenses to put the very best products in your hand, but it’s up to you to turn a static piece of plastic into a fish catching machine.
If you want to make the most out of your twitchbaits, you need to first realize you are not throwing a shrimp imitation and crawling it through the grass. You are fishing a hardbait that requires a unique and delicate retrieve with varying speed and intensity. Opportunistic game fish like trout, snook, snapper, redfish, tarpon, cobia and bluefish find it hard to resist a wounded baitfish and when you find the ideal retrieve for a particular twitchbait you’ll be able to replicate the irresistible action needed to find consistent success.
To mimic distressed baitfish, anglers typically impart erratic action interrupted by intermittent pauses, twitches and short bursts of speed. Effectively executing the approach and action needed to mimic disoriented baitfish requires anglers feel and understand what the lure is doing at all times. With just a little experience you’ll be able to control your baits with incredible precision.
For this reason, many twitchbait specialists prefer spinning outfits. Though casting gear works well, many anglers find it easier to twitch the rod with their predominant hand—most often the right hand—while simultaneously using their left hand to keep the lure moving through the water. It’s also important to note that a high rod tip offers the greatest feedback and control of your lure. Holding your rod parallel to the water will result in a more stagnant response.
One common denominator regardless of tackle is your choice in line. With its ultra-thin diameter, heightened sensitivity and minimal stretch, 10 or 15 lb. braid provides the ideal traits twitchbait fishermen require to achieve the proper presentation. With braid even the slightest movement of the rod tip is transmitted down the line and results in a noticeable response. Thirty-inches of fluorocarbon leader with a small loop knot to the lure completes the stealthy presentation and provides the stretch needed to avoid pulling hooks.
Fish are intelligent predators and often feed on various forms of nutrition including crabs and shrimp. However, fish predominately eat fish and often target the ones that are easiest to catch—the injured and susceptible. It’s the law of nature. Create and present this sort of opportunity in a likely feeding zone along channel edges, over the top of healthy grass beds or across sandy potholes and the results can truly be fantastic. Remember that fish are masters of ambush. Juvenile tarpon are a perfect example and these micro monsters often hold tight to mangrove shorelines deep in the backcountry, venturing surprisingly deep into the brush during flooding tides. During the highest tides you’ll hear them pop way back in the woods. In this scenario accuracy is key and the most successful anglers skip lures under overhanging branches with remarkable precision. Just a few feet off target and your favorite twitchbait may be gone forever.
Twitchbaits certainly aren’t the go-to lure for every shallow water application, but it is hard to find another artificial bait that can entice savage strikes from so many different game fish across such a wide variety of venues. This is true regardless if the fish are hungry or just reacting to the easy meal. See you in the shallows.