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The article below was contributed by 

Sportsman's Connection / Outdoor Talk Network


All of these articles are by: Jim Slinsky of the Sportsman's Connection

The Lure of Lures…

I am not much of a bait fisherman. Yes, if I’m on a boat and my guide says, “here, use this cut bait,” I will not balk. I am paying him or he is treating the radioman to a free trip. I will give him a chance to show me his stuff. In most cases, I am older, having fished before my guide was even born. Probably an irrelevant fact because we are on his homewater.


I am not a purist. However, after many years of fishing, I found bait to be dirty, expensive and sometimes difficult to locate. Bait is a pain to carry around and makes the fishing more complicated. When I step in a river, I like to cover water. Actually, I am hunting for big, active fish.


There is a method to my madness and it relates to the quality of water in PA. If we rule out the pristine, fertile waters with abundant insects, we are left with impaired waters. Acid mine drainage, sewage overloads, farm runoff and other pollutants affect every water in this state. The insects are the first to disappear. Consequently, minnows offer the primary forage and all gamefish eat minnows. If we look closer, we find common suckers and fallfish (chubs) are the prevalent rough fish. I know there are dace and sculpins and an array of smaller minnows in every system. Our goal is big fish and we need to imitate fish that appear in the system from 2” to 6”. Suckers and chubs often run-up the tribs and spawn in the higher quality feeders. They are the last to disappear from an ecosystem with problems. The big boys are looking for these larger, white-fleshed morsels.


What is a lure fisherman, anyway? Interestingly, he is an advanced minnow fisherman. He is far more efficient than a live-liner. He can fancast structure with deadly accuracy. He has full control of the depth of his presentation. He can speed it up, slow it down, let it fall and jig it off the bottom. He can change colors and sizes without ever leaving the water. He can continue the hunt for big fish without the noise and commotion of running to shore. Noise is a big factor when chasing the largest predators in any system. Think of trophy fish as wild animals. The slightest unnatural sound and they are gone, or least get lockjaw.


The trick is to travel light, not spend a wad of money on lures and be ready to go at a moment’s notice. Pack your lure boxes with the best of the best and pack your vest with no more than two small boxes. You need no more than a dozen lures. The exception may be largemouth fishing from a boat. We are discussing river fishing for trout, smallmouth and walleye in this piece, our most abundant fishing opportunities.


Spinners, spoons and stickbaits are where you should direct your collection. A ball bearing swivel is an absolute must. Overlook that they are a buck apiece. The water dictates your choice of weapon. Fast, broken water is perfect for spinners. The blade shape varies the depth and you will want a few to ride high and a few to tick the rocks. Slower, deeper holes are perfect for spoons. You can make a spoon dance, settle it on the bottom, or use a steady, rhythmic retrieve. Spoons work well in fast water, but keep the rod tip high. Stickbaits are the all-time big fish producer.

The best colors imitate the suckers and chubs. White, grey, gold, silver, silver with red and brown with black all consistently produce. The one-quarter to three-eighth ounce size will cover 90% of your fishing situations. You can de-barb or change the hooks for a gentle, life-sparing release.


I have a great story that illustrates my theories. My good buddy and the prolific outdoor writer, Vic Attardo, hooked-up with me and fished my homewater, the Lehigh River. He wanted to see this legendary, trophy trout fishery. I was the guide and insisted he leave his tackle box in the truck. We slammed the fish catching at least 50 trout between us. A few months later, Vic and I went to the PA Outdoor Writer Association’s meeting together. We were treated to a guided trip on the Youghiogheny’s trophy trout waters. We stopped at the local shop to review the hot lures in that area. I wasn’t impressed. The next morning our guide handed us the same lures. I declined. Vic was skeptical that my lure choices for the Lehigh would work on the “Yock.” When we finished the drift, the guide flatly stated that in his many years of guiding this water, he never had two clients catch that many trout. I believe we caught and released forty.


Why did I write this piece? Because in my usual theme, it is the quality of our water that controls our fishing strategy and ultimate success. You must know it and adjust for it. If I had to pick the lure of lures for all of PA, it would be the sucker imitating, quarter-ounce, gold spoon. And lastly, did I outfish Vic Attardo? You bet, by a margin of 2 to 1. But, of course, I’m older.

“Never doubt the environmental knowledge of a consistently successful fisherman. Always doubt the motives of a consistently argumentative environmental bureaucrat.” 

Author, Jim Slinsky


Sportsman's Connection / Outdoor Talk Network
P.O. Box 219
Northampton, PA 18067
Tel. 610-262-2143 / Fax 610-262-4440
Email: SlinskyJ@aol.com


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