These killer lures are dynamite for more species than just cod, flathead and barra.
In recent years glide baitinghas become a popular technique for targeting large predatory inshore fish such as barramundi, flathead and Murray cod. I was keen to do some of this myself and was all kitted up with a barra and cod trips planned. However, what do you do when Covid travel restrictions hinder your plans to target these species? Well, you see what is available locally and, fortunately, I had some prime species in mind with brown trout and estuary perch – both active predators and prime targets for glide baits.
So What is a Glide Bait?
Glide baits in most cases are single-jointed lures that ‘glide’ with a large S-shaped pattern just below the surface. Most glide baits feature a realistic fish-shaped profile and the movement of the lure comes from the jointed section, as opposed to a bib or a paddle tail. You fish it by slowly winding it with the rod tip to the water. The cadence of the reel’s retrieve is what can impart different action upon the lure and while you can add an occasional twitch with rod action, only a subtle action may be required. It’s never necessary to work a glide bait as you would a jerk bait. A big advantage of using a glide bait is being able to fish it slower, meaning it stays in the strike zone longer. Another advantage is its large profile, which provides reaction strikes from aggressive territorial fish and is deemed a meal worth leaving the protection of structure for.
In many places trout feed predominantly on small prey due to the menu their environment offers them. However, the brown trout that reside in the cold, deep rivers and lakes in the south-west of Victoria are different. Instead of streams infested with small trout, these rivers have a population of larger fish. Most south-west river browns we encounter range from 1.5 to 3kg. These fish are aggressive, toothy-jawed beasts that are happy to belt the daylights out of anything smaller than themselves, whether out of hunger or in a display of territorial aggression. South-west Victorian trout have a diet available that is perfect for maintaining a healthy growth rate. Meanwhile, mountains of minnows, gudgeon and small redfin, as well as newly released fingerling trout, sustain the growth rate of lake trout. As for the river fish, mullet, grayling and other estuary species (as well as minnows and gudgeon) start painting a picture as to why a lure you might throw at a small barramundi isn’t out of the ordinary for a hungry trout. Even smaller fish under 1kg have no worries about slamming a 9cm-long lure.
Targeting Trout on a Glide Bait
A lot of our trout luring in rivers involves targeting runs and structure. The swim or glide bait is good in this situation too but is a far more effective lure for covering larger pools. I have also used them successfully in shallow lakes, where their rolling action sends out a good flash that draws trout in. The take of a trout on a glide bait is usually unmistakable. It is pretty exciting to see a bow wave appear near the bait as the fish hunts down the lure. Other times they can appear out of the depths to absolutely T-bone the life out of them. Most glide baits come heavily armed with two trebles, which help hold a large lure in an angrily thrashing trout’s mouth.
The prime trout times of dawn and dusk are obviously best for glide baiting as well. They are also good after dark as the trout can find the large-profile bait in the dark. Big glide baits work best when there is also a bit of colour in the water for the same reason, as the large size and flash they throw helps the fish find them in the dirty water.
Despite their name, ‘estuary’ perch also spend much of their time in freshwater. Being a euryhaline fish (like bass and barramundi), EP can function across a wide range of salinities from saltwater estuaries to the freshwater regions. This is an important aspect of their approach to breeding, which requires them to travel downstream from freshwater to spawn in estuaries. We have been targeting the perch in this freshwater environment with swimbaits, but that’s not to say they wouldn’t be just as effective in an estuary. As an opportunist predator, perch can find sufficient prey items in the wide variety of environments where they are found. Studies show that perch hunt a wide range of prey items at various levels of the water column. Their large, well-developed eyes and grasping, protruding mouth are consistent with an active sight-feeding predator. They also have access to the same array of baitfish targets as mentioned earlier for trout. Despite this, their growth rate is much slower than trout, with the large 40cm-plus perch we often encounter estimated at anywhere from 12-30 years old. That makes them a definite catch-and-release target only.
Like the trout, estuary perch are best targeted in low light conditions of dawn and dusk. They are more responsive after dark than trout, which is one of the reasons glide baits are so effective as a big bait, being easy to see after dark – particularly in dirty water. As most of our freshwater EP fishing has been done using surface lures in clear water, it has been an eye-opener to see how the same fish can be targeted at night in relatively dirty water. This is at a time you think most big EPs would be down in the estuaries. The take of an EP on the glide is a bit different from a trout. It is a more subtle take – often a small tap or even feeling like you’ve dragged it into weed – and there isn’t the same aggressive hit until you set the hooks. Then it’s game on!
Tackling Up for Glide Baiting
This season I have been mainly using a baitcast set-up consisting of a Daiwa Rebellion 661MLRB (lure weight rating 3.5g to 14g) matched to a Daiwa 20 HRF PE special. The baitcaster helps not only work the lure with speed but gives instant control to apply pressure when hooking fish near structure. One handy feature of the HRF is an audible drag (meaning you can hear it) that is also very smooth. The rod is a little shorter than one would associate with swim/glide baiting but in the areas we fish, long rods aren’t necessary. Many people have gravitated to mono when swim/glide baiting for the stretch factor on hook-up and during the fight. This is probably more important on larger fish such as cod, so I stick with braid for the feel factor. It helps detect those small knocks you sometimes get before hook-up, and lets you know instantly if there is a bit of weed fouling the line, which is a common occurrence in a lot of the areas we fish. It also gives the fish no leeway during the battle, and perch can try to head into a nearby rock or snag. I’ve found 10lb Daiwa J-Braid Grand perfect for the job, topped off with a leader of 16-20lb. This may seem excessive, but you want to look after your expensive swimbaits and, as mentioned previously, the water we fish hasn’t been particularly clear due to a wet and persistent winter and spring. It’s probably another advantage of the glide bait as its larger profile helps the fish home in on it in the dirty water.
The glide bait I have been having the most success with is the Gan Craft Jointed Claw in 128mm. This would seem a large bait for trout and perch but remember, these are large-mouthed, opportunist predators and we are targeting larger fish. There are a variety of colors, and I find the natural colours work best as they look just like something a trout or perch would expect to see struggling along. Colours such as Ayu and Komugi Ayu work well. Swim/glide baiting is not an old established technique, so getting your hands on some usually isn’t as simple as walking into any tackle shop. Independent tackle stores, rather than the run-of-the-mill big box stores, are your best bet.
As the rivers clear and we head into summer, the next glide bait target will be the local mulloway population. So why not give glide baits a go on your local predatory species – who knows what you might encounter.
Words & Images: Luke Gercovich