Fishing can be tough in the winter. Aside from the cold air temperatures that keep many anglers off the water, the lower water temperatures also slow things down for most fish, including their appetites. They still have to eat, but they eat less often and will conserve energy by passing on the chance to chase down a lot of meals.
But there is more to a fish’s eating habits than the size of its appetite. Fish have several senses that can urge them to strike at prey. The more of these senses anglers appeal to, the better their chance of enticing a fish to bite. Often, fish react to opportunities that present themselves even when they aren’t hungry. One of the best ways to cause that reaction, many anglers believe, is by producing noises that mimic the sounds baitfish make.
Sounds cause reaction strikes from fish that aren’t actively feeding, because they trigger an instinctive response. Sometimes the fish just wants to get rid of what they view as a competitor for food or as a pest that will eat the eggs of their species.
Small, plastic rattles that can be inserted into soft- plastic lures have been on the market for years; they are effective at producing sounds from your favorite lures, but they are easily knocked out when fish hit. They also have other downfalls, the least of which is not the constant need to insert them into lures. Better options are available, though.
The Rat-L-Trap line of lipless crankbaits is one of the most-recognized noise-producers on the market. The saltwater versions feature stainless-steel split rings and hooks and are good bets for inshore anglers in search of redfish and trout.
Livingston Lures has a sound-emitting electronic chip that produces their patented “Electronic Baitfish Sound.” Lipless and lipped crankbaits, surface-walking plugs, and cup-faced popping plugs are all available with stainless-steel, corrosion-resistant materials that are perfect for using in saltwater.
Popping corks have long been known to add to an angler’s chances of attracting a fish, whether they are suspending artificial lures or live bait under the cork. These corks have rattles that produce sound when anglers pop their wrists, and they produce even more subtle sounds from the wave action or movement of the live bait being used. If you have fished with popping corks for any length of time, you’ve had a fish come up and hit your popping cork rather than your lure or bait. This can be frustrating.
One of the newer, more versatile noise-producing lures is the Rockport Rattler from Chicky Tackle. These jigheads have built-in rattles, and anglers can add their own lure or live bait to the jig’s hooks. Adding live bait also appeals to the fish’s senses of smell and taste. Using scents or dips on soft-plastic lures have the same impact.
While the built-in rattles are a big part of what sets these jigheads apart, that’s not all that makes them so effective. As mentioned above, the ability to appeal to a fish’s sense of smell is also a big plus for these lures. Appealing to a fish’s sight is another. Big, light-reflecting motion eyes give fish a realistic target to aim for when fish strike.
One of the more interesting Rockport Rattler jigheads is called the OutlawMAX, and was designed by South Carolina crappie pro Whitey Outlaw. While originally designed for crappie, this jighead is gaining a following among flounder anglers. This jig has three hooks, and they can all be manipulated to face different directions. With flounder being such finicky biters, anglers are finding that these jigheads get the job done when slowly pulled along sandy bottoms.
The three-way OutlawMAX is also gaining popularity among trout anglers. Specks have paper-thin mouths, much like crappie, and what many anglers like about using these jigheads for trout is that once the fish bites, all three hooks often penetrate. This usually locks the trout’s mouth from opening, preventing it from shaking the hooks loose. Coupling these jigheads with live bait under popping corks is the best method here.
These lures are available in many different sizes, and anglers fishing for everything from croaker, redfish, sea trout, flounder, snapper, grouper and cobia will find a lure that meets their needs.