If you’re heading to a local tackle store before a Cod trip chances are you’ll be looking at an assortment of divers, lipless crankbaits, spinnerbaits and surface lures. All of these lures are well justified to have all avenues covered, however there is a key lure style that is missing from that list, after speaking to a few blokes about this it seems to missing from quite a few of our Cod arsenals. An additional piece of the puzzle is the minnow, I classify a minnow as having a tight – medium action with a longer and more slender body profile than our traditional chunky Cod lure counterparts.
A kayaking trip with a couple of good friends
really opened my eyes up to the whole concept of using a minnow profile, as anglers I think we can get a little stuck in our ways, we have confidence in a particular method and we don’t stray too far from it. A lot of the time our method works, however when the going gets tough do we change it up enough to crack the pattern of the day and give the fish what they want? There was 3 of us doing a day drift targeting natives, given the 5am started we kicked off with targeting the surface til 8am before switching over to sub surface lures. Two of us started with spinnerbaits and one of the other fella’s was running with a minnow called a Balista Trigger. Adrian using the minnow wasted no time hauling in 4 natives to the yak in the first hour, Chris and I looked at each other scratching our heads thinking is he running his luck here or is there something to that lure he’s got on. Adrian landed 6 fish and finally I’d had enough and asked ‘do you have another one of those lures’, with a cheeky I told you so grin he handed one over and gave me a lure to try. It didn’t take long to crack my first fish for the day, a healthy 72cm Cod came out from a twingly log and walloped this little Trigger lure. Needless to say I was pretty impressed with it, myself and Chris both swapped over to Triggers despite the fact these lures were subject to an ‘on the water price’ which apparently was worth a slab of beer per lure. A bit rich but when something works it doesn’t matter what the price is, besides he would want to be sharing that slab anyway! We had a brilliant day on the water using these minnows, they are now very much a part of my repertoire in my native pursuits.
Advantages of a tighter action
It felt a little bit strange casting around a minnow to start off with, it feels like a lot of action per crank of the handle. The feeling of unfamiliarity soon dissipates when you start landing fish, I would describe smaller minnows like the Trigger as a numbers lure, you will catch a lot of fish on with this style and small profile. A majority of the fish on the smaller lures like the Trigger are up to the 70 odd centimeter mark, for the larger pools where we are targeting bigger fish we use a larger lure called a Cyclone that has a larger profile yet still has a tight action.
There are numerous up sides to having a tighter action, I believe you get more bang for your buck with every wind of the handle with that action. So many factors influence a fish on whether it will strike your lure depending on the size of the lure, shape, swimming action, depth (is it going past their nose), also how quickly it moves out of the strike zone etc. I believe action plays an enormous role in the decision making process for a fish, a tight to medium action looks sexy as hell when you do a mandatory swim to get a look for yourself, if you get the bloody oath that looks the goods then you’ve got that confidence to cast out and catch fish. Minnows like the Trigger have that sex appeal when you watch them swim, most importantly take a bit of time and put a session in on a minnow style lure and I think you’ll be impressed with how they perform.
Any special tricks?
You can get a bit fancy with a shallow diver, the bigger a bib is the more resistance it creates and hence the deeper the lure dives. Shallower diving lures have less resistance allowing you to work the lure, we see this a lot with Barramundi twitching, pausing, ripping, jerking, it actually works a treat on Cod as well you just don’t see it very often. Varying your speed is a fantastic way to trigger a bite out of Cod, we’re always talking about the slowest of slow retrieves for Cod that absolutely do work however you can do more to catch more. For example your fishing a lay down in a river, its angled into the river at 30 degrees like many fallen trees half in the water are. If you’re casting a diver you cast up to the bank where the snag comes into the water, the standard retrieve is to slowly retrieve back out to your kayak or boat as your lure dives through the strike zone, and this method is highly effective. You know those snags where you would bet your life there is a Cod holding, where you want to make a little extra effort to try and draw that strike, this a great opportunity to add in something extra to your retrieve that can be enough to grab that bite. Now if you’re doing your slow roll alongside the tree you can slow down even further and every 2 winds of the handle twitch your lure and pause for a second, you don’t want to pause too long as the lure will rise too far out of the strike zone. Repeat all of the way back to the boat, 2 winds of the handle gets the lure down into the strike zone, the twitches scream a wounded bait, the pause gives the fish a second to think about it and then engaging into the 2 winds again gives the ‘its getting away’ feel to the fish.
Another shallow lure retrieve is the burn, bounce and pause retrieve. You cast to the exact same point as mention above to the bank you retrieve the lure quickly through the same strike zone, if you hit a piece of structure I pause 1-2 seconds to allow the lure to drift over the top then begin the burn again. Rip it through the zone, the resident fish has to make a split second decision whether to chase it or let it go. Its surprising how many times you get nailed on a super quick retrieve, it feels quite unnatural fishing so quickly for Cod, baitfish in the wild aren’t going to wonder around hopelessly waiting to be eaten, if they are been chased by a predator they will be swimming for their dear lives!
You want to start out with your slow and steady retrieve and work in these other retrieves if that isn’t working and particularly on the most likely looking snags that deserve a little more attention.
There are a number of impoundments that boast high quality shallow water native fishing, none more so than Lake Mulwala. Known as a mecca for Cod fisherman, and with good reason, this lake is full of Cod. Whilst there is no shortage of Cod in the lake, the fish are not always easy to catch, they must see thousands of lures every year. Trying something outside of the box is what is required for consistently catching more and better fish, not just casting spinnerbaits at the same stumps everyone has cast many times before you or trolling the same edges of the river bed.
Given minnows are generally more shallow diving around 2-3 metres compared to our tradional Cod lures that are 5+ metres in a lake with plenty of quality shallow margins like Mulwala this opens up an avenue of fishing this water differently than every other Tom, Dick and Harry. Then there are two options fishing this territory, you can troll these heavily timbered areas or you can cast your way through it.
When you’re trolling maintaining that ideal depth is critical, boy you can catch quality cod doing this. Having the right lure is critical to achieving this, if you’ve got a 5 metre diver and you’re running it short behind the boat so that you can run it in 3 metres of water it can do the job but it really isn’t ideal. Running a lure in the depth its designed for allows the lure to run truly and its not constantly plowing the bottom. A lure we use in this scenario is the Cyclone, its super buoyant, you can bang into a snag and with the smallest amount of slack the lure will back off the snag and pull up and over. Handy for avoiding getting snagged but even better that you are still in the strike zone, you’ve bumped into snag knocking on the Cods door then you’re presenting a lure like a chunky beef sausage with BBQ sauce right on his nose, what fish can say no to that?
The second way you can target this type of water is by casting in 1-3 metres of water. Again with the shallower diving capabilities of the minnow you can work the timber without plowing the bottom and you still have the added bonus of a lure that can work through and over timber compared to a sinking spinnerbait or lipless crankbait. You can go either a larger style minnow for chasing bigger fish specifically like the Cyclone at 110mm, or go for a ‘numbers’ approach and run the 75mm Trigger that you can expect more action but a smaller average size.
An example of a river that I love a shallow diver is the Namoi river in northern NSW, like many other rivers in Victoria and NSW its predominantly around the 2 metre mark and boy are there some cracking Murray Cod holding in this river. Littered with snags it's a lure casters dream, and a prime candidate for a more shallow diving lure. If you want to go out and catch a few you can always throw spinnerbaits at stumps and no doubt you will catch fish.
After stumbling on the minnow I can’t help myself now but tie that on first in these scenarios, we always try and run a good mix of lures between us to find out what is working on the day. The amount of times the minnow works well even if they are going ok on something else like a spinnerbait is amazing.
The areas that you work a minnow is identical to the areas you would use a hardbody, your casting a meter or so past structure and bringing the lure back past it, through it or over it. You can expect to catch great numbers of fish with the Trigger, sure you will catch a lot of Golden’s and smaller Cod but hell you will still get walloped by better fish amongst the others there is no two ways about that.
Forward thinking through catching onto something highly effective before everyone else has cottoned onto it pays dividends. Its purely action that makes minnow style fishing so effective, to another degree its also the fact fish aren’t seeing this style very often. Like any animal fish learn to adapt to their surroundings, if they have the same lures cast at them they learn the danger. Get out of your comfort zone and into the action with minnow fishing, I’d be very surprised if you don't love it!