Finesse lipless crankbaiting Golden Perch at Windamere DamJames Dainton
Upon arriving on a recent trip to Lake Windermere we were confronted with low water temperatures and a super tough bite. It’s well known that Golden Perch are easiest to locate and catch when the water temperature is in the 18-22 degree range. When you start getting down to 14 degrees its just as challenging as trying to push start a car up hill. Local bloke Glen Stewart offered to take us out fishing for a couple of sessions, with 25 years of experience on the lake we were very grateful to be shown around the lake.
Glen took us to a variety of spots from banks, points and timber that held fish, knowing where the fish were allowed us to hone in on finding what technique was working on the day.
The first spot we fished was a bay with rubbly broken rock, the depth was around 10-13 feet mark. Lures of choice were suspending minnows and lipless crankbaits. We fished that bank for half an hour and managed just one follow up behind the suspending minnow. There were quite a few arches on the screen they just would not play ball. Given it was late afternoon Glen decided we would finish off the afternoon on an old productive point of his. Just on dusk we were fishing one rattling crankbait and two Juggernaut 65 lipless crankbaits with an LED light in the tail. Straight away Glen hooked onto a solid fish, it wasn’t a traditional big strike you expect from a Golden it was more a slap on the lure with the side of its face. Upon pulling the fish you could see the LED distinctly flashing, it got me to thinking its going to either work really well or scare the hell out of the fish, but so far so good. A couple of minutes later and Glen had hooked on again, Ally whom I’d driven up with and I just looked at each other, Glen was on fire.We got the fish back in the water and called it a day, we would be back at first light the following morning for another crack.
Technique – slow retrieve
Over the course of the weekend there was something that became blatantly obvious, if we weren’t retrieving super slow we wouldn’t get any fish action at all, even 10% too fast and nothing. We were finding our fish deeper in the mornings around 18-25 feet focusing on areas like defined points. Given that the weather was warm and bringing the water temperatures up we would target the banks closer to 10-15 feet in depth in the afternoons.
The technique was very specific but really simple. We were casting lipless crankbaits allowing them to sink to the bottom, upon hitting the bottom keeping tension on the line and pausing for up to 5 seconds. After this pause lifting the lure up off the bottom around 3 inches, the lift had to be super slow, it wouldn’t work if you ripped the lure up off the bottom, the lure could be lifted so slow that it wouldn’t even get the action going on the lure. And when you’re lifting the lure up off the bottom if you keep your rod on a 45 degree angle it will allow the lure to pendulum down the bank. Meaning that you’re retrieve is more of a lift and pause whilst reeling any slack line between the lift and pause. This retrieve is very subtle, whilst lifted back towards the boat it pendulums down a couple of feet on every lift, and then pausing.
We tried an assortment of different lipless crankbaits, divers and spinnerbaits for the weekend, the lure that worked best was the Balista Juggernaut 65. It contains a flashing LED in the tail of the lure but that’s not the only reason we kept coming back to it. It has the slowest sink rate of any lipless I’ve used, this was very much suited to the finesse fishing we were doing. The Juggernaut has a very subtle rattle, when the fish are shut down you don’t want noisy lures, either silent or a super subtle rattle works best. It can be quite testing of your patience fishing so slowly, when it’s the difference between catching fish and not you get over that initial frustration pretty quickly.
On a tough bite every 1 percent counts, fishing as light as you possibly can assists in hooking more fish. If I’m fishing a rock bank with heavy timber I’ll fish 8lb braid with a 10lb leader, if there isn’t any timber to worry about I’ll scale down to the a 6lb leader. You’ll get more action out of the lure as there is less resistance and you’ll have a more direct feel to the lure.
Hooking and handling
When you’re dealing with finicky Golden’s they can be a nightmare to keep hooked up, they will constantly get off unless every detail is water tight. When the Golden’s are fired up they slam lures and there is no problem whatsoever with hooking fish up as they hit the lure hard and hook themselves. When they are shut down they mouth at the lures lightly and slap the lure with the side of their face. This means you need ultra sharp hooks that will pin a fish if they slap the lure, if your hooks are too blunt you will be costing yourself fish. They can become blunt from extended use ie catching fish or after a few snags. Keeping fresh hooks on your lures is well worth the time and effort. Another crucial factor is running a light drag, its got to be tight enough that it keeps pressure on the fish to keep hooks pinned but loose enough so that fish can pull line off the reel if going on a run or giving head shakes, a tight drag will rip the lure out of lightly pinned locations such as the side of the face.
Selecting a colour to suit the conditions is vital, it can change day to day depending on what the fish are eating, water clarity and weather conditions. A general rule of thumb is darker colours like purples and blacks are best suited to darker conditions such as overcast days, dawn and dusk, after dark etc. On bright days and especially in clear water natural colours work best such as gold, bronze, silver and green.
On this trip there was a very defined bite periods on certain colours, depending on the weather. The standout colour for the trip was one called the Purple Night, we tried a heap of different lures and colours, this purple colour accounted for 80% of the fish. A lot of the weather over the weekend was overcast which may have contributed to that been the go to colour. When the sun was out the bites on the purple would slow up and two other colours would come into play. A yabby looking colour called Bronze Craw and a little golden perch looking colour called Gold Spot were the picks in those brighter conditions.
The LED light in the Balista lures is unique, I’d heard of a couple of mates having great success using the technology in dirty water and on dusk. There is a group of us that have given the technology a good workout, and we’ve found there are distinct bite periods with the LED. We found the LED to work best in low light conditions like the last hour or so before dark, as well as dirty water. During the day the light seems to have less of an effect, unless you’re fishing down deeper. On shut down Golden’s the LED worked really well, when you’re fishing that slowly the fish get a better look at the light. Especially when pausing the lure for a few seconds and the lure is sitting there flashing away its amazing how many times the fish will pick the lure up off the bottom.
We spent a large portion of the weekend exploring new spots from points in deeper water to banks and patches of timber. All of the spots produced fish at times, when put into a proper plan fish were caught more consistently. The fish would be up on the banks later in the afternoon after the water had a chance to warm up. Where as in the mornings the Golden’s would be holding off a bit deeper in 20 feet of water. During the day fish were harder to catch wherever we fished however targeting both vertical and lay down timber produced fish. There’s always going to be Golden’s on timber, whether they want to eat is a different story, whereas if you find the fish on a bank they are quite often up there looking for a feed and a little more willing to eat.