Recently fishing at commercial ponds (area fishing) has started gaining great popularity. Before it was considered to be all right that advanced anglers using spinning rods could completely ignore this type of fishing or even sharply criticize it, nowadays quite the opposite is true: if you don’t know at least something about pond trout fishing, few of us will deem you as a finesse angler.
It is quite surprising that over the last few years we might see that the anglers had divided into two parties: those who support softbates and those who strongly oppose it, the latter use only spoons and hardbaits as during the Japanese competitions. As the famous proverb puts it: “There’s no accounting for tastes”. Personally I think that you should be able to angle with different types of lures and use methods which are most appropriate for fish at a given moment, as well as depending on the mood. Sometimes I don’t want to use softbaits whatsoever, then for some time it is the only one that I use and pay more attention to hardbaits.
It should be pointed out that there are 3 types of lures – spoons, softbaits and hardbaits the first two of which are used more frequently than the third. This difference becomes particularly obvious if you angle in cold water in early spring and autumn as well as in the boxes of experts and during the competitions. No matter how trout bite, it is thought that you can catch anyway, having selected the right spoon, color and retrieve. And if they don’t react to spoons, the silicone will help you. The hardbates, in this case, just have to lie on one side and wait until the fishing conditions become appropriate for them. This state of things upset me as a fan of hardbate fishing. Since then I tried to find the conditions where hardbates could compete with other lures on equal terms. I had even some thoughts, which later turned out to be correct, but the advent of winter and some other factors put off the realization of my plans. Nevertheless, this season I’ve managed to try some other things – I started feeling better when I should use this or that model, or retrieve.
I’d like to note that the style of the retrieve I ‘m going to describe in this article, hasn’t been practiced for a long time, some nuances and findings were not examined in detail, and that means that there could be some errors. That’s why I’ll tell you about the basic principles which can enhance your catching efficiency if you use hardbates in cold water. In future you, just like me, can develop this topic, and adapt some moments to your own fishing style and conditions of your ponds. But to begin with, it’s necessary to understand what advantages you are given while using these lures in comparison with silicone or spoons.
Advantages of hardbaits over spoons
Hardbaits and small spoons of the same weight are able to produce long-range casts, but the latter ones are the leaders due to their better air resistance. Though the range of the cast is not the leading factor for the number of bites. The action of the hardbait itself, its speed and the right choice of the water level, where the bites are found, are equally important. Let’s talk about the speed of the hardbait in detail.
The hardbait lets you retrieve it very slowly, which even very active spoons are not capable of. Even if take a light spoon and retrieve it using different styles, even if the time of its retrieve approaches the time of the hardbait retrieve, anyway their movements in water will be different as well as the reaction of fish. You can’t stop the spoon at one place, but it’s possible with the hardbate. You can make the hardbait move very slowly – it may not act at all, neither may it attract fish because it requires the minimal speed, but the hardbait can be retrieved very slowly, and the fish will bite even if it doesn’t act. This type of presentation does not always beat the spoon, more often than not it happens in cold water, when the fish are passive, and it isn’t very difficult to let the hardbait go a the depth of the trout place. For a couple of times I turned out to be in the situations when it was almost impossible to find the right spoon, and when I used hardbaits, I immediately got the bites.
Advantages of hardbaits over “silicone” with a light jig head
The main advantage of the hardbaits over softbaits is their effective usage at longer distances. It might seem, that you need to increase the weight of the jig head so that it could get to the right place and that’s all – the problem is solved, but, alas, it’s not that simple. The thing is that trout keenly react to the speed of the fall of the silicone lure, in many cases even small overload of fractions of a gram may lead to the significant reduction of bites. And then how to cast this lure to the place where there are fish especially if it is far from the bank? The task is impossible to complete. Of course, you may try retrieving a heavy silicone lure faster, but in such cases, the fish are not apt to chase our lures, but it might not work. You may try using a bigger silicone lure, especially the floating one: it will increase the weight of the lure and will let you use a heavier jig head. Unfortunately this modernization because of the windage during the casting, will change the range of the cast insignificantly, and nevertheless it can’t provide competition for the modern lures of 2,5-3 grams.
You shouldn’t forget another moment: hardbaits differs from spoons and silicone lures, and even when all the types of the lures might work, it will result in more frequent bites for the reasons which only the trout know. Of course, not all of them are the same, some of them are better for our purposes, some are not, but you may enhance the qualities of the majority of small hardbaits, getting them ready for very slow retrieves.
To sum up all advantages of the hardbaits over other lures in cold water, it should be noted, that they work more effectively while fishing at long and short distances, when you need very slow retrieves. They often helped me in big but shallow ponds, and also when I angled for passive trout in mid and high water levels.
Hardbait preparation for extra-slow retrieves
To use these hardbates in cold water you need to understand a few things: suspend or floating versions, because not only do they need different styles of retrieves but also the fish react to it depending on their “mood”. In many ponds, if you want to use “caught-and-let-it-go” approach it’s allowed to use only single hooks without barb, and after you change the ordinary hooks for Owner S-35BL 6 or 7, for instance, the buoyancy of the lure also changes. To return the original qualities to your lures or slow down the emergence of the factory lures, I load them with Pontoon21 Suspendots to the necessary condition. I think that hardbaits with high catching efficiency should be loaded up to three levels of buoyancy: slowly sinking, suspending and slowly floating, or just in case you may leave standard floating hardbaits. The thing is that for effective fishing you should make long pauses during which the fish watch your lure – sometimes they prefer suspending versions, sometimes – slowly floating ones. It’s impossible to predict what they will choose, that’s why you should have all the options at your disposal.
And should the hardbait act?
If you want steadily catching trout in cold water, it’s important to retrieve the lure correctly. We are being told for quite a long time, that the hardbait especially for trout fishing should act. According to that we should either use straight retrieve, observing the trembling tip of the spinning rod, or twitching making the lure go from side to side. There are not only exceptions to the rules, but also certain situations requiring certain approaches. It’s surprising, but while fishing for trout in late autumn with the help of the hardbates I had this observation proved for many times. For instance, not only did the fish react to the lure at a pause of 5-6 seconds, but also, bite at it at a very slow retrieve. The retrieve itself consists of several windings of the reel – for the lure to go deeper. Then we make one or two jerks, thus the lure gives a start and turns to one side a bit, rolling, and then there’s a long pause of at least 4 seconds, o better – 5-6. Then we pull the line very slowly for 10-15 seconds, literally controlling its sag – during this time the lure passes an insignificant distance, at the same time it practically doesn’t act, but just moves forward. Then there’s another jerk and a long pause. The biting may happen at any moment – just after the jerk, as well as during slow movement forward or at the very last moment of the pause. I should note, that this retrieve is so slow that there’s actually enough time to make 2-3 straight retrieves, to do that you need a certain state of mind. Using this retrieve once again, I literally fought with patience, making myself not to hurry. With the next cast I increased the time of the long pause by 1 second – it seems to be a trifle, but this detail made the cautious trout bite.
It turns out that the lure stays within reach of trout, thus attracting the fish with its color, rare jerks and very slow movements. I noticed one more peculiarity: at such a speed fish don’t pay attention to the water level. For instance, if spoons or cranks move slowly or quickly, you need to retrieve the lure within the accuracy of 30-40 cm at the necessary depth. While fishing with hardbaits using extra-slow retrieve this distance increases, because the fish, attracted by the lure, will have more time to approach it and attack it. It should be noted, that different models of lures have different actions both during the slow retrieve and during the pause, and the fish chooses the model that it likes best.
Lures with high catching efficiency
Personally I have steady results with such models as Pontoon21 Crackjack 38 (both in standard and special colors), ZipBaits Khamsin Tiny SR, Pontoon21 Alter Idem 36SP-MR. Each of them has its peculiarities I’ll briefly tell you about.
I’ve already told you about this lure, but it was intentionally that I didn’t tell you about its buoyancy and depth. The thing is that all the modifications of this lure according to the above-mentioned characteristics steadily hook trout at any season of the year, that’s why I’d like to point out the leader. The choice of the lure depends on the depth where the fish stand and their mood, that’s why I always have lures of different depth and buoyancy on me. It acquires a very interesting quality during extra-slow retrieve. During this slow motion due to its unique form, the lure is hardly moving – I don’t know whether fish notice that, but they bite regularly at this moment. They have Crackjack and rolling, which is also very useful.
This is a classical shad, far from being very small if you compare it with other lures, but trout, including the big one, likes it. I don’t know why it is so attractive, but there’re moments when the trout reacts to it better than to the other models. Perhaps, it happens due to its noticeable and long rolling action at a pause – well, it’s one of the leaders according to this quality among all other ultra-light hardbates. It brings big hauls during long retrieves. This model has also a deep version, but I’ve bought it quite recently and didn’t have time to try it, but I’m sure it’ll come in handy.
Another steady “plodder”, which combines a lot of good qualities. This small shad is capable of rolling and also has a wonderful action at a straight retrieve, as well as its above mentioned “partners”, but also it has its own zest. It’s capable of acting even at a very slow speed of the retrieve, it surpasses with this quality all the others lures I ever used. It should be noted, that it has a calm action – it has slow rolling, which is just what you need in very cold water. When you start retrieving faster, it acquires a characteristic trembling action, which could very useful if you angle for predators in warm water.
I use this lure only when I need a long range cast. There’re such situations when you just can’t cast a small lure to the place where there’re fish. When fish are “capricious”, but stay far from the bank, it might help. All other characteristics of this lure are similar to its 38-mm version.
To sum it up, I’d like to pay your attention to the color of lures. The trous could be very choosy as far as the color of hardbaits or spoons is concerned. That’s why you’d better have hardbates with high catching efficiency of different colors, moreover, all the above mentioned hardbaits are not much more expensive than original spoons.
May you have luck during fascinating and unpredictable trout fishing!