John "Digsthepiker" Brandrick's top 5 lures

We all have our favourite lures, right?  I’ve been thinking for a while now about what would be on my top five faves of all time…  and for me, it’s pretty simple.

I often see people asking, on various forums, is this a good lure, will this lure catch, what about this lure…  I think at the right time and in the right place most lures will catch – the fish after all, do not read the internet to check the latest trends.  But things do change – new innovations come out, new types of lures and new methods come about.  I readily admit, I don’t like being left behind and always feel there’s something I could be doing better or more of.  For example, I have dropshotted, but do not really like it – it doesn’t fit in with my style of fishing or how I want to fish and enjoy my time.  But again, it clearly has its place – its just not for me.  With one of the lures I’ll talk about soon, I thought at the start it was a fad – but having used that lure myself now, I know it’s an absolute slayer.  So, you do have to challenge yourself sometimes.

There is no substitute though, for getting out there and trying them.  I am sure we all have slightly different ways we go about our fishing.  I can’t walk or stand for long due to health problem – so I tend to fish from a boat a lot.  But these lures work for me whatever I’m doing.  And what’s more they catch everything that’s willing to bite.

These baits are always in my luggage:

 

  1. A chatterbait

 

I saw a question on a Facebook group only yesterday simply asking – ‘Do chatterbaits work for pike?’ – let me tell you – yes they do. And for perch.  And for zander.  I’ve been fishing with them now for several years and on their day they simply outfish everything else I have on offer.  I remember fishing during a winter session some years ago and was casting the chatterbait in towards the margins from the boat – it caught that well it almost got a bit boring, almost.  Wind of the handle, wind, wind – BANG!  And repeat.

The first chatterbait I ever bought also caught me my biggest chatterbait caught fish to date – the zman original.  The fish was a pike of around 18/19lbs – I cast the chatterbait up against a fallen tree.  The lure landed, I let it sink in the clear water for a few seconds, gave the rod tip a twitch to get it vibrating and I watched the fish come out from under the tree.  I was already shouting to my mate to get the net before it had even taken the lure.  A short scrap later and she was in the net.  Beautifully marked fish she was too.

 The great thing about chatterbaits is the ability to change them up and fish them differently.  By that I mean different trailers (additional lures you hook on the lure) or the ability to mix and match the skirt, or even remove the skirt completely.

I have over the years adopted different trailers – from the weird to the sublime.  But when you’re in the midst of a golden spell and more importantly fishing with confidence, I personally find that’s the time to experiment.

My usual trailer would be a small-ish shad.  Something like the 13cm Hypoteez. That was the combo I caught the big lady on, above.

  

Keitech Flex Chunk

They are so easy to fish – just wind your reel.  Simple.  Although as you get used to them, you’ll probably want to experiment.  Get them deflecting off grass and weed.  Add in some pauses.  If I’m trolling them, I drop the rod back to create a loosening off effect – the lure drops, and that often provokes a response.  It goes without saying too – twitches and pulls.  Just experiment and see what works for you.

In terms of venues – I’ve used them on rivers of all sizes, gravel pits, reservoirs although I haven’t tried them in the sea yet.  But I bet they’d work!!

  1. 9cm Westin Shadteez

I’m convinced this lure must have caught more fish across Europe than any other.  I made a YouTube video about this lure last summer.  I cast out as I was talking to the camera and said something like ‘If you haven’t got one of these in your box, you’re missing out’ then BANG!  Fish on. 

The Shadteez come in a whole host of sizes (and shapes for that matter – a slim and now also a hollow bodied one).  My mate swears by the bigger 16cm one – in fact I tease him when we’re planning our next trip and ask him if that’s all he’s bringing.  It works for him though.

There’s something about them.  For me, they are the right size and importantly have a great tantalising action.  They have a wonderful body roll.  The tail kicks in tune with the roll.  They are ace.  Add a bit of extra scent to them as well and you’re on a winner.

They are so versatile too – I tend to fish mine purely on a jig head.  The bigger sizes suit a nice stinger rig, you could dropshot with them or even put them on a wide gape swimbait hook.

One of my favourite methods is fishing vertically for zander with them.  I’ve found just holding the bait still, about 6 inches off bottom is the key.  Literally no movement at all.  The hits off those zander are phenomenal.  In fact, it’s fast becoming my favourite way to fish and my favourite fish to catch. 

 

They are great for zander.  I fish a Fenland river I that I knew was rammed with zeds, but I just couldn’t find them.  Eventually one autumn afternoon when I had searched and searched when the fish finder picked up a small shoal of fish.  I anchored the boat up using my spot lock – cast out the 9cm Shadteez and bounced it slowly across the bottom back towards me – then BANG.  Zander on.  Not the biggest of fish by any means, but one I had worked for, for weeks.  I knew they were there somewhere I just had to find something they wanted.  In tough times like that you tend to go with what you have 100% confidence in.  When you’re fishing with confidence, I often find you fish better.  Whether it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, who knows, but when you feel you are fishing well you tend to do better.  That’s certainly my perception anyway.

 Worked hard for this fish!

Check out my love letter to the good ol’ Shadteez here

 

 

  1. The Miuras Mouse

I have to say, I really was late to the party with this lure.  I thought it was a gimmick to be honest.  I kept seeing pictures on Instagram and Facebook of their captures, there were videos all over YouTube of them catching and eventually I had to get one.  My goodness I wish I’d got on this lure earlier.  My first session using them I literally lost count of the number of fish I had on one lure.  It got absolutely battered.

 They come in two sizes; a 20cm mini version and a larger 23cm version.  Consisting of a cork like head with beautifully detailed eyes they have a large skirt and a massive double tail.  The key I’ve found when fishing them, is the pause.  That big feathery necklace of its’ flares up and almost doubles in size.  Like a cobra getting ready to attack, puffing out its head.  Watch a video I made of them underwater here.  Due to the size of them its also obvious why they catch bid fish, regularly.  They move and displace so much water that its hard for a passing fish to ignore them.  And of course, its worth their effort – it looks like a decent meal.

 

As I’ve said before, I tend to boat fish most of the time and its easy for me to troll these lures, where I am allowed to.  But they can be cast quite easily – especially the smaller one, and the bigger one with the right kit as it comes in at around 95g, dry.

There is a nak to getting them down to the depth you want them to fish at though.  They are remarkably buoyant for such a big lure and without any modification or counting down you’re going to be fishing them in the upper layers.  I tend to add a jika weight to the nose of the lure.  I know some people add the awesome Svartzonker buttons to them as well or even a cheb weight.  Either will work.

 

A note of warning though, if like me, you tend to swap lures frequently and use quick clips – I once had a pike barrel roll, thankfully, in the landing net and unhook the lure from the clip.  If she’d done that in the water, I would have lost the lure and importantly, I would have probably killed the fish as a result.  I tend to add a decent split ring to the nose of the lure followed by a swivel.  I can then attach whatever weight I wish to that swivel then.  That way the pike can barrel roll as much as it likes, but its not going to unhook itself from the clip.

The hooks on the mice are very tough.  I once reached down to chin a fish – the fish was attached to the bottom hook with the top hook free.  As I touched the fish, she spun, and the top hook went straight through the skin on the back of my hand.  Always make sure you have the right gear with you when fishing for pike especially.  Good pliers as well as some good wire cutters.  I learnt the hard way – my cutters had rusted up and wouldn’t cut through the hooks.  I ended up in hospital.  The amazing NHS couldn’t cut them either, so they ended up cutting my hand open to remove the hook and stitching me up.

 

Look away now if you’re squeamish!

 

  1. Z-man Ticklerz

My number one ned bait is the Z-man Ticklerz.  These are just amazing baits.  I don’t think there are enough superlatives available for me to accurately convey my sense of deep, deep affection for this bait!  Strong words, but true.

They work in most settings too – I’ve had good sessions on them in lakes, reservoirs, rivers and canals.

They are so simple to use.  I try and use the lightest ned head I can get away with for the conditions I am in.  It is then simply a case of casting them out, feeling them down to the bottom and twitching them back.  There are, of course, variations, but that is essentially all it entails.  But my goodness are they effective!  In the warmer months I look for shoals of fish on my fish finder, stop over the top or near to them and drop a ticklerz down into the fray.  You never know what you’re going to catch – the amount of time, I’ve thought to myself that this is good pike territory only for a zander to take it and vice versa.  They account for some magnificent perch too.

        The ever-faithful ticklerz working its magic on a beautiful evening.

They throw up the odd surprise too!  Beautifully marked brown trout from a small river.

 A canal zander that took a liking to a ticklerz

 I had the privilege of being with my buddy when he caught his pb perch – and yes that also fell to a ticklerz.

 4lb of ticklerz munching pb perch!

  1. The Rapala Rippin’ Rap

Another super effective lure that’s easy to fish and just as deadly!

There’s something about a lipless crankbait that draws fish in from miles away.  They are a great bait to search water with – often casting like a rocket, with or without the wind to assist you.  It’s often one of the baits I go to first if I’m fishing a new water – it helps me work out quickly, if the fish are there.  It gets reactions.  Containing a rattle, and with nothing other than a straight retrieve, you’ll often feel the vibration coming through the rod tip right up the rod and into your hands.  One of my absolute favourites.  They come in various sizes but I like the 7cm one.  It’s heavy, somewhere in the region of 24g, so on shallow waters you have to fish it quite quickly to stay out the weed.

Being 24g you can fish them down into deeper water quite easily.  They sink at something like 3 feet per second.  On deeper water I let them sink to the bottom and then just lift the rod briefly, feel the vibes and drop it back down.  On the shallow gravel pits I fish, with heavily weeded bottoms, I rip them back as fast as I can.  The pause, again, being highly effective.  Rip, rip, rip – PAUSE.  Often followed by an arm wrenching hit.

To be fair you can mix the retrieves up to suit your style of fishing.  I like to add tiny little twitches and little rod tip induced jerks.  Get that bait making an absolute racket.  If the pike aren’t hungry, you’re going to get hit just by pure reaction.

I went out only last week [mid-February] and absolutely slayed a gravel pit using a 7cm version.  In fact, I recorded a YouTube video which shows you just how good they were on that day, so don’t take my word for it.

Good lump falling to the Rippin Rap

Well there’s my top 5 – between them they catch most species, can be used on most different venues and most importantly they are easy to use and fish with. 

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