Some species such as your bigger reef predators and especially Kob are very susceptible to soft plastic Paddle-Tails. In many cases when they cannot be caught by using regular bait or other lures.
they will fall for a Paddle-Tail. When predatory fish are obviously evident but are not responding to plugs or spoons very often a Jerk Shad, Plastic Squid or a Fly will work incredibly well. In the past, getting this type of lure to where the fish are has always proven to be difficult. The easiest way to do this is by using a weight and a dropper type attachment.
Paddle-Tails come in various brands, shapes, sizes and colours. To fish successfully at long range and especially over rough ground (rocky terrain), it is critical to rig the paddle-tail to be weed-less. Most bass anglers will be very familiar with how this is done. A really big extra wide gape, extra strong bass hook is required. Not only does it provide the extra strength but the weight gives the bait a keel and keeps it upright. One of the most popular paddle-tails is the Riptide 5" paddle-tail with Opening Night, Space Guppy and Shad Flash being the most popular colours.
To rig the paddle-tail, take a very sharp knife or Stanley blade and make an incision from the gill area all the way down to the anal fin area, effectively creating an opening that extends three-quarters of the way through the body from gill to anal fin.
The hook is then threaded through the most central point at the front of the head to come out inside this cavity in the area of the gills and is then twisted to face into the upward position and stuck through to protrude in the area of the dorsal fin on the back of the fish. The point of the hook is then gently tucked back into the back of the fish to make it weed-less. The 90 degree bends in the hook create a very solid hook hold on the bait for casting without affecting it in any way.
When fishing Paddle-Tails, if the water is rough or dirty or both, shorten your trace to about ½ metre. Also make sure that in the dirtier water and rougher water you fish the lure incredibly slowly. The current and washing around, does most of the work for you on the Paddle-Tail. Be very alert as your rig hits the water as the Kob will often eat the Paddle-Tail on the drop, especially if you are dropping it right in the strike zone. More often one would tend to throw the rig so that it lands outside of the strike zone, but will wash or be pulled into it. Experience will soon teach you the difference between the sinker bumping over the rocks and a bite from a Kob or other fish. Invariably the Kob bite is a rather hard knock as opposed to the more gentle - knock-knock-knock of the sinker over the rocks. If you thought you might have had a bite, grab your paddle-tail, give it a bit of a stretch and inspect it for the tell-tale Kob bite marks. One can also add a slither of mullet-skin or even some other form of liquid attractant into the belly cavity. Mullet skin is perfect because it also sits on the bend of the hook and constantly gives off a mullet smell.
Pic A - Kob on Spin Cast Paddle Tail
The great thing about Jerk Shad is that they can be fished very fast or very slow and they almost suspend in the water which is difficult to accomplish with any other lure that can be cast a long way. The Riptide 5" and 7" Jerk Shad has a ready-made belly cavity perfect for inserting a wide-gape bass hook. I find the 4/0 wide-gape Daiichi bass hook to be perfect for this application. It also provides a keel, keeping the bait in a natural swimming position. Favourite colours are Pearl, Space Guppy, Opening Night and Watermelon Pearl. The Jerk Shad will often work for game fish such as Garrick, Kingfish and Spotted Pompano when they are reluctant to take hard baits or surface lures.
There are two plastic squid that work very well. The first is the Yamashita in the clear live-glow colour and glow in the dark.
The other is the old River-to-Sea and later Ratfink plastic squid imitation. Here the more natural colours seem to work better. These days it is difficult to find the River-to-Sea and Ratfink versions. To rig plastic squid, use a Gamakatsu Soi-Eye hook that will suit the size of the squid. Take the off-set out of the hook and stiff rig it to a short length of piano wire. Use an all-bright to join your fluoro-carbon to the piano wire so that there is a very short length of wire between the hook and your fluoro-carbon. This is determined by the size of the squid you are using. The all-bright knot is effectively the stopper although I like to put a soft glow bead or piece of closed cell foam onto the fluoro-carbon and pull it down to the knot before threading the plastic squid over this. This will ensure that the lure stays straight during long hard casts.
Plastic Squid are generally used in very clean and calm conditions when fish are very shy of all other lures, therefore it is important to fish your dropper quite long. Sometimes one has to go to a length of as much as two metres. When working the plastic squid, try to use a fast, erratic, jerking action with the squid suspending in between jerks. Whilst this is definitely the most productive method of retrieve, it can often be fished in very short, sharp jerks or just on a constant fast retrieve.
We have had some special flies tied that have a very three-dimensional profile and suspend beautifully. With very large eyes and a very tough construction, they last well but should definitely be fished over a sandy bottom rather than a rocky one. The fish imitation rides with the hook pointing down and in a strong current or fast retrieve, will get really low down and quickly snag on a rock. We will be fitting weed-guards to some of the models.
I found these flies extremely productive on Spotted Pompano and Kingfish when they will not respond to spoons and plugs. Chartreuse, Pink and Grey are the hot colours. The best retrieve that I have found is a fairly gentle, long sweep of the rod, holding it in the horizontal position with the butt under the arm and then a gentle flick of the spinning reel handle to give it a few cranks before the next sweep of the rod.
As can be seen from the photos you are not limited to a sinker as the weight. It is often a very good idea to use a GT Ice Cream Needle Nose if the fish are up near the surface, or to use an Iron Candy Bullet Spoon if the fish are a little further down in the water column. These sorts of lures without their hooks on act as a teaser to pull the fish in and when they see the fly they almost invariably engulf it.
Generally one will resort to this sort of lure when the water is clean or calm or both and the fish are not responding to the bolder lures, so it is a good idea to fish with a relatively long dropper.
Can't wait to try some Crustacean patterns on Bone Fish this summer.
Pic B – Spotted Pompano on Spin Cast Fly
My favourite is a two-ounce barrel sinker. Take some number 19 wire, fold it in half and put a #5, or #6 power swivel onto the wire eye that has been formed. Push the end of the wire down the hole of the barrel swivel and where it comes out on the other end turn it up so that it cannot pull back through the hole. Trim off the excess wire and then using a hammer round off the end closing the hole and hiding the wire.
If you do a lot of lure fishing one of the most practical ways to fish is to have a short leader which does not go into your guides on the cast (your leader should be the length of your drop). At the end of the leader you will have a #5 or #6 power swivel which is permanently attached, or you may even have a short piece of kinky wire joined to the leader by an Allbright again with the power swivel permanently attached. Using this system one can change quickly via a split ring from one lure to another or one can simply attach the rig for casting the flies, paddle tails, etc.