Secret of the fishing pros: size matters
Josh Huff, a guide on Lake Superior in the Apostle Islands region, was tying on a huge crankbait.
“If you want to catch big pike, you have to use big lures,” he said with authority. And he was right. I opted for a smaller lure thinking I could match the young-of-the-year perch hatch. I caught a couple small pike and a walleye, none over 22 inches, when Huff’s rod started bucking. We turned the boat 90 degrees and slipped the motor into neutral so he could battle the pike. It was a 40-incher. He landed a few more pushing that size. Those big pike wanted that big lure.
It’s not always the bigger bait that does the trick. Sometimes you need to downsize for a particular presentation. National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Famer Chris Kuduk likes to fish rock piles for walleyes. His setup is a slip-bobber with a very small jig. He catches every size of walleye with this rig, including fish that are pushing – or over – that 30-inch range.
His setup consists of a 1/32-ounce jig on the end of the line with some split-shot a foot above the jig and then the slip-bobber. He uses smaller leeches to tip the jig and it is the perfect presentation. I experiment, and a few times when I was fishing rock piles with Kuduk, I tested other-sized jigs and used plain hooks and I always shifted back to the tiny jigs. They were producing not only numbers of fish, but big fish, too.
Tip: Have your reel drag set perfectly. Too loose and a big walleye will just run with the line. Too tight and that small jig pulls easily from the fish’s mouth.
Another example of a case in which lure size was critical was in Canada with Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Famer Gary Roach. We had hiked into a portage lake out of Ghost River Camps and the lake was full of walleyes and smallmouth bass. After beating up the walleyes for a few hours with plastic-tipped jigs, we switched to smallmouths using crankbaits.
Figuring their primary forage source was crayfish, we tied on some orange-hued lures with deep-diving lips and started banging the rocks.
Roach’s lure was a squat little fat-bodied bait, and I was running something more shad-shaped. They were both the same color pattern and I was catching one smallmouth to Roach’s six. We were working from the same tackle box and that was the only lure like it.
I tested a few other sizes and shapes, but that lure Roach had found was the option those smallies preferred. I proved it when I convinced Roach to switch rods and the big lure kept catching fish.
So, think about it when you’re on the water and the partner you’re fishing with is catching more and/or bigger fish. It might not be luck, it might not be the color of the lure, it might not be the line or the speed of the retrieve. It might be the size that matters.