Catch fish with Mike Ladle.

Catch Fish with
Mike Ladle


Information Page


For anyone unfamiliar with the site always check the FRESHWATER, SALTWATER and TACK-TICS pages. The Saltwater page now extends back as a record of over several years of (mostly) sea fishing and may be a useful guide as to when to fish. The Freshwater stuff is also up to date now. I keep adding to both. These pages are effectively my diary and the latest will usually be about fishing in the previous day or two. As you see I also add the odd piece from my friends and correspondents if I've not been doing much. The Tactics pages which are chiefly 'how I do it' plus a bit of science are also updated regularly and (I think) worth a read (the earlier ones are mostly tackle and 'how to do it' stuff).

The slow retrieve.

"What's Mike put on the website this week",is probably the way that most people come to these pages. However, at the moment, what with the rotten weather and the fact that I've badly twisted my back (getting shopping out of the car do you believe?) the answer's likely to be "Not much!" I'm afraid.

Anyway, never mind that, I'll try to make it interesting by looking in depth at this year's innovation (for me at any rate) - the ultra-slow, weedless, soft plastic lure. Now I know that soft plastics aren't NEW in any sense, I've been using rubber eels, Redgills, shads and the like for decades myself, both on the spinning rod and as 'flies' but I decided in 2010 to give SPs a real good try for my bass fishing.

Firstly, lets look at the background. Some of my pals are pretty keen on soft plastic lures. For example my mate Alan in New Zealand uses small softbaits a lot for catching snapper and kahawai. He often jigs leadheads from a drifting boat or casts them from the shore and has done a fair bit of experimentation with different, types, colours and (Gulp) flavours. In a different situation my pal Terry Weldon gave me a Bulldawg lure to try for pike and I had my first fish on it in 2005 with many more to follow. Later, the success of another friend, Paul, persuaded me to try perch fishing with jigged grubs. In the past I have, myself, caught lots of bass (and other fish) on tiny plastic eels using my fly rod. The whole thing was reinforced on my first ever fishing trip to the USA, in May, when I saw the devastating effectiveness of wiggly tailed soft plastics for striped bass.

So, what about the bass fishing? Let's begin at the beginning. Getting on for forty years ago I recall a well known local angler and tackle dealer telling me "You've got to wind the Toby as fast as possible to catch bass down here!" Of course even though, in those days, I was only a newcomer to using plugs for these fish I knew that he was talking crap. No, that's not fair. In fact you CAN and DO catch bass by winding fast and if you're using metal lures it's just as well to stop them sinking to the bottom and being snagged. However, my pals and I were already well aware that a sedate retrieve, turning the reel handle about once every second, was often a very effective tactic. It was not until this year that I realised just how slow you could wind in a lure and still catch these fish. I suppose I should have 'twigged' a lot sooner. Plugs are frequently taken almost as soon as they hit the water even before I've begun to wind and popping lures are often hit as they lie still on the surface of the sea. I suppose I'd assumed that these gadgets look pretty 'fishlike' and that the bass were deceived because of this.

Anyway, to return to the soft plastics, it was not until September 2009 that I really 'saw the light'. I'd been lugging a Slug-Go lure about in the bag for quite a time and never had the incentive to try it. It was only when I saw bass foraging in loose weed that I tied it on and had almost instant success. Later on that month I tried the 16cm Super Sandra, again with almost instant success - I was more or less hooked. This led me to experiment in 2010 with Slug-Gos, Sandras and ultimately with my own hybrids of the two. The season was slow to get going (whatever lure you used) and I spent a fair bit of time away so it was not really until July that the SPs got a real soaking but since then I've used virtually nothing else.

The conclusion of all this effort is firstly that weedless, unweighted soft plastics can be used in almost any conditions kelp, wrack, loose salad, rocks and boulders are all meat and drink to these lures. Secondly, in daylight or darkness, my 'Slandra' lures attract good bass even on the slowest possible retrieve. Thirdly, the hooking capabilities of Texas rigged soft plastics are generally (surprisingly) no worse than those of plugs with two or three treble hooks. You'll miss a fish or two but that's the case whatever you do. On the credit side once a bass is hooked on a big single it rarely comes unstuck.

So, there you have it. There's nothing wrong with flies, spoons, plugs and poppers and they will all catch their fair share of bass as they always have done. However, when you can't see what's out there in front of you, when conditions are bad and the kelp and rocks are breaking the surface or when the sea is stirred up, full of drifting weed and 'unfishable' it's time to break out the 'Slandra'. Just cast it out and wind it back vanishingly slowly. You won't be disappointed.

If you have any comments or questions about fish, methods, tactics or 'what have you!' get in touch with me by sending an E-MAIL to -


These large, self-weighted, soft plastics are effective for pike.


Bass, particularly small ones, take these little rubber eels well.


Alan Bulmer in New Zealand catches loads of snapper on SP jigs.


Weighted, curly tail, grubs are often good for perch.


These lures cast well, are weedless and hook fish but need a bit of 'rod work' to give them action.

Super Sandra.

Not easily rigged to be weedless but very effective for many types of predatory fish.

- and again.

This nice bass has totally engulfed the 16cm Sandra.


Weedless AND packed with action.  The only problem is making yourself wind slow enough.