Tackle and Tactics
"Artificial baits - do they work?".
When I say artificial baits I'm not talking about spoons, plugs or plastic eels - I mean those things which are increasingly being advertised as - "better than real crabs, fish/ shrimps etc.". From time to time (e.g. Tack-tics pages 109 and 43) I've had a bit of a snipe at these artificial baits with the general comment that they were unlikely to be better than the real thing. I've also asked for comments from anyone who'd actually tried them but as yet - no response - until yesterday.
My pal Alan in New Zealand sent me the following email, slightly edited to be strictly fair to the manufacturers of the said product. Although the results were exactly what I would have expected ----
I thought you may be interested to hear how my father and his cronies got on yesterday. They left Whangamata estuary around mid morning and headed due north to fish the deep water off the Alderman Islands. The target species were large snapper, groper and Tarakihi. The boat owner and skipper, Bill, had purchased 6 packets of "MIMIC"! (my name for it) and wanted to give the contents a thorough testing. The hype about "MIMIC"! In the local fishing literature has been incredible with all publications running features over the past 2-3 months. The general concensus being that fishing with "MIMIC" is more effective than natural bait. I will send the articles as that is a pretty big call to make (I've tried to get the 'evidence' from manufacturers but had no joy M.L.).
After 40 minutes steaming they located a small fish studded pinnacle on the sounder and lowered the anchor carefully. The sounder screen shouted Tarakihi so my father decided that he was going to fish with a ledger rig, complete with Mustad Circle hooks, baited with squid. The top of the pinnacle was 90 metres from the surface and it was only about 5 meters tall. He let his rig drop to the bottom and in short order was pulling in legal Tarakihi and a stream of Licorice Allsorts (reef fish such as wrasse, pigfish, pink Mao Mao). None of the Tarakihi was large but a nice size for filleting and frying in a pan! Meanwhile Bill was fastidiously soaking his "MIMIC" and waiting for the stream of bites that were “inevitable”…”just you wait and see!” Two hours later, and still bite less, Bill was convinced to try a plastic eel on his rig by my father.(See 'Saltwater' page 123)
By now you should know what is going to happen next (I'd guessed). On his first drop with the eel he hooked and landed the largest Tarakihi caught so far and proceeded to bring in 6 of the same size on his subsequent six drops! So great was his change in fortune that the remaining anglers, who up to this point were ribbing him about when the "MIMIC" was going to produce a fish (any fish), all turned a nasty shade of Sherwood forest and begged him for one of his lures.
Why did the eel work when the "MIMIC" failed? I believe that it is all probably down to movement. The "MIMIC" Baits have the inbuilt action of a yard broom stick and need to be manipulated by the angler to entice strikes whereas the eels simply wiggle enticingly with minimal angler input. Interestingly, Tarakihi are normally caught on shellfish or small cut baits. They feed heavily on crabs and worms. Small fish do not regularly feature on their menu so I wonder why they attacked the eels with gusto. Maybe the delicate tail movement was similar to the gyrations of a stranded worm?
For some reason my father resisted the urge to change to rubber and persisted with his squid bait rig. He is a creature of habit! Eventually he was rewarded by hooking up on a 60 cm kingfish which severely tested his mettle. Unfortunately 60 cm is not legal size so back it went.
All in all, an interesting day on the water.
I will send the articles next week. Tight lines!
Many thanks and very best regards,
In a follow up email Alan tells me that anglers in New Zealand report catching quite a few fish on these baits when fishing virgin waters and since I had the first email I've spoken to another pal who fishes in the south of England. He said that he's had dogfish, gurnard and smoothhounds on artificial crab baits - so they are not a total write off. We need a lot more information with FACTS about comparisons between the artificial and the natural baits (magazine hype and adverts are no good at all). At the end of the day if you can't get hold of the real thing or are on holiday these may be your only option so it is necessary to be aware of their benefits and limitations.
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 - firstname.lastname@example.org
Artificial baits - do they work?