Trout Fishing With Rapala Minnows by Bryce Stupples
My ﬁrst introduction to the mighty Rapala was through a family friend who has featured in a number of my stories – Chalky (aka Bruce White). He uses nothing but Rapalas and seems to catch more than his fair share of large trout.
Rapalas always seemed a bit ”poncey” and the price was always a bit out of my league, ”imagine if you lost one at $20.00 each,” I often thought!
Over the years I heard more and more references to Rapalas being used to catch large fish, though more often than not these monsters were caught while trolling, and as I don’t get many opportunities to fish this way, they still held little appeal.
One day a colleague at work was pouring over a fishing gear catalogue. As we talked he pointed out how cheaply you could import these items, especially Rapalas, given that our dollar was a lot stronger at the time. Getting over that immediate cost factor had just been achieved and I found myself putting in an order for a variety of types and colours.
After about six weeks the package arrived and I was now armed with a number of 7 cm Rapalas. My selection included ﬂoating, sinking and articulated. The colours were rainbow, perch (black and gold) and silver.
My initial excursions saw me catch no more fish than normal. In fact, I would often revert back to the tried and tested Toby or Tassie Devil in order to catch a fish. However, I persisted and explored different ways of using these lures. I soon discovered their worth, and now use them as my number one weapon against trout.
Hopefully the following experiences, observations and tips will provide other anglers with some new ideas when next fishing these fantastic “fish catching” lures.
1. Rapala Knot
Always use the special Rapala Knot. This knot forms a loop that assists the lure’s distinctive action by allowing it some slack to shimmer like a stricken baitfish when retrieved. An alternative is to use a snap-swivel which does affect the action slightly but in my experience makes changing patterns and types a lot quicker and easier as I tend to change over lures a lot depending on the water conditions.
2. Wear Shorts!
When fishing with Rapalas I always wear shorts and boots. The reason being that although I set myself up relatively cheaply they are still pricey to replace. I have stripped down and gone for a few swims to rescue ‘a snagged Rapala. In saying this, however, even though these have twin trebles they don’t seem to get snagged as often as other lure types. My theory is that the plastic lip combined with the nose-down shimmering action glides the lure over most stones and through the weed – submerged trees are a different story!
3. Lure Size
Lure size doesn’t seem to matter too much. I have regularly witnessed small trout being taken on very big Rapalas. I prefer to use a size seven as it doesn’t look too big and it provides me with enough weight to be able to cast effectively. Anything smaller and unless you have a tailwind you will be wasting your time trying to cast with it.
These lures are difficult to cast. But life is made a good deal easier if you fish with light gear such as a small graphite rod and reel spooled with line no heavier than an 8lb test. Some recommend you use split shot about 30cm up the trace to help with casting and sinking the lure. With practice, I found this unnecessary as it changed the action of the lure and increased the number of snags I was getting.
5. Colours & Models
Rapalas come in a wide variety of colours and styles. Everyone I know who fishes with Rapalas seems to catch fish with each individual having a different preference for a colour and style. For what it is worth the rainbow pattern is universal but I prefer the “black and gold” or ”perch” patterns for fishing southern waters.
For trolling I prefer the articulated models, but for rivers and lakeshore casting I use either a floating or Countdown, once again depending on the type of water I am fishing in. The Countdown is designed to sink at approximately one foot per second then hold a fixed depth while being retrieved.
The floating Rapala will float until retrieved, or it encounters resistance from the current. Recently I purchased some of the new Blue Fox range. These are cross between a Rapala and a Veltec (made by the same people at Rapala) and although I have yet to catch a fish on one, they impressed me with their action and castability.
6. Casting Upstream
One of my preferred methods to fish a Rapala is to cast a Countdown upstream in a smaller river or stream in a similar fashion to the way one would cast a dry fly up current. With this method, I try to cast in such a way that the fish turns away from me to take the lure. In other words, make the fish turn towards the opposite bank to which you are standing on.
In the waters of the Oreti River where I predominately fish with Rapalas the fish spook very easily and if they see you will rarely take.
When fishing blind I start at the bottom of a hole or run, and looking directly upstream, cast at 10 o’clock to the far bank or far side of the main current. My next cast goes to 11 o’clock midstream, or mid current, then finally on cast directly upstream to fish the near side.
I then take a couple of steps upstream before repeating the process until I have covered all likely water. It is by this method – with a bit of practice – that I have had the most success and caught all of my big trout over recent years.
The important thing to remember is to wind fast enough with the current to maintain the swimming action of the lure.
The other point to bear in mind is that fish more often than not have taken the lure coming downstream, and therefore even with big fish, the takes are very subtle. So be ready or otherwise you will miss the strike!
7. Floating Downstream
Using a floating Rapala and floating it downstream to retrieve up through the middle of a pool or over-hanging grass or willows is another tactic I often employ. This involved my starting at the head of the pool, or above the rapid feed the hole – often standing mid current – and allowing the current to take outline as the Rapala ﬂoats on the surface taking the natural course of the river.
When the Rapala is at the bottom of the pool or past the fishy zone you engage the reel and start slowly retrieving. This method fishes the lure right up to the side of the area where fish will be feeding and gives the fish plenty of opportunity to get a good look at the lure. This method allows you to fish a lot of water that you would not be able to access without spooking the fish or tangling with obstructions such as overhanging trees. Indeed how many times have you seen trout cruising underneath willows or lying hard up against the bank where the grass overhangs and wished you could cast to them? Give it a go.
Rapala Fat Rap Shallow Running Bibbed Minnow designed for fishing in shallow water.
8. Across and Down
Across and down is the traditional way for spin fishermen to attack the water. I rarely fish with Rapalas in this way, but where a river is wide or is carrying a large volume of water there is often no other way to cover the water. In such water, the likelihood of spooking fish is less so it is, therefore, the tactic to employ.
9. Lake Margins
Fishing lake margins and over weed beds gives you the opportunity to utilize the different characteristics of the different Rapala lures. The Countdown is good as it allows you to fish the bottom, or fish through the water at different depths by utilizing the predetermined sinking rate.
One word of caution is to remember that as the water gets shallower the lure will start to hit the bottom so be wary of those submerged snags!
The floating Rapalas are useful to cast over weed beds as they will only go under the water a metre or so. If you feel them catching on the weed stop winding and they will float back to the surface. A jerky retrieve is often useful in these situations as this will keep your lure ”fishing” at all times.
The few times I have trolled with Rapalas I have used the articulated models for no other reason than they look fantastic in the water. Their appearance perfectly replicates the swimming action of a small fish very well.
Friends of mine swear by the rattling models fished on a downrigger but they all report that the Rapala is one of the best lures to use when trolling for trout.
In general the wider and longer the plastic bib on the front of the Rapala the deeper it dives when trolling. This makes it possible, generally speaking, to choose a lure to dive down to the depth that fish are appearing at on your sounder.
Keep in mind that Rapala lures trolled a good distance behind a boat will usually dive and swim at over twice the water depth attainable from the same lure by casting and retrieving.
Also when trolling on lakes most fish are caught trolling in: the shallower water near the lake’s margins, close to river mouths, along drop-offs, and cover, rather than out in the middle in the deepest water.
11. Releasing Fish
A characteristic of Rapalas is that fish take them very well. With the treble hooks, they tend to stay hooked. This often poses problems for me when I look to release a big trout and it is bleeding or the middle treble has hooked the trout in the eye. Therefore when you have caught enough for the table, remove one of the treble hooks or change them over to singles to give yourself the best possible chance of returning fish safely.
So from early scepticism about the Rapala lure, I am now a confirmed believer in their ability to catch fish. Be prepared to experiment with them and the results may surprise you. Of the last ten trout, I have caught on a Rapala I can honestly say that they have averages 6 pounds.
Once you get the feel for fishing with Rapalas you will want more than one.