I have included a range of Bibbed Trout Minnows here that will bring back memories for older anglers who have done a bit of lake trolling for trout and land-locked salmon in New Zealand. All of these lures were sold here in sports stores at one time. Some may possibly have been brought in by individual stores but most were fairly common and distributed by the big importers and distributors.
With just a couple of exceptions, I have used all of these bibbed trout lures, but mostly only as trolling lures. I have fished them behind half a dozen different boats over the years. I have trolled them both on flatlines and with the aid of several different Scotty downriggers.
One of my most successful boats for trolling trout lures on small lakes is the 12-foot Porta-Bote. Although I could fit my 6hp Johnson to the stern, on many of these New Zealand waters fishing a motorised craft is not permitted. Rowing with a pair of oars has the advantage of creating a sort of stop-start action on the pull stroke which imparts way more life to a bibbed minnow, streamer fly or Tasmanian Devil than a noisy two-stroke outboard. A quieter more stealthy approach will increase your hookup rate.
One of the often neglected aspects of boat fishing for trout on lakes is drifting and casting. Especially on our smaller South Island Westland lakes which often have dense native bush down to the waterline making them difficult to access for shore-based anglers.
You can motor up the lake into the wind, cut the motor and cast with spinning gear while drifting back with the wind. Another alternative is to row parallel to the shore while casting towards the willows.
When used as trolling lures bibbed minnows are excellent for catching trout and landlocked salmon on our many New Zealand lakes.
The way I set my boat speed with my small 6-hp Johnson auxiliary motor was by lowering the lure into the water beside the boat as it is moving forward. Then let out half a rod length of line (6-pound monofilament) and watch the action of the bibbed trout minnow. Then it is simply a matter of adjusting the throttle until you get the best action from the lure.
Too fast and it would ride straight to the surface. Too slow and the lure’s action would be dead and lifeless. You can easily tell when it looks right because the lure vibrates and shimmies with “life” looking for all the world like a real fish.
There would also be a steady vibration of the rod tip when the speed looks just right. Then it was just a matter of lifting the bail arm with your finger resting on the side of the spool and releasing the line until the lure drops back to the required distance. Then put the reel back in gear and place the rod in the rod holder.
The exact same method would be used when employing the downrigger except I would release 30 or forty metres of the line before connecting the downrigger clip and lowering the cannonball to the required depth. The idea is to have a good bend in the rod before placing it in a rod holder so there will be enough tension when a striking fish hits to pull the line free of the clip and set the hook automatically.
Then it is just a matter of keeping a watchful eye on the rod tips. If the rod suddenly bends over, straightens, or the rod tip stops vibrating you likely have a customer!
If you have been trolling for a while without any luck try a different lure, suspect you are trolling too fast, and remember the trout will mostly be close to the lake’s drop-off usually within forty metres or so of the shore depending on the lake. In a big deep lake like Lake Brunner for example trolling around out in the middle is probably going to be a waste of time and gas!
Although bibbed trout minnows are the most expensive lures on the market fortunately losses are rare. Thinking back now I can’t remember ever losing a lure when lake trolling. I may have done but can’t remember doing so.
I admit that the main reason I wouldn’t use this type of lure when shore fishing is I would be afraid of losing it on sunken branches or waters edge willows and the like. Keeping in mind there are plenty of other lures that could be used that not only cost a lot less when shore fishing, but are very effective fish takers and can also be easily cast a much greater distance.
For a bit of fun and added interest, I have added a star rating for each lure. The more red stars the higher the rating based on build quality, value as a fish taker, and personal preference.
The first type of lures we are going to look at are plugs. Plugs is a general term given to lures that have a body made from plastic or balsa wood that is roughly the shape of a fish. These in turn can be divided into two sorts: those that float but dive when retrieved; and those that would sink to the bottom if you stopped winding the reel. The Rapala Fat Rap is a floater that dives beneath the surface when you wind. Stop winding and it pops back up. I had great fun with these in the Arnold River one evening catching small brown trout. * *
Perhaps the most famous plugs of all are those made by Rapala. These are excellent fish catchers. Rapala plugs are mostly used in New Zealand as trolling lures. When used in this way plugs are highly effective at taking trout and landlocked salmon (in certain South Island lakes). Rapala bibbed minnow plugs are particularly effective fish takers in Canterbury’s high country lakes, together with the lakes of Central Otago and the central North Island.
Plugs are the most expensive type of trout lure on the market. They cost at least ten New Zealand dollars and upwards. Hence this is the main reason they are used mostly for trolling on lakes where they are less likely to be quickly lost by errant casters.
Plugs can also be cast with a rod and retrieved as in normal spinning. However, most are made from balsa wood and weigh around 7 grams. Add to this wind resistance and casting becomes quite difficult without the right setup. Light braided or monofilament 6-pound lines work well for casting plugs. Bibbed minnows are the most expensive lures to buy, so where you fish them may depend on how deep your pockets are!
Having the right rod for casting light lures will save a great deal of frustration. I prefer a slightly longer rod of 8 or 9 feet in length and most importantly one that is designed to cast lightweight lures. If the rod is too stiff it won’t load up properly when casting very light bibbed minnows and you won’t be able to cast them very far. A rod designed to cast 7g plugs will also be good for drift fishing for monsters in the Twizels Canals making it a good investment. If you are unsure tell the guy in the shop the type of fishing you want to use your prospective purchase for and the lure weights you want to cast with it.
It is a good idea when fishing braid to employ a monofilament or hydrocarbon shock leader measuring about two-rod lengths. Join the two together with the FG knot. The hydrocarbon leader will be harder for the fish to see and therefore less likely to be spooked in crystal clear water. Use a hydrocarbon leader that is lighter than your braid. It’s better to lose the lure than half your braid! Having a leader of two-rod lengths will enable you to cut bits off when re-tying lures without worrying there will soon be insufficient to get at least half a dozen turns around the spool. One last thing, don’t get bright yellow braid. Why risk “lining” the fish. It is less likely to be spooked with a neutral earth colour or dull green.
Lauri Rapala used a knife to carve his first fishing lure from pine bark in 1936. He later went on to make them commercially in Vaaksy, Finland. By 1964 Rapala production had reached 800,000 lures. Though Lauri Rapapa died in 1974 at the age of 67, his Rapala Group is still the world leader when it comes to the design and manufacture of fishing plugs and minnows.
Rapala has a hard-won reputation for making the finest fishing lures money can buy! Their range is enormous with some 500 different types altogether. Obviously, we can’t include them all in this piece.
The Rapala Countdown is available in two versions. The Floating model (pictured above) comes in 5, 7, and 9cm lengths. The Sinking version comes in 3, 5, 7 and 9cm lengths. I prefer the 7cm size for trout fishing both for trolling and casting.
Smaller than 7cm and they are too light to cast. You can use split shot to cast the smaller models but I feel this alters their swimming action. The Floating Rapalas are great for casting over weed beds. As the name suggests they float. Then they dive under as you wind the reel handle. They only go down a metre or so. If you touch the bottom in the shallows simply stop winding and they will float back to the surface.
As the name also suggests you can dive your lure down to a predetermined depth by counting as you wind then stopping and starting your retrieve. This imparts a very fish-like up and down swimming action to the lure.
Fish for trout by floating these lures downstream through a pool and then slowly wind back upstream. The advantage of this method is that you can let the Rapala float down through shallow riffles and then back up past the feeding trout whilst you remain hidden and so don’t spook the fish.
One of the deadliest methods of all is to cast upstream. Trout always hold their station facing upstream and this is the direction they are expecting their food to come from. A proven technique is to cast your lure upstream and across to the opposite side from where you are casting so that the trout move away from you towards the lure. With spooky fish in clear water, it is much better if they don’t see you at all.
Stand in one place facing upstream casting to all the likely spots before taking a couple of steps upstream and repeating the process. Don’t forget to wind just fast enough for the lure to swim back to you. Don’t just let it float down towards you.
Be ready at all times for a fish to strike; tightening your line immediately. I know that some losses are inevitable with this type of fishing but a floating lure is much less inclined to snag.
What you are aiming for is accuracy rather than distance with this upstream spinning method. About 10-12 metres is all the casting distance you need. * * *
The Shad Rap is a deep-diving plug which at the same time floats over obstructions when the retrieve speed is reduced. The Shad Rap 7cm is designed to dive down to about three metres. The Shad Rap model is available in 6 different colours. Personally, I prefer natural colours.
Sizes are 5, 7, 8, and 9 cm. Again it is best used in the South island for trolling on our cold-water lakes. Note the large bib which is an indication of a deep-diving plug. This is the Fire Tiger colour scheme which is one of the biggest sellers. The 8cm version dives to about 3.5m and suits a trolling speed of between 2.5 and 4 kph. I have had a good deal of success with this lure. * * *
Rapala also makes a large range of excellent jointed minnows. While also a bit costly to buy they are deadly fish takers. My personal preference is for the natural colour schemes that imitate brown and rainbow trout or even smelt.
If you plan to fish shallower lakes, over weed beds and the like, Rapala makes a floating jointed model measuring 5cm and 7cm both weighing just 4g. For trolling and casting I prefer the Rapala Jointed Shad Rap. The 5cm model weighs 8g and dives down to 4.5m. It is a must-have for serious trout trolling.
According to Rapala, these models produce “a slight exaggeration of Rapala’s unique baitfish-in-distress behaviour. The Jointed is ideally suited to the extremely slow retrieve required to trigger sluggish, finicky fish. The extra noise and action produced by the jointed body help wake up the fish in poor visibility.” That sounds right to me!
Jointed minnows are the most expensive trolling lures on the market. However, on the plus side, losses while lake trolling are quite rare making them a good investment. If I wasn’t worried in the least about the cost of my trout fishing lures I think I would probably use these almost exclusively! * * * * *
The Fingerling Hi-Catch is made by Luhr Jensen of Hood River, Vancouver, Canada. The size to get is 7.5cm (excluding the bib). It also comes in a larger 12.5cm model which is too big for trout fishing. Fingerling is best for trolling rather than casting.
You will have to look around for the Fingerling lure. In New Zealand, it is only sold in specialist tackle shops. Though it was distributed by Kilwell Sports.
The disappointing thing about the Fingerling is that although a top fish taker, the long, thin, plastic bibs tend to break. You can see in the photograph that the connecting eye is held on the plastic bib by a screw. The bibs should be wired through the body. They are not. If a bib were to snap with a fish on both the lure and fish would be lost. I have never had one break on a fish but have found them broken in my tackle box. I suspect the plastic bib may become brittle over time. Store each Fingerling separately.
I have four of these lures and all have the bibs broken off. I’ve kept them thinking that one day I would replace the bibs but haven’t found the time!
The best way to store bibbed minnows in your tackle box is by hanging them pointed downwards from the rear hook, or individually so they don’t bang together when transported.
The Fingerling looks very realistic and fish-like for a hard-bodied lure. It is made from injected moulded plastic. It comes in a good range of colours. I especially like the rainbow trout colour scheme and this would be my personal preference.
I have found the Fingerling Crankbait to be an excellent fish taker when lake trolling for trout and landlocked quinnat salmon on Lake Coleridge. I have also found the green-bodied version good on Lake Brunner.
Medium wobble with a best-trolling speed of 2.5 kph. It dives well down to 4m. Weight 9g. My rating is two Stars – would be a four if the bib were stronger. * *
The Storm Company motto is “Always think like a fish, no matter how weird it gets.”
Kilwell Sports in Rotorua released these excellent lures into New Zealand. There are two main types of interest to anglers for trout fishing. The Thunder Crank, which is excellent as a trolling lure, but can also be used for spinning, and the Thunder Stick.
The Thunder Crank comes in two sizes: TC-06 is 6cm weighing 9g, and the slightly longer TC-08, which is an 8cm 10g model. Both come in a fantastic range of ten life-like colours.
These lures include a sonic rattle to attract predatory fish from beyond visual range. The swimming action is very good with the lure said to simulate a wounded baitfish. The tail kicks for extra flash. It has a thin bib made from polycarbonate. According to the Storm website, swimming depths are TC06 – 4-8 feet or 2.4m maximum; and TC08 – 8-15 feet or 4.5m maximum.
The Storm Thunder Crank looks to be a good lure for drifting and casting. Its large bib makes it an above-average deep diver ideal for flat line trolling without the aid of additional weight on the line.
I have had limited experience with this lure. However, it performed well when I used it for trolling. I have only tried the 8cm version but would have no hesitation recommending these lures. At present, I am going to rate it four stars due to my not having used it enough to rate it higher. * * *
Here is an unusual lure I have thrown in just for fun. Again not a bibbed minnow but a combination of a lightweight balsa wood body combined with a Vibrax blade. According to the Rapala catalogue it has been designed to, “imitate the movements of an injured baitfish which transforms the predator fish into an overconfident attacker”.
I haven’t fished the Minnow Spin a great deal but when I have used it the landlocked salmon in Lake Coleridge liked it. I fished it as a trolling lure. Mind you the salmon in Lake Coleridge aren’t that fussy and will take most things presented to them. * * *
This lure is a classic minnow shape. The short angled bib gives it away as a floater and shallow diver. The Storm Thunder Stick comes into its own when worked close to the bank prospecting for large brown trout. You can float it down with the river’s current and then wind it back underwater in a short, stop-start action. This works well if you let it drift down over the lip into a hole, or drift in towards deeper water near willows, particularly if you suspect a fish to be holding there. Because the lure floats, it is less likely to snag!
Tie the lure on with a uni-knot but don’t clinch the knot right up tight. This will permit maximum wiggle action from the lure.
There were two versions of the Thunder Stick: the smaller one being 6cm and weighing just 5g, and a larger 9cm model weighing 7g.
As large predatory trout are cannibalistic, I reckon the best colours to get are the rainbow trout and brown trout. The colour schemes on these are amazingly realistic.
Both the 6cm and 9cm versions dive to only about 1.5m. Trolled along lake edges and over weed beds, their simulated injured baitfish vibrations call out to predators looking for an easy meal. They are great in gin-clear water where finesse and stealth are needed most to fool a fish. The lure requires very little forward speed to shimmy and vibrate. You will be staggered at just how fish-like their action is. * * *
Like many of the trout fishing lures sold in New Zealand, the Halco Laser Pro is made in Australia. Halco produces a very big range which also includes saltwater metal casting lures and big trolling models for saltwater game species. Construction is from super-tough injection moulded plastic. The 70 mm long Laser Pro also features a sonic rattle inside. This rattle is loud for the size of the lure. Weight is 7 grams. The Halco Laser Pro is available in 10 different colours, including several fluoro models. My overall impression is that this is a very strong and robust lure.
When retrieved on spinning gear the idea is to twitch your rod tip from side to side; wind, and then stop, before winding again. This will impart a good life-like action to the lure. These lures will take large fish but will prove irresistible to the smaller ones as well.
It is fair to say that you need to be confident and experienced to use this type of lure around cover such as willows, rocks and so on if you are to avoid unnecessary losses. As it is quite a specialised lure, I will give it a four-star rating. Shallow diving, lightweight bibbed minnows are definitely best left to the experienced angler. In such hands, they are deadly fish takers! * *
The Australian-made Halco Trembler comes in 4 sizes. The best one for trout fishing is the 70 mm long version weighing 16 grams. The Trembler has no bib but instead has its line attaching point near the centre on top of the lure. This causes it to travel in a nose-down position and permits higher trolling
Construction in injected moulded plastic. It is as its name would suggest a rattling bait. The 70g Trembler comes in eight different colours. It is something different but at the same time has a perfect fish profile. Troll speed up to 5kph.
The rainbow trout pattern looks more fish-like than this red version. It is a relatively shallow diver. * *
The RTB Legend comes as a 5 cm minnow shallow runner that dives down to about 1.5 metres (5 feet) and a Minnow Shad 7 grams which is a deep runner going down to about 3 metres 10 feet). They look the same except the Minnow shad has a larger polycarbonate bib so it dives quite a bit deeper. There are 12 colours in the range. Length 60 mm. They also feature an internal sonic rattle.
RTB Legend lures are another Australian creation. The name RTB is from the initials of their manufacturer Ray Broughton.
RTB Legends are individually tank-tested and tuned for optimum performance. These lures can be cast with light lines – under 6 lb monofilament – but are inclined to tangle. You can get around this with a bit of practice. Try more of a lobbing action rather than a quick flick. You won’t be able to cast them any great distance but that isn’t really necessary if casting from a drifting boat. It is in this situation that it works particularly well.
When they hit the surface they float. When you begin to retrieve they dive quite deeply. You can use this knowledge to your advantage. When you are winding towards an underwater obstruction simple stop winding and the lure will rise to the surface.
The action is a rapid shimmer which imitates a wounded baitfish. It certainly gets the attention of the trout and triggers powerful strikes from both rainbows and browns.
The RTB Legends are excellent when trolled from a boat but it is important to keep your speed right down. The best technique is to lower the lure over the side and watch its action as you adjust your boat speed with slight alterations on the throttle.
When it looks just right let the lure drop back behind the boat by letting out line. If your boat speed is about right you will see a constant pulsing action at the rod tip.
Testing has shown that the brighter coloured fluro pattern “rainbow trout” coloured RTB Legend Minnow works the best in overcast dull conditions. While the more subdued colour scheme of the “brown trout” generated more strikes in brighter sunlit conditions.
Overall these lures are excellent trout takers and it is well worth you keeping a few in your arsenal. * * *
The Mini Trap is made by Bill Lewis Lures in the United States of America. Though Bill Lewis lures are available in numerous shapes and sizes, the model to get for trout fishing is the Mini-Trap, which weighs 7g and measures 6cm. This lure, as its name suggests, rattles when retrieved. Inside there is BB shot in a tube which produces a surprisingly loud noise for the size of the lure.
Complete with super sharp Gamakatsu hooks, the Rat-L-Trap has proven itself to be a top trout producer when trolled in our southern lakes. Its bibless shape means that it can be trolled slightly faster than most bibbed minnows. The best trolling speed is 4 kph. It vibrates in the water simulating a distressed baitfish.
To my eyes, the Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap looks very similar in appearance to the Bagleys Shad-A-Lac and even the Rapala Rattlin Rap. All three are excellent lures for trout lake trolling. * * *
Tilsan lures are made in Australia by Halco. There were two trout-size floating minnow models available: one a shallow and the other a deep diver, but I think they are now only making the floating model. Measures 55 mm in length. Dives to about 2.5 metres. The trout models weigh 6 grams and come in 14 fish-catching colours. If you check out the Halco Tackle website you can click to see the whole range of Tilsan Minnow colours.
Some models also have painted gill covers, scales, eyes and fins. Construction is from Balsa wood with a tough specially developed plastic coating. Tilsan lures are fully through-wired with a one-piece frame for added strength. Halco is almost as famous as Rapala and their lures are equally well made in Western Australia. * * *
Distributed in New Zealand by Alexto Sports in Dunedin, the Articulated Eel and Articulated Trout, along with the hard eel, are old favourites, having been around for almost 60 years. They were in one of their catalogues about twenty years ago. I understand that the moulds originally came from France. The hard eel is the same shape as the articulated model, but without the jointed section. They also come in three different sizes. The Pecos Articulated Trout was available in several colour variations. The bibs are behind the attachment eyelet on the top of the body.
I caught some of my first trout in the Waimakariri River in these lures working them in and around the rocks close to the bank in the milky blue water by the bridges. The sea-run browns would rise every few minutes, more or less, in the same spot. It was just a matter of letting out a rod length or so on the old 9-weight Fenwick Ferralite used as a Canterbury lure rod. * *
I have included this three old plastic (I think) lures here for curiosity’s sake. A very successful angler I know still prefers them over the more modern fancy items, or it could be he still has a few left over from days gone by! They are certainly a bit old-fashioned looking, however, if you haven’t tried them I suggest you give them a go. You will be surprised at just how fish-like they look when pulled through the water. Though most anglers today would probably laugh at their rough and ready appearance, they sure caught a lot of trout back in the day! * * * *
The Flatfish was very popular in New Zealand but is not seen that much nowadays. It is still used by many trollers and casters who are aware of its excellent fish-taking capabilities. It has an amazing fish-like swimming action.
Some flatfish lures also come with a sonic rattle inside. There are several makers of this lure type. The Flatfish made by Luhr Jensen is called a Kwikfish. The version made by Wordens is known as a Flatfish. The model made by Lindquist Brothers Bait Company of Windsor, Ontario, is known as a Canadian Wiggler. Many anglers also call them banana lures. * *
The Canadian Wiggler was originally made by Walter Lindquist about fifty years ago. Walter designed his Wigglers for use on Lake St Clair, near his home in Ontario. Walter passed away in 1985, and the business is operated today by his sons Walter Jnr and Arnold. The Wiggler would probably be the strongest lure of its type made. Construction is of brass tube and the eyes are welded in place.
There are 8 models in the range available in some 50 colours. Well worth a try! Trolling speed needs to be slower than most fishing lures at about 1.5 – 2.5 kph. Some versions do dive deeper and can be run a little faster. Judge the best speed by watching the lure running beside the boat before letting it drop back. * *
The Zounder is an unusual old lure from Wasp Brand Products in America. Not a bibbed minnow but doesn’t really fit into any other trout lure category other than perhaps a jig. It comes in quarter and half-ounce versions. It is used for vertical jigging, or can readily be cast and retrieved as a spinning bait, or even trolled at a pinch. The body of the Zounder is flat with a weighed bulbous head. There are three points for tying on your line, each giving a slightly different angle of retrieve. The surface is coated in an Epoxy two-tone metal flake finish. Unusual Eagle Wasp Zounder.
Claw double hooks are used meaning no split rings are needed. This lure is a bit of a crossover of several different types; part minnow, part lead-head, and part jig! This lure casts like a bullet and is good for shore fishing around deep lakes. It is one that is rarely seen in New Zealand. Dates back to 1959. A version of this lure was also made by James Heddon and Sons of Michigan, USA. A very similar lure sold in Australia is called the Boileau Blade Runner made by Tackle Master. *
No story about trout fishing lures would be complete without the inclusion of the Devon Minnow. Made from brass, the Devon was a very popular lure over 30 years ago. In fact, it goes back over 100 years. It is not, of course, a bibbed minnow.
On being retrieved, the Devon lure spins at a very high speed putting out plenty of flash and vibration.
Their spinning used to cause many line twist problems. The way to prevent line-twist is to use an antikink on the line above the lure.
Devon Minnows were made with either clockwise or anti-clockwise rotation. A bloke from England assures me that a clockwise spinning minnow was to be used on the left bank so as it would fish longer in the current. When fishing on the opposite bank an anti-clockwise spinning minnow was used to achieve the same result.
The Devons that I have were made by Spinwell in Christchurch, New Zealand. These are quite heavy at 22g. Their overall size is small and compact which means they cast well and sink deeply making them a good choice in some deeper lakes. I caught several rainbows on brass Devons in Canterbury’s Lake Selfe many years ago. One thing I will say is that their compact shape permitted very long casts out onto the lake and their weight would have them sink down near the bottom fairly quickly. As I remember they had a habit of picking up weed if you retrieved them too slowly on the 6 lb line we were using.
They were often painted in lifelike colours complete with eyes but I prefer them in plain polished brass. This is another old spinner that you rarely see nowadays. Many a big trout would be lured from its lie to hit a vibrating Devon Minnow! * *
I have only ever had one of these lures but it has caught countless trout and landlocked salmon for me in Lake Coleridge when used as a trolling lure. What’s more, I still have it. They were distributed by Kilwell Sports going back to the 1980s and sold for $17.30 which was quite expensive back then.
The jointed body – also called a broke-back lure – imparts a sinuous fish-like swimming action. The one pictured is an 8cm model that weighed 8g. This is the size to get for trout trolling. This actual lure originally had a smaller bib, which was broken off somehow. I repaired it with a larger one thinking it would dive deeper. I think this little modification may have worked though I can’t be sure. It does highlight that if you do break one of the plastic/perspex bibs on one of your lures all is not lost.
When trolled through the water the tail section shimmies and vibrates. Like all jointed minnows, it has a great swimming action even at very low speeds. This scruffy old Nilsmaster has never failed to catch a fish for me yet. I might be biased but I’m giving it four stars. * * * *
This post was last modified on 15/06/2022 3:59 pm
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