Gerald Almy: For exciting topwater action, try rat lures
Tossing the lure toward
the edge of the lily pads, I cranked slowly on the handle of the baitcast reel. After two turns, the vegetation exploded as a 5- pound largemouth broke through the “salad” and hammered the soft lure shimmying across the surface.
After a brawling fight, I worked the fish in close and carefully slipped the hook out of his bony white jaw. None the worse for wear, the bass flipped its tail disdainfully and darted back into the lake.
The rat lure had come through once again.
Few lures are more exciting to fish than a topwater rodent imitation. Although these small animals are not common food items for fish, a number of species besides largemouth bass also feed on rats, voles, moles and mice whenever they get the opportunity.
Besides bigmouths, I’ve also caught smallmouths, peacock bass, pickerel, pike, trout and muskies on these lures and I’m sure there are other species that will strike them. In some areas saltwater drum (redfish) even feed on rodents. In fact, it’s doubtful that any predatory gamefish would pass up a small rodent when given the chance.
A variety of rat lures are available. Most are made of soft plastic, with either solid or hollow bodies. Various methods are used to make them mostly weedless. And that’s a good thing, because the best action with these lures comes near cover such as stickups, brush piles, log jams and especially weed beds. Some have hooks embedded Texas-style inside the body, while others have double hooks barely protruding on top. Both arrangements work fairly well.
To set the hooks firmly with them you need a rod with some backbone and stout line. Try a variety of retrieves. I usually start out with a slow and steady presentation. Then I try a more erratic motion. After that, try both fast and steady and fast and jerky movements. The bass will let you know what they want on any given day.
Openings in vegetation and pockets are especially good spots to try. Bass and pike often hole up in these locations waiting for a morsel to swim by. Inch the lure up to these openings and then slowly twitch it across them, as if the mouse or vole is trying to escape. Points are also great spots to try as well as places where logs hang out over the water from shore. It’s easy to picture a hapless mouse walking out on the log and then accidentally slipping in, offering waiting gamefish a tempting meal.
Rodent lures will also catch trout in rivers. Large browns and rainbows are inordinately fond of these creatures. Use a slow, smooth retrieve to tempt these large trout. Most of the time they’ll be found hovering beside logjams and sweepers along shore waiting for the rodents to stumble in.
It’s often tough to set the hooks solidly with mouse and rat lures. Usually the best bet is to not strike immediately. I know. That’s hard to do. But if you strike too fast you’ll likely pull the lure away before the fish has it fully in its mouth. Wait until you see the mouse disappear and feel the fish’s weight. Then pull back hard!
TIPS FOR FISHING RAT LURES
If a fish strikes, but misses the lure, don’t immediately reel in. Let the rat sit motionless for a minute, and then twitch it a little. The fish will think it wounded the rodent and return to finish it off.
Insert a glass rattle into the lure to add sound appeal.
Put a stinger hook on if you are missing strikes
Try adding weight to the mouse if topwater action is slow, to make it less buoyant. Rig a slip sinker in front of the body or insert a piece of shot or a ball of cotton to soak up water.
Fish mouse and rat lures early and late and on overcast days for the best results.
Award-winning outdoors writer Gerald Almy is a Maurertown resident.