The next items up for discussion in our series on shore game fishing are bullets, retrieves and other lures.
The Foil Bullet is another very popular shape for shore game as the small, compact profile allows for amazing distance casting, even when throwing into a wind.
The rounded edges to this spoon mean that it is difficult for a predator’s teeth to find purchase and most of the time the spoon will slip through the teeth, allowing the hook to set in the jaw.
The Foil Bullet comes in sizes .5 (14g), 1 (21g), 2 (47g) and 3 (90g). This spoon has quite a wide, kicking action in the water and has quite a lot of resistance when being retrieved. Personally, I like to fish the foil bullet slower than I do the Couta Casting and I prefer to use it in off-colour water or in low light conditions where the extra movement of the spoon can call the fish. The slower, noisier action of the foil bullet also makes it the spoon of choice when the water is rough and the resistance of the spoon coming through the water holds it down better when fishing in a crosswind.
The Bullet has an attractive fluttering action while it sinks, so I almost always like to let it sink to the floor before I start my retrieve. Often, the snoek will be attracted by the splash that the spoon makes as it lands and will then follow the spoon down to the floor. A lot of the snoek that I have caught have been within the first ten winds of lifting the spoon off the floor.
Obviously, the fish are watching the spoon, trying to work out if it is edible, and as it comes off the floor, they grab it instinctively. I have also had quite a few bites as the spoon is sinking, but these usually end in a sad way as the fish drop the spoon as quickly as they grab it. What often happens in these cases is that, because there is still slack in the line and the fish drops the spoon and darts forwards, the spoon falls out of the fish’s mouth but the leader runs through its teeth. The result of this is that you get bitten off half way up your leader – that is highly annoying.
For some reason, the snoek at Umdoni Point on the South Coast are particularly skilled at doing this. The Foil Bullet can also be fished almost as a vertical jig, where you let it sink, jig it up to the surface and then slacken off until it lands again before repeating the performance. I will often do this two or three times at the beginning of the retrieve.
When fishing the bullet in the very early morning, I often like to work the spoon. I’ll lift the rod, pulling the spoon up in the water column, and then drop the tip and wind up the slack, allowing the spoon to flutter down briefly before again lifting the rod. Another spoon that the guys on the South Coast have good success with using this same retrieve is the KingFisher Jet Spoon.
The standard bullet is one of the oldest styles of candy and has an action halfway in between the Couta Casting and the Foil Bullet. The simple design makes this spoon one of the cheapest in the range, but still a very deadly lure that has accounted for many fish in its time. This spoon has a particularly good fluttering action as it sinks, so one technique that works well is to stop the spoon just before it is going to land so that it splashes down harder. This little bit of extra splash calls more attention to it, especially when it is still almost dark.
The SV spoons are more like the traditional v-back s-bend spoons that have a wide, fluttering action and are designed to be fished much slower. While these spoons are not designed to be thrown over the horizon like the other candies, they are very versatile, and are particularly good for targeting shad, kingies and kob. They are a good option when the water is a bit dirty. The SVs require no fancy retrieves and the good old rod-tip down and wind at a steady pace usually works just fine. When targeting kob especially, you want that spoon to be running so close to the floor that it actually touches the sand every now and then.
The Candies come out in a wide range of colours, all of which work on their given days and under different conditions. Personally, my three favourite colours are the pink glow, the green glow and the chartreuse. The glow colours can be charged up with a headlight when fishing before first light or late into the evening, but this is optional and in my experience they work almost just as well without being charged. While the glow colours usually work better in low light conditions or in off-colour water and the other colours in clean water and broad daylight, there are no rules.
Most of the candies glow under ultraviolet light regardless of whether they have been charged up with a torch or not. This is something that we are only just starting to learn about, but the talk is that gamefish can ‘see’ in ultraviolet light. There is definitely a correlation between the colours that work the best and the colours that fluoresce the most under ultraviolet light. For now, nothing is for certain in this regard, but I am willing to believe that there is something in this theory, especially when it comes to selecting a lure to use in low light conditions.
The bottom line is that all the colours do work and a lot of the hype around certain colours is simply because they are what people are using; the more people catch on them, the more people use only them, and the cycle continues until you have the whole coast using just one colour spoon. I like to have a good variety of colours with me at all times as often you will get a fish or two on a certain colour and then they will get clever to it. Simply by trying a different colour, you can often get a few more bites before the fish turn off completely.
The other lure that you have to have a few of in your shore game arsenal is the good old surface plug. Plugs in the GT Ice Cream range are my weapons of choice as they have a very deadly action and profile and have been designed locally with distance casting in mind. The 1.5oz needlenose is perfect on my Assassin Amias rod and can be thrown almost as far as the No. 2 candies. This plug is best fished when the conditions are quite calm, as the speed at which you can retrieve this lure, combined with its slight profile, will often trigger the fish to attack it before it is even quite sure what it is trying to eat. I will throw this plug when targeting kingies as they love the fast action, but should a couta, yellowfin tuna or even a big snoek be in the area, they will usually fail to let it pass them by.
The other plug that I use a lot of – especially during the winter months – is the 1.5oz flat needlenose. This plug throws just as far as the standard needlenose but the nose has been redesigned to allow it to be fished at a slower speed to target garrick, which
is a species that does not usually like a flat-out retrieve. The flatter nose on this plug also holds to the water surface more, so when fishing in a crosswind where the standard needlenose starts to get blown across the surface before you even turn the handle, this plug should stay in the water more and still have a fish-tempting action.
Another lure that has proved to be very deadly off the beach is the Rapala MaxRap. The long profile of this lure, combined with its very deadly swimming action and beautiful finish seems to be irresistible to most predatory fish that see it, and the list of species I have seen and heard of caught on it stretches far. While the lure is designed for casting, don’t expect to be able to throw it 100m over the backline. The fine-tuned balance that gives it the deadly swimming action it has doesn’t allow for all the weight to be fixed at the back of the lure. Instead, there are ball weights loose inside the lure that act as a casting weight and also give the lure a rattle. When the weights are positioned correctly at the bottom of the lure for the cast, you will easily get 60m with it, but should the weights move during the cast and the lure starts to tumble in the air, it will go nowhere.
I have found that this lure – and most stickbaits for that matter – actually throw better when you use slightly heavier braid. The resistance that a thicker braid has as it comes off the spool and goes through the guides actually keeps the lure straight in the air and reduces tumbling quite markedly. The MaxRaps can be either retrieved at a steady rate with the rod tip down or worked quite vigorously. Personally, I like a fairly steady retrieve, interspersed with irregular twitches.
In my opinion, one of the features that makes the MaxRap so effective is that, unlike most spoons or plugs that are generally on the surface for the last 10m to 15m of the retrieve, it stays down and fishes right into the white water. The majority of the bites that I have had on MaxRaps in the surf have been right against the lip. MaxRaps seem to be particularly effective when fished around river mouths and in off-colour water. I am assuming this is because they effectively imitate the size and profile of a mullet – that is what the predators are expecting to find here. As far as the colours that work the best, I always prefer the more realistic ones.
The one aspect with shore game angling that is both frustrating and exciting at the same time is that it is evolving so fast that what is the best rod, braid, reel, spoon etc today, will probably be replaced by something even better in six months time. The same applies
to styles and techniques that I have been chatting to you about. By the time this article appears in print, I am sure that I will have learnt a whole lot more about shore game, and maybe some of what I have said here will no longer be the done thing.
It is, however, exciting to be part of a facet of angling that is evolving in South Africa quite as fast as shore game is and I am sure that in the next few years we will be seeing some amazing results as more and more people get involved and pick up the spinning rod. I have just touched on some of the basics, the rest is waiting for you to go out and learn first-hand.