Mark Martin Speaks out about lures and presentations...

by: Mark Martin

Ever since their debut in the '80s, Rapala's Shad Raps have been catching fish of all species from coast to coast. For me, they're go-to baits in walleye country, especially in spring, when I start with a No. 5 in water six feet and less.

Because you can work them faster than a jig, they help eliminate water, and suspended fish will come up several feet to strike them. But  like them to tick and nick bottom on the way in. Now, I don't exactly pound them off the bottom, but a little light touch of bottom is perfect. When you do feel it hit, stop it. Start it up again and when it ticks again, stop it. Every now and then I will plow it into bottom just to see what happens. Sometimes it's the ticket. If the water's a little deeper, go with the slightly larger No. 7.

A new weapon in my arsenal is the Rapala ShadRap RS, a rattling, suspending bait. Once, while doing a Bass Pro Shops seminar and casting into one of the fish tanks, I had walleyes - which, as we all know, ignore almost every bait or lure in such captivity racing after the suspender. 

Like all crankbaits, don't just cast them out and reel them in. Rather, reel it down, tick bottom and pause. The lure will just hover there, not float up, and walleyes will grab it. There's something about a lure stopping in a walleye's face that it can't resist. On Wisconsin's Lake Winnebago, for instance, I've found the walleyes have a definite preference for yellow eyes and black pupils. I don't know why, but I do know they work. But there's a lot more to a Shad Rap than just casting. Raps are excellent trolling baits, and I have the depths they track almost down to a science.

Without weight and with Berkely 20lb Fireline (the diameter of eight-pound monofilament), I can get a No. 5 down six feet with 63 to 73feet of line, a No. 7 down seven to 10 feet with 100 to 110 feet of line, a No. 9  down nine, 10, even 12 or 13 feet with 140 to 150 feet of line. Trolling speed is important, and I almost always run 1 mph to 1.3 mph. If you do go faster, your lures are going to dig deeper. Try trolling Shad Raps around tight contours when you want to get a bait into small places on a short line or when you want to get out and over bottom on lake basins.

And, lest I forget, when casting add an extra rod, where legal, with live bait to pick up another fish or two or three. More on that in a moment...

The Dead Rod
A dead rod, or one that's basically unattended, will liven up the action many days. When I'm moving along a contour jigging or tossing a Shad Rap, I'll put another rod out with a Northland Rock Runner Bottom Bouncer and a Northland Gumdrop Floater with bait. Gum-Drops are particularly effective in spring due to the fish's slower metabolism. And they'll work pulled upstream in a river or on a flat in a lake while you're fishing another rod. I put a fast-action rod in a holder with a bouncer, a leader up to three feet and a Gum-Drop in small, medium or large.

If fish are tentative I'll use a smaller one. If they're more active, I'll boost up in size, or if I'm around bigger fish. The spongy material of the floater keeps the bait just above the tops of emergent weeds. It also helps to keep the bouncer a few inches from bottom. When you get a strike, the rod will start to bend; pick it up and set the hook. Any bait:a leech, crawler or minnow‹will do the trick, but I prefer minnows in spring. Some Gum-Drops come with stinger hooks, but I don't put the stinger into the bait. Since the stinger is tied on stiff mono, it will lie right next to the minnow and help you nail short-strikers.


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