Typical Lure Retrieves
Updated: Oct 29
Much to the surprise of a lot of new anglers fishing is not just sitting and waiting. Most lures require the angler to perform a certain retrieve of give the bait action for optimal performance. Each lure has its own retrieve that will produce the best results but these can be narrowed down fairly easily. Unfortunately, the tackle companies don’t tell you how to work the bait so its up to you to figure it out. We are here to help you with that. In general; colder water or inactive fish require slower retrieves than warm water or active fish. Aside from speed there are a few different retrieval techniques anglers have at their disposal. For video explanations of all the retrieves mentioned in this post check out the link below:
As the name suggests a straight retrieve is simply retrieving the bait once it is cast out by turning the reel handle. This retrieve can be done at any depth or speed but it is up to the angler to decide on this. At times speeding up or slowing down the retrieve can trigger fish to bite. Similarly, adding a pause or two throughout the retrieve can also trigger fish to bite. When performing a straight retrieve the rod should be parallel to the water while the rod tip is pointed at the bait. Alternatively, the rod tip can be pointed perpendicular to the bait which will cause the rod to load up when a fish bites. Straight retrieves rates can range from 1 – 5 handle turns per second.
The jerk-pause retrieve technique is used with a number of different baits including jerkbaits, walking baits, poppers, and some soft plastics. The jerk-pause technique causes lures to dip and dart in erratic unpredictable movements. This action causes a reactionary strike from fish that think the injured bait is getting away. To perform jerk-pause technique position the rod parallel to the water with a small amount of slack in the line. Quickly snap the rod tip towards the water such that the line becomes tight halfway through the snap. This may take some practice to ensure the right amount of slack is in the line. Reel in some of the slack while returning the rod tip parallel to the water. Repeat this process until the bait is back at the boat. When fish are very active this retrieve can be done very quickly. When fish are inactive increasing the length of the pause (3-10 seconds) will help entice fish to bite. Typical cadences for the jerk pause retrieve are as follows:
Jerk – Pause – Jerk – Jerk – Pause – Jerk – Jerk – Jerk – Pause – Repeat
Jerk – Jerk – Pause – Jerk – Jerk – Pause – Jerk – Jerk – Jerk – Pause - Repeat
Jerk – Pause – Jerk – Jerk – Pause - Repeat
Popping is a retrieve technique for targeting fish relating to bottom. To “pop” a bait position the rod tip at the 3 o’clock position with semi-tight line. Quickly snap the rod tip up to the 2 o’clock position with a single or double pump; a double pump will mimic the way crawfish tend to flee from predators. Next, reel in the slack line as the rod tip is lowered back to the 3 o’clock position and the bait make contact with bottom. This should be repeated until the bait is back at the boat. Variations of this technique can include pauses or shaking the bait at various points in the retrieve to add some additional action to the bait. Popping is a fast retrieve and a “pop” should happen once per second.
Dragging is a retrieve technique used with bottom contact baits. Dragging will keep the bait (or weight) in contact with bottoms at all times. This method is used for targeting inactive fish that will not chase baits off of bottom. It also imitates bottom dwelling species such as crawfish and gobies. To “drag” a bait make sure the bait has is in contact with bottom. Position the rod tip at the 4 o’clock position with semi-tight line. Slowly raise the rod tip up to the 2 o’clock position; anglers should be able to feel bottom contact throughout this process. Next, reel in the slack line as the rod tip is lowered back to the 4 o’clock position and the bait makes contact with bottom. This should be repeated until the bait is back at the boat. Variations of this technique can include shaking the bait at various points in the retrieve to add some additional action to the bait. As well, starting with the rod tip pointed directly at the bait and twisting (keeping the rod parallel to the water) before pointing back at the bait and reeling in slack is another way to drag the bait.
You can practice poping and draggng in your home to see with your eyes just how the bait responds. Try experimenting with different weights!
Deadsticking is a retrieve technique for the most inactive fish. As the name suggests deadsticking is a do nothing retrieve. When deadsticking anglers will cast their bait out let it sink to bottom and wait nothing else. After waiting a while, 10 seconds to 1 minutes, reel the bait in a few feet and repeat. This gives the impression of a “dead” bait that is a very easy meal for fish and appeals to the most inactive fish. Deadsticking is not a retrieve used to search for baits it is better suited for targeting specific pieces of cover where fish are hiding. When deadsticking anglers should keep a semi tight line and watch their line to see if it starts to drift off in one direction, jump, or tighten up signalling a bite.
The figure 8 is a casting technique used at the end of your retrieve to “extend” the area a fish can chase your bait. This technique is typically used for following fish and is almost exclusively used in muskie fishing however some pike have been known to hit on the figure 8! To perform a figure 8 reel in your line until there is slightly more than the leaders length remaining between the tip and your lure (18 – 24”). As your lure begins getting close to the boat ensure your rod tip is points straight at the lure. Once the lure is 18-24” away from the tip of the rod stop reeling. Begin moving the rod tip in in the shape of an “8”. Be sure to use the full range of the rod and make gradual corners so the fish follo
wing your bait can catch it! Turning too sharply will accelerate the bait and spook off nearby fish. General tips while performing the figure 8 are to slow down on the corners and speed up through the straight sections however this may change depending on the mood of the fish. Some additional tips for performing an effective figure include making the turn away from boat (to prevent hook setting into the side of the boat and missing fish – see hook set direction in red on the image above), change the depth throughout the figure 8, and to always perform multiple “8’s” as muskie can be just out of view and waiting to strike
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