Someone asked me the other day about my favorite lure color. Of course, my standard answer is, “light colors for clear water and dark colors for stained waters.” That’s probably a good general summary, but I remarked that while color (and smell) is important, noise might be a bigger factor in getting fish to bite artificial baits.
On many occasions, while plugging for reds along the coastline near Steinhatchee, I’ve had fish charge noisy topwater lures from as far as 25 or 30 feet. They didn’t see the plugs (redfish are not known for their visual acuity), but heard them at that distance. “Heard” might be a decent term to use here—“felt” might be a better one.
Gamefish “feel,” usually through their lateral lines, for a number of reasons. One is to protect themselves. A boat wake caused by an inexperienced pushpoler is a common example. Fish, particularly those in shallow water, sense that wake as a shark or porpoise on the attack and usually run for cover. Another reason is to feel the presence of others of their same species. Fish in schools don’t necessarily see the others in the group, but seem to do pretty well when it comes to gathering together and moving around. And finally, they sense their own prey. Nervous baitfish run helter-skelter, shaking and quaking, when they know predators are nearby. And that’s the reason that anglers need to understand in terms of catching more fish.
Popping corks with sliding weights, like D.O.A.’s Deadly Combo (that’s pre-rigged with a 3-inch shrimp) are good examples. When you pop that cork, you create a sound much like the gill rattle of a bait being attacked by a predator. If you ask me why then that the predator eats the shrimp, I’d say it has something to do with shrimp being a tastier treat than a mullet or a pinfish, eliciting a strong primal instinct on the part of the predator.
I’ve also found that topwater lures with built-in rattles do a bit better than those without them in terms of attracting trout and redfish (and ladyfish, jacks and even a cobia or two). I’m a bit undecided about whether high-pitch or low-pitch rattles have an advantage, but generally believe in using rattles. MirrOlure’s She Pup and MirrOmullet both make a lot of noise and work well. Even trusty old MirrOlure 52Ms are good, as their hooks make a good bit of noise as they contact the lure’s body. It took Paul Brown several years to add rattles to his Corky Mullet lures, a feature now continued by MirrOlure. And you can even put a glass (D.O.A.) or plastic (Woodies Rattlers) rattle into a jig or fake shrimp to increase your odds.
Popping plugs also work well and while they may make too much noise in really slick water, they’re excellent in choppy seas. Chug Bugs and MirrOlure Popa Dogs are good choices, depending on the size lure you need. Small Chug Bugs may attract more strikes, but Popa Dogs attract bigger fish.
Finally, don’t forget that spoons and spinnerbaits both create visual and aural clues to predators. They rattle and shimmy and shake—and those good vibrations are what the fish often feel long before they see these small baits. I’m amazed sometimes that a fast moving spoon can attract so many strikes. I suspect that’s because the faster the lure moves, the more vibrations it creates.