At the start of September, the Anglian water reservoirs such as Rutland water and Grafham water allow predator fishing with lures. For several years now I have tried to have a couple of zander fishing days each Autumn.
I’m definitely not the best zander lure angler out there, but I normally catch a few nice ones each Autumn. Over the years I feel I've learnt lots about this style of fishing and I enjoy it immensely.
Having the right kit for the job can make a huge difference to your catch rate. My choice of rod is the Westin W3 Powershad rod in 8ft 15-40gram.
A common mistake with this type of lure fishing is to use a rod with a too soft an action. If the rod is too soft you will struggle to put enough action into the lure. A fast action rod with a quick recovery speed will impart much more action into the lure when necessary, and also make setting the hook much easier.
My favourite technique is casting lures for zander, so I find the 8ft rod suits my approach best. My retrieve could be described as a sink and draw, once I cast out the lure I wait until I feel it hit the bottom then lift the rod up then wait until the lure flutters back down and taps the bottom again. I simple repeat this technique all the way to the boat, once the lure is close to the boat, I often repeat this action under the boat in case a zander has followed the lure to the boat. Nearly all my takes are received while the lure is falling.
The second method is vertical jigging. Although this technique can be very effective, I find it very tedious if I am doing it for long periods of time. I switch to this approach when I see lots of fish/bait fish on the fish finder under the boat or simply if I fancy sitting down for a while!
I’ve received plenty of takes using a similar sink and draw action while vertical jigging, but I've also had hits while gently bouncing the lure very close to the bottom. For some unknown reason I have had loads of hits when the rod is completely stationary, often laying across the boat gunnels while I eat a sandwich.
I think the lure purists called it dead sticking. Once the lure hits the bottom wind it up around 6 inches and lay the rod across the boat, this can be done with a second rod while drifting. It’s almost like ledgering a lure, you will see the rod tip pull down, all you have to do is strike.
Attention to detail is so important with this style of fishing. These are my top tips to help you get more bites.
Use low diameter braid.
The thinner your braided mainline the easier it will be to keep your lure close to the bottom. A 0.08mm or 0.10mm is perfect.
Use the lightest jig head you can.
Although you will need heavier jig heads on these huge reservoirs, the lighter jig head you can get away with will mean you get a better action out of your lure. For most my casting I use either a 15g or 20g. Vertical jigging, I use between a 20g up to 30g weather depending.
A small stinger with a size 8-6 treble hook on soft 49 strand wire will improve your hook ups by miles.
Using a 15-20lb fluorocarbon trace will improve your presentation, I can honestly say I have never ever been bitten off by a zander using fluorocarbon too.
Location is everything on these huge expanses of water. Finding shoals of bait fish is often the key. You don’t need to spend a fortune, but it is a massive edge. The deeper fish finders can be mounted onto a flexible arm that fits the boat and are a great choice if you don’t wish to buy a larger unit.
Watch the weather
Try to plan you trips around the better weather, in windy condition these reservoirs can quickly resemble the North Sea. Windy conditions make lure presentation much more difficult, and even with the use of a drogue you will drive too fast.
Use a drogue
When drifting the use of a drogue is a massive help, the slower you can drift the better your lure presentation.
I guess the big question lots of people will ask is what lure? Everyone has their favourites. I have a few that consistently work for me and hundreds that I own but rarely use.
The fox zander pro shads in 10cm have caught me lots of zander, they are a paddle tail lure so they swim nicely when using my sink and draw method. My two favourite pattens are lemon tiger and salt and pepper.
Westin shadteez lures in 12cm are another of my favourite paddle tail lures. Headlight and official roach being my favourite pattens.
For vertical jigging the fox slick shads in either 7cm or 13cm are great, the Westin twinteez V-tail lures are another very productive lure.
Some of the better areas and quite often the deeper areas, so with this in mind it pays to take your time when playing the zander in deep water. Pumping the fish to the surface too fast can cause the fish to gas up.
As harsh as it may seem when you return the zander torpedo the fish into the water next to the boat to help it dive back down to a comfortable depth.
I hope this write helps you to boat yourself a few nice zander, to see my approach in action there is a video on AD’s YouTube channel, filmed a few years ago explaining the technique while fishing Rutland water.