Necessity is the mother of invention, and Marty Glorvigen was getting needy. The pro angler was on his home water, and although he was seeing numbers of bass, walleyes and pike, with both his eyes and electronics, concentrated along deep weedlines, he simply could not get them to bite.
And it wasn’t just a goofy passing-weather-pattern funk. Fish were there and should have climbed all over a decent presentation, but they didn’t.
Glorvigen threw almost everything he had at them: rattlebaits, cranks, spoons, even live bait. Nothing worked, until he focused on fine-tuning seemingly minor details of an age-old presentation to create something that, at least behaviorally, is altogether new.
A Pattern Evolves
He’s honest enough to admit he took his first steps toward success by pure luck when he rigged a Berkley Power Minnow on a Northland Thumper jig and cast it out over the weedline, mixing in a few hard rodtip snaps during the retrieve. A nice walleye pounded the bait on his first cast.
Surprised, Glorvigen began mentally piecing together what had happened and why.
“I had to ask myself if it had worked because I’d somehow matched the hatch, or if it was some kind of reaction strike,” he says.
Glorvigen is always good for supplying eye-opening insights on why fish bite, or often more appropriately, why they don’t. Fish that are “right,” he says, don’t need to eat, so when they do bite they’re usually doing so based on displacement and opportunity. In other words, they sense such a big, easy meal that they’re compelled to take it, whether they want to, need to, or not. It’s a reaction strike.
Earlier this year, we discussed how this phenomenon sometimes relates to fall walleyes. Glorvigen explained how you can drag a small fathead minnow literally across the nose of an inactive fish without the slightest response. But turn around and rig an 8 to 12-inch chub past that same fish and it’ll clobber the bait.
“Even a fish that’s meeting its metabolic needs can’t afford to turn down something that big and vulnerable,” he says.
To test the opposing theory, he switched gears and rigged a highly realistic softbait that matched the lake’s shiners, one of its primary forage species, much better than the Power Minnow.
Although a dead ringer for the bait-fish, the lure behaved nothing like his last presentation. It ultimately failed to catch a fish, something Glorvigen recognized as a clear sign that his initial presentation had worked because its action helped trigger a reaction strike, not feeding behavior.
But that was only another piece in the puzzle, the mystery still remained as to what specific aspect of the Thumper-Power Minnow’s action was the triggering mechanism. A light bulb popped on when some late-night channel-surfing landed him on an infomercial for the Banjo Minnow.
Say what you will about the as-seen-on-TV bait, but its dying minnow action can catch fish, especially ones in a negative feeding mode. It’s partly the same principle that makes Senko-style plastics and unweighted soft jerkbaits so deadly. Glorvigen noticed that one of the characteristic actions of that lure is its ability to spin around on itself when given a sharp jerk, he’d seen the same action when he caught the walleye on the Power Minnow.
Convinced that skating, erratic action was the key that would unlock the tough-bite fish he’d been battling, he began tinkering, swapping jigs and soft-baits until torn bodies and jigheads littered his boat deck.
As he fine-tuned, Glorvigen made several eye-opening discoveries about how subtle differences in softbait shape affected action. The most critical factor was the contour of the bottom. Lures with realistic rounded bellies soaked up much of the pops he imparted with his rodtip, resulting in a straight, sober swimming action, while those with flatter bellies, like the Power Minnow, skated and cut tight corners.
With those important realizations, he dialed in his search to identify and fish baits with the flattest bellies and sides, and the squarest edges possible. “The sharper the edge, the more fish I caught,” he says. “Think of it like throwing a yardstick versus a broom handle. The yardstick planes off to the side with a really erratic action; the broom handle will just go in one direction.”
Appendage style was another critical component. Glorvigen experimented with baits featuring realistic fins or a paddle-style swimbait tail. He also tried fishing the baits on belly-spinner jigs and even imbedded spinner blades into the plastics.
But it quickly became apparent that although these features created lots of subtle action, they killed the specific action he was attempting to create. They slowed the fall rate and softened the erratic darts to the point that the lure didn’t trigger the negative fish. “It was like adding a parachute,” he says. “Appendages or spinners slowed the fall and killed the whole reaction aspect of the presentation.”
The final ingredient was jighead shape. Although a variety of heads sufficed, models with flat or concave undersides and distinct, squared-off bottom corners performed best, presumably because they complemented a flat-bottomed softbait’s shape. Interestingly, such heads also improved the action of round-body plastics with appendages, which suggests jighead shape plays a much larger role in action than most anglers realize.
The Finished Product
Weeks of experimentation finally cracked the code. Using his new found understanding of how shapes affect action, Glorvigen rigged a Zoom Super Fluke upside-down on a Northland Mimic Minnow head. To create a flush mounting surface, he sliced off the tapered nose of the fluke and added a drop of superglue between the bait and jig.
Rigging the fluke back-down gave him the most extreme example of the features his testing had revealed to be so important—a large, flat bottom and perfectly squared-off sides. Same goes for the Mimic Minnow head, whose nearly triangular shape, sharp bottom corners and a concave bottom surface combined to amp up the fluke’s inherent action.
Further experimentation led him to upsize the combo to a 7-inch Super Fluke rigged on a 1/2 or 3/4-ounce head. The increased size plays on the “big and vulnerable” principle Glorvigen says is often critical for drawing strikes from negative fish.
The superglue he adds is necessary because he fishes the combo aggressively, making long casts and letting the bait sink to within a couple feet of the bottom or cover before giving a sharp rip with the rodtip. He follows up with a split-second pause, and two rapid slaps against semi-slack nine. He repeats the drill until the lure’s back to the boat.
Between rips, the lure glides down like an injured baitfish, and the slack-line snaps sends the bait skating off to the sides, often spinning 180s and swimming figure-eights.
To get crisper, more erratic darts, Glorvigen fishes the combo on superline with a stiff mono leader. The mono’s purely mechanical, preventing the jig from tangling in the line above it during the frantic retrieve.
He says the presentation unlocks fish that simply won’t bite anything else.
“I think when fish are in a negative mode and they see this erratic crippled minnow, they still just have to hit it,” he says. “I went down weedlines throwing virtually every other style of lure and didn’t catch a thing, then came back through the same spots throwing this rig and caught tons of fish—largemouths, smallmouths, walleyes, everything.”
Glorvigen’s come to believe the shape-action relationship so strongly that he’s tempted to push the envelope.
“I’ve seen this work so much now that I’m wondering if the perfect bait for this presentation would be a piece of plastic shaped like a long, skinny block of cheese,” he says. “It would look nothing like natural forage, but with squared off sides and a large, flat bottom, it might have the ultimate skating action.”
Just The Beginning
If you’re thinking, “Anglers have been threading soft plastics onto jigs for generations, why is this news?” the answer is two-fold. First, this is no mere curly tail grub, and after seeing it in action aboard Glorvigen’s boat, I know the presentation deserves a part in any angler’s arsenal.
But what I found equally fascinating was the approach he’d used to nail it down. Rather than just randomly try baits until something stuck, he systematically experimented with lure styles to dial in the exact shapes and features that were necessary to create the action that would trigger the most strikes. In other words, he ditched conventional match-the-hatch wisdom and focused on hydrodynamics—the way the lure’s shape would affect its interaction with the surrounding water, and ultimately decide its action.
Although this sounds a bit obvious, most of us don’t do it. Instead, we’re often so hung up on how a bait looks while sitting motionless in a package that we forget how its more mechanical attributes affect its behavior. If a lake has a shad forage base, we search for lures that look as much like shad as possible, with little thought as to how it will behave as a result of those realistic features. Ultimately, anglers wind up fishing baits that look great but lack the action needed to trigger fish in the particular situation.
In the same vein, Glorvigen’s presentation is not a magic bullet for every species, situation and time of year. He’d be the first to admit this, but what is universal is the thought process he followed to dial it in. NAFC members can use the same one to catch more negative fish whether they fish large mouths or lake trout.
Give Lures A Kick
Subtle lure construction variations can spell huge differences in bait mechanics and action.
Washougal, Washington, guide Steve Leonard let me inon a cool discovery while fishing salmon with him on the Columbia River. He relies heavily on Luhr Jensen Kwikfish to troll up chinook salmon at the mouths of Columbia tributaries, and he’s found an uncanny difference in the performance of individual lures.
Namely, some Kwikfish catch several times as many fish as others that seem identical.
“About one bait out of five catches drastically more fish than all the others,” Leonard says, showing me a tackle tray labeled “K15 Fish Catchers.” “I think that whenever you have a molded plastic lure, you’re going to have that because of the use of different molds and minor differences in how the plastic comes together.”
In addition to identifying these special lures, he’ll also tune his baits to create more tail kick, which he says triggers strikes. If a bait’s lacking, Leonard backs out the line-tie eye screw. This essentially makes the lure longer, which shifts its pivot point farther forward, creating more lateral movement at the tail. Screwing the eye farther into the bait has the reverse effect.
He also notes that wear and tear can change lure mechanics to the point that a bait doesn’t catch as many fish. Leonard refers back to the time a toothy spawn-run male king put a tiny hole in one of his most productive lures. The difference was noticeable to him, but especially to the salmon.
“That lure wouldn’t track right, and you just couldn’t catch a fish on it,” he says. “Finally, I checked it out and realized there was a little bit of water getting into the bait through the hole, so I drilled it out and plugged the hole with glue that I sanded smooth. The next time I fished it, boom, it was catching fish again.”