There is absolutely no doubt that light lure fishing has grown astronomically in popularity across the UK in the last few years and right now has to be one of the biggest growth areas of UK angling. I too have been swept up in this wave and find myself addicted to lure chucking. Though I must say for me a large part of its attraction lays in convenience rather than fashion, as it enables me to be out fishing with very little gear very quickly, which suits me with my little boy BB at home.
I have always prided myself on having a questioning mind and over fifteen months of cultivating my lure fishing experience a question has been growing in my mind. Does size really matter? Or more specifically does lure size really matter when it comes to zander?
Pike and perch for now can be struck from this equation as I regularly see pike and perch attack lures that many would consider are either too small or too big to be eaten by either species. With zander though there does seem to be a ceiling size/weight that you can to catch using lighter lure tactics. Both first hand and second hand via social media I see loads of zander captures on lures of between a few ounces and four pounds. I myself have caught hundreds up to three and half pounds, with only two being over four.
Now, I know that as they get bigger, zander get rarer and this could be a large factor in this. But beyond that I am starting to wonder if a lot of smaller lures fail to register as a worthwhile meal for a bigger zed. I myself use a 1-10gram outfit for most of my canal fishing; as an example I generally use a 3-5 gram jig head with a rubber lure of 40-70mm in length. Now this as representation of a prey fish is actually a very small which leads me to the following question: is that too small of a fish for a bigger zed to bother chasing. It is a well known fact in pike at least, that what they need to grow truly big is a ready supply of big prey like bream or trout, hence the reason the Broads and trout waters produce so many big pike. Maybe that's true of zander too. In relative size terms maybe bigger zander need to be looking for something bigger than the average roach or perch, more along the size of a skimmer bream
Now I would never goes as so far as to say that to catch a bigger zander on a lure that you must use a big one, as a few examples of where a 'mates, cousins, dad had one on a micro lure' always crop up and I know better than making blanket statements about fishing. But surely using a bigger lure increases your chance of your lure, if it passes by a big fish, registering as a viable meal.
Obviously I would have to begin putting this theory into practice to stand any chance of finding out if a bigger lure might have any relative effect on the size of the zander caught. So with the river and other waters I want to fish out of sorts, I headed to a very reliable section of canal which holds healthy stock of zander. It also seemed a great opportunity to have a go with a new medium weight Shimano yasei ax player rod I acquired recently. Now although I got this rod with more plugs and jerk baits in mind, it is listed as an all round lure rod and it's weight rating of 10-30 grams means it should be perfectly able to handle my scaled up jig tactics.
Now I really didn't want to go over the top to start with and knowing what sort of condition the canal would probably be in I opted to scale up what had already been a very successful winter zander lure for me. Normally on my light outfit I would fish a 2.5" curly tailed grub on a 3 gram jig which gives you an overall weight of just under 5 grams. Not having any massive curly tail grubs at my disposal I opted for a 4" twin tail on a 10 gram jig head, which gave an overall weight of 14 grams. Now I know this might not seem a massive scaling up, but the smaller option is half of what can be cast on my light rod and the scaled up also is just about half of what can be cast on the medium rod. Also I didn't want to go from a tiny lure to a humongous one and fail at the first hurdle, so my hope was that a subtle increase in size would act as good steeping stone from small to large.
I was quite up for it when I got to the canal, but the state of the water was ten times worse than I expected. On the way I was thinking it might be a bit coloured. When I got there its water has turned into milky strong tea. I didn't have a back up venue though so it was always going to be a case of fighting through it and doing the best I could. On the bright side though the zander, with the very turbid water and mid teen temperature, should have been on the feed.
After two hours casting at every feature from every possible angle a few hundred times, I thought I was way off with this theory and that it was just going to be total a wash out. Then out of the blue I felt a hint of hit as the lure dropped and the line changed angles. I was into a fish and lo and behold, it was a small zander.
With the blank avoided it did relieve a little of the pressure I was putting on myself, which in turn boosted my confidence to continue casting. It took probably close to another fifty casts to find a second small zed tight to my own bank on top of the marginal shelf, and this one was even smaller than the first one.
After this one though I couldn't find another taker as dusk set in and I found myself casting all the way into dark thinking I might just get one last take.
It wasn't exactly any kind of result as I only caught two small zander using the bigger lure and not catching anything near the realms of a bigger zander. But I think this is definitely a theory that I should continue to try through the year to get any real evidence that bigger lures might equal bigger zander. One thing I do feel a little stupid for is not doing this a bit sooner, as it might seem that the smaller zander will take a bigger lure anyway. So if I had been throwing some slightly bigger lures round this past year at least, then the chances are I could have still caught a lot of the fish I have whilst standing a better chance of rousing a big one to have pop at my lure.
Now though a second question has come to mind: how big of a lure will these smaller zeds take before they get put off thinking it's too big to eat?