I admit, I've been consumed by a new area of our sport. It's taken all my strength not to let it and all the related new tackle swamp Fishing-Tackle.co.uk, but I can't contain it any longer.
'LRF' or Light Rock Fish originates from Japan where the local anglers use Ultra-Lightweight outfits to target smaller species of fish like Aji (Scad) and Merabu, in a highly pressured fishery. While LRF is a saltwater discipline, it shares a lot of tackle and technique with ultra light freshwater spinning. Anyhow, this isn't
the article to explain all the ins and outs of Light Rock Fish. If you're interested in finding out more, I highly recommend reading the following: The Rockfish Files Issue 2
One of the many things that LRF has made me reconsider is the usefulness of artificial, flavoured baits. Probably the best known in the UK would be Berkley's Gulp range. Over the last couple of years I have read a fair bit of comment on both their effectiveness and the general opinion of everyday anglers - I try to stay clear of the marketing hype. I think it's fair to say the general feedback from traditional bait anglers is pretty negative. From what I've read the vast majority believe this isn't a legitimate replacement for fresh/live bait - and I agree. Makes perfect sense.
But with a new sport and a fresh view on things I have started to change my opinion.
In focus today are two ragworm imitations. The Berkley Gulp Sandworm and the Power Isome from Japan's colossal Marukyu/Ecogear stable.
If we specifically look at sea fishing, which is where these two products were tested, the breakthrough for us was by using the artificial ragworm on appropriately scaled down tackle. And to clarify on 'appropriately scaled down tackle', I mean an ultra light set up including 0.3PE braid, 2.5lb leader and a tiny size 10 jighead. This is finesse - or certainly by our traditional sea fishing standards.
One of the main quarries for LRF in Japan are Scorpion Fish. We're lucky in that down here on the South Coast of England we happen to know where a few of these critters live. Piers and jetties are a good starting place.
So for this test we fished pretty similar ultralight set ups and similar sized jig heads. I fished consistently with the Gulp Sandworm in 'Natural' colour, while Dan fished with the Power Isome in green. Both worms were in the 4 inch size (harbour rag) and we both fished slightly cut down sections (tail end) to scale down the prey size.
Results were pretty conclusive. Right from the off we both caught Scorpion Fish. Over 3 fairly short sessions we caught over 30 of our target species. These artificial baits definitely attract fish. More interesting to me was that although we imparted some subtle action into them, the baits would be attacked while stationary, and often a fish would come back for a second or third attempt before being hit. Now from my experience that is fairly unusual with traditional lures. It was clear that these fish actually wanted to eat the worms. For me it's this result that has blurred the boundary between lure and bait. I am confident that these baits give the best of both worlds in the right situations.
LRF is fun. A lot of fun in fact. Enough to make me feel like it could bring a large number of youngsters into our sport. And a big part of that is convenience. Getting good, live bait is hard. Whether you harvest your own or purchase it fresh from the tackle shop, planning bait collection is a necessity of fishing for pretty much all of us. Not with these new style baits. They're made of organic material. They're flavoured - juicy in fact. But you can keep them for long periods, even once opened (as long as you reseal the packaging). Think about that. 'If' these baits were only 70% effective compared to fresh bait (and in our tests we out-fished all other bait anglers around us), but they enabled you to actually go fishing three times as much due to convenience, you'd catch more fish - simple. I'm really hooked on the principle. I've seen the light. For a start, family holidays are going to be more productive with more, shorter spells of fishing and less fraught with time constraints with the family. Plus, I'll always have some worm with me on the boat. I'm hoping that translates to a higher species count year on year.
Finally, with regards to the head-to-head comparison between Gulp Sandworm and Power Isome... we found absolutely no difference in performance in our tests. I would happily use either. Gulp appears to be slightly better value if you shop around (bigger supplier) but if the Power Isome had one advantage, it was that the smell was more attractive to humans. The Gulp Sandworm were distinctively 'fishy'. If not upsetting your friends and family is important to you, this may be a key point. For value and accessibility right now, I'd go Gulp. In fact I've just purchased another 3 packs for this season.
If we've got you interested, Berkley Gulp Sandworm are available from a number of good tackle shops and eBay (see below). Marukyu Power Isome is still quite a niche product in the UK and is available through specialist lure shops like the excellent BassLures.co.uk (www.basslures.co.uk) and The Art of Fishing (www.artoffishing.co.uk)