Using Lures - Action or Cadence

Exactly how you add action to your lures can make a huge difference in the results you achieve. Check this out.

This is an article about how to use fishing lures. That is a challenging headline to fulfill for an article, and in some ways misleading. We cannot teach you to use a lure as well as some people we know who make them. There's a man who invented DOA shrimp, for example. You cannot believe this guy with his own lures. Ditto the man behind Mirrolures. He can catch fish on plastic when they will not eat scaled sardines, essentially donuts to cops. But the reason people catch fish with lures 10-times more effectively than you is because of cadence. The action their lures provide is just that: action. Cadence is that special something they impart to those lures they manufacturer or just use.


Action is Built In; Cadence is Imparted

Action is built it; cadence is imparted by the angler. Guys who built lures are the ones that know best what cadence works best. They know what their lures don't do. So they make them do it when they use them to catch fish.

Aurora Black LureLures have action; anglers impart cadence. This is a "suspension" lure that works much more effectively if the angler adds a twitch -- something the lure does not do on its own -- to the retrieve.

The Latest in Lure Technology

All lures work. They flash, they make noise, or they simply scare or anger a fish. They scare them when the fish thinks the lure is about to eat their eggs or otherwise hurt them, and they anger them when the lure enters into a space the fish believes (rightfully so) is temporarily or for the long term theirs. But the overwhelming majority of times a fish strikes a lure, it is because something made the fish think that that lure was edible. The more edible and the easier or more injured, the better. They might not eat fish dead, and some want healthy baits, so to work on a regular basis a lure has to simulate the perfect food at the right times.

The bottom line is, though, that two angers using the same exact lure, rod, reels, leader, and sunscreen will not necessarily have the same results. They might, though. They might suck equally or share equal high-end skills sets developed only after years on the water. In those to instances, two anglers -fat and thin, black or white, Latino or transgender, will catch the same amount of fish on any given day. Not counting the Curse that the God of the Fish will place randomly on your butt from time to time, they will have good days and their lures will work, or they will have days better spent doing one's hair.

Smithwick Fishing LureSmithwick Lures are designed and angler proven with the latest in lure technology.

Lures that bubble or otherwise disturb the surface will do so even if all you do is cast it and retrieve it. But snapping it and popping it or pulling it -- as is the best thing to try with this propeller lure from Smithwick Lures (above) -- can make it look much more natural to the fish. Another fact about cadence is that you can vary it; you can pull 20" on one cast, waiting for the water to settle down before moving the lure again. Another cast lets you try something different; snapping it only four-inches, for example, which makes the bubble more dramatic, and will sometimes draw a hit when a slow pull and pause doesn't. Cadence is the dance of the lure, and you are the band leader choosing the movement on the floor of the water.

Lures are like that. Almost all lures have action built in. In fact, every lure has some degree of built in or natural action. A good or silver spoon - an outstanding bait when used in the right places at the right time - wobble. You cast them out, and retrieve them with a perfectly smooth and even winding of your reel, and they wobble in the water. And when the wobble the mettle side of the face, or blade, flashes. A flash caught in the eyes of a predator rings a own unique re-action to that spoon wobbling and that metal flashing. It triggers an attack. The fish intends to kill that lure, and when he grabs it, and you lift the rod in reaction to the strike, it sets the hook and the battle begins.

Simple, right. Well, maybe not. The falicy in our little equation here comes in when the two anglers are not of equal skills. Or one sucks less than the other one. The one with the lowest suck-factor is somebody that has learned about cadence. They might not call it cadence, but why some people can catch a fish on a lure while you can throw the sucker until the sky turns a difference shade of green and never see a fish get scared by it is cadence. They impart cadence.

Another way of saying it? The guy or girl who has released eight snook while you tied thirty eight knots changing lures worked that lure. They worked it. Working a lure means you are doing something - something that adds too, reduces, or otherwise modifies the action the manufacturer built in.

Built-in Action

To some extent every lure has an action. There are three types of lures, and their built in action is defined by where in the water they sit if you just cast them.

Topwater Lures

Topwater lures will lay flat on the surface and float if you cast them out and leave them sit the. If the lure has a concave (sunk in) and you just reel them in, the cup-like "cave" (hence the term conCAVE) will push water in front of itself and create a sizable wake. Snap the lure, and then let it sit until the water is quiet and the rings have disappeared, and you added cadence. Pop, wait, pop-pop, wait and pop again! Often times the fish will not hit the lure until you wait a moment after one of those pops and the water goes still. Other times they will only hit it the moment you make the Snap!!! And the pop happens.

Rapala Skitter
Saltwater surface popper with the trademark Rapala attention to detail. Unique cupped lip provides all the popping action you need. Design allows anglers to work a variety of surface techniques.

A Concave face on a lure creates a distinct POP! that you can see from a mile away, and hear further if the wind's blowing your way. To fish, they are dinner bells under the right condition. But popping, waiting for the water to settle (and the rings to disappear) and popping it again, and doing it softly for a while, and then trying it louder and a little more aggressively can change a slow day into a banner day. Fish are basically prone to certain locations and certain behavior depending on the time of the year and a lot of other conditions, but they are always on the lookout for food. And what makes them look today or strike a lure today is not necessarily what will attract them tomorrow. Imparting cadence to your lures makes you much more effective because you're never out of retrieves to try. Do it enough? You could draw a hit when you least expect it .

Suspension baits: suspension lures are lures that sink once you throw them onto the water. Some sink a few inches, while others are designed to sink eight feet before they "suspend" in the water column. Cast, wait, and it will just sit there. Tides and current will effect it, of course, and a fish might hit it. There are no rules in fishing. But wait a second after the cast, twitch it once, twice, or three times, and you have imparted cadence not built into the lure, which will swim quite fine without twitching, and might draw a strike. But the anglers who release those twelve snook while you are watching without a single hit are working those baits. They are imparting cadence.

Bucktail Jig
Hurricane Bugeye Bucktail Jig, 1/2-Ounce, White

Bucktail jigs (above) actually breathe a little as you simply drag them through the water. Make a bottom lure like this "bounce off the bottom" with a good strong lift, and let it fall again to the bottom before repeating the process and you will defitely draw strikes under the right conditions in the right place. These bottom-bouncing and mid-kicking lures would be on our list of "Must Haves" if about to be deserted on a desert island or banned from all tackle shops both physical and virtual.

Bottom lures: We could include spoons in this category, because if you cast one and let it sink, that is exactly what it will do; sink to the bottom and stay there. Start reeling it in slowly, and it will drag on the bottom, kicking up mud and sand and in all likelihood getting hit once in a while. Think of a lead headed jig with a soft-plastic tail. Cast one out and simply let it sink to the bottom. Simply reel evenly and it will drag on the bottom without stopping, pausing, or bouncing - and maybe draw a hit because of color, smell, and the unnatural disturbance you are causing by dragging it through the dirt. But cast it, let it sink, and snap the rod tip up to 10:00, pause, drop that rod tip and let that jig fall to the bottom, and do it different ways and in different cadence, and you will find a combination of drags, snaps, lifts, and behavior that will draw hits that dragging alone will not produce.

Working a Lure: Adding Cadence to the Plastic

All lures will catch a fish if you simply throw them out there, and reel them in. Sometimes, anyway. But to get the most out of your lures you have to work them.

Surface lures: The first way to start working a topwater is to cast it. Assuming the water is calm (which is the best conditions for a popping or bubbling or propeller lure), let it rest until the rings disappear. Then snap it to make it pop. For propeller or bubbler lures that float on the top but swim down when you start reeling them in, pull them a foot-or two firmly. Don't snap them, but pull them. Snapping a concave face is perfect: pulling a bubbling/prop lure can make it tangle.

Rapala Popper
Popping Rapala

One of the most popular and effective lures to be introduced to the market in the past twenty years, this Mirrodine (above) is built to simulate an injured bait. But like many suspension baits (that sink to and then sit at a predetermined depth in the water column) it only works so well if you cast it and reel it in without imparting cadence to the retrieve. Action is one thing; cadence is another. Twitch this bait, pause, let it sink, twitch it once or twice more, let it pause and sink a little, and twitch it again, and it begins to take on a life of its own. No - Wait! It begins to take on a life of your own. The angler imparts cadence, and that is what's meant by your "Working" a lure.

Suspenders: cast them, let them sink to their proper depth, and twitch them. A twitch is am twitch, not a snap. Snap topwaters and pull bubbling lures, but if they suspend, twitch them. Think of the top on the rod; snapping is a movement of 12 inches. A twitch is an inch. But before you twitch or snap, make sure there is no slack in the line.

Sinkers and jigs with soft plastic, hair, or no tails: These are built to sink. The action is built in though, and of all of them bucktail jigs seem to breath in the water on their own. Even soft tails, however, can wiggle, flash, or seem to breath as well. But the cadence is in the retrieve. Cast the lure, let it sink, and when it hits the bottom lift it 12 or 18" off the bottom. Keep the rod tip high when you do it: you want to cause the lure to bounce up off the bottom and fall back down (where it creates a "poof" like a crab or shrimp does when it hits the bottom). Vary the lifts, the pause between lifts and drops, and try different combinations of dragging, bouncing, and even retrieving fast to skim the top of the grass or oysters or whatever. Watch the rod tip while you lift, pause, let sink, and repeat. That will dramatically improve your ability to picture what the lure is doing. Visualizing that lure puts you behind the eyes of the fish, and that makes you better at the sport.

Related Videos and Stories: This video from YouTube will show you how to "Walk the Dog" with a Heddon topwater. The company's been making lures since the dawn of time, we think, and the first time we learned to use one it was for largemouth bass. That said, any topwater lure will work without you doing a thing but casting, while any and all lures will perform better if you "work" them like you will see being done in this video.

Like this article? Comment below using your Facebook account.

The Online Fisherman

GHM logo