I’ve been asked a lot, during some endless chat with different fishermen, what lures do I like most, what are my favorites for some specific application. You know, the same type of questions that pops in at every start of a relationship, questions like: “What’s you favourite color/actor/book/movie..etc?”.
The truth is I do have favorites, even though I try to get all objective and distant from my tackle box, and try to leave no room for subjectivity, I must admit I have “feelings” of some kind for my equipment. It’s impossible and much less fun not to get attached to these things.
You sort of realize this after you get caught playing with your new custom rod in the living room (sometimes even talking to it), making false casts in your back yard under your neighbors suspicious looks or waking yourself up by trying to set the hook while having a personal record fantasy. Not to mention you can easily take a one hour conversation on any type of fishing line.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking. And no, you’re not a fanatic, you’re just a passionate angler. That makes two of us.
After getting used to the fact that I’m pretty selective, and have favorite lures for about any fishing technique or species, it’s time to share them with the rest of you out there. I thought of starting with a species of fish that’s very common in Europe, similar to the American walleye, a fish called zander, which is also a very popular game fish.
One of my all time favorite zander lure types are soft baits. I consider these to be extremely versatile, meaning they can come in handy in a big variety of situations you face on the water.
Let’s take a look at the lures I wouldn’t leave home without when fishing for zander. If you can’t find them in your tackle box, I strongly suggest to give them a try. You never know, they might end up in your personal top 10.
Because European zander is very similar in his behavior with the American walleye, I really think these soft baits will do a great job in walleye fishing also.
1. Relax Kopyto
Relax is a famous soft bait company located in Poland. It has a big range of soft baits aimed for many species of predators. Relax Kopyto is a big hit when it comes to spin fishing for predators. It’s an aggressive and super effective soft bait. It has a fantastic fish attracting tail action which makes this lure deadly for zander.
Kopyto is my favourite zander lure, especially during spring time, when zander becomes very aggressive and start protecting their nest. Kopyto comes in 6 dimensions, starting from 3.5cm to 15cm. When fishing for zander I usually use the 6.5cm and 7.5cm models.
2. Mann’s Shad
The first thing you notice about Mann’s lures, is that they are really really soft. This thing gives them a unique tail action and body wobble, which send out huge vibrations.
Mann’s shad comes in 4 sizes, and 12 colors and was initially developed for pike and zander fishing. What I like most about Mann’s shad is that it can be fished at extremely slow speeds, which makes it perfect for natural, slow presentations.
3. Relax Aqua
Another Relax candidate, would be the Aqua shad. It’s the perfect bait for the classical jigging technique. It has a wide tail action that can really make a difference, especially when dealing with suspicious zander.
The soft materials (silicon) used to manufacture these baits are also very resistant, and don’t affect at all the underwater evolution.
4. Cabela’s Aqua Glow
One of my favorite lures for offset techniques. I use it a lot when fishing Carolina or Texas rigs for zander in heavy cover areas. It works great at a slow retrieve, because it vibrates at every movement of the rod tip. I mainly use this lure when river fishing, in filled with structure areas, like boulders or trees. It has an incredible swimming action, making it an all year lure, regardless of the water temperature.
Another important detail is that each one of these lures is salt and garlic impregnated, in order to mask fish-spooking odors and to make the fish hold on to it longer.
5. Orka Shad
Orka is another European bait company, located in Serbia. It produces great soft baits, that I began to love more and more. In the beginning I was a little skeptical about the quality and efficiency of these baits, mainly because of their low price, but after testing them in different waters they really got my interest.
Orka Shad comes in 13 sizes, starting 4cm to 26cm. I caught a lot of zander at sizes ranging from 7 to 11cm. Try also not to underestimate the bigger sizes, because the 14cm lures sometimes made a huge difference. Their strong tail action make it impossible not to trigger the fish’s natural response to attack.
6. Orka Shad Tail
The Shad Tail is another must have in any tackle box. When everything else seems to fail, this lure works wonders.
It has a particular shape, with a shad body and a grub tail. Its specific vibration and tail action make it the perfect bait for tough situations, when fish don’t seem to be responding even though you know they’re there. There were days, even in zander tournaments, when switching to this bait got me 4 good fish in less than 10 minutes, from the same spot someone else fished for an hour before me without catching anything.
7. Bass Assassin Turbo Shad
Bass Assassin is a soft bait company, located in Florida, who’s been around for about 20 years. I fished a lot with their Freshwater Shad Assassin lures, and one of my favorites is the 4” Turbo Shad.
It has a solid shad body with a paddle tail that generates great action, making it irresistible for European zander. This is another lure I often use for offset fishing. It’s shape allows the fish to swallow it instantly, and helps me make a good hookset, without losing many fish. I usually fish this lure with 1/0-4/0 offset hooks.
8. Bass Assassin Curly Shad
4” Freshwater Curly Shad in another Bass Assassin lure that makes zander go wild.
It has a unique shape and tail position, which sends subtle vibrations, just perfect for cold water. Its tail acts like a rudder that steers the bait into a circular fall that really attracts predators.
I use it a lot during the cold season, when river fishing. The slit in the belly, make this lure a good candidate for offset techniques, such as Texas or Carolina.
9. Charlie Brewer’s Slider
Maybe even without realizing, Charlie Brewer really came up with the ultimate finesse lure for zander. I’m talking about the 3” and 4″ Bass/Walleye/Striper Grub. As the name suggests, this lure was not intended for zander, but believe me when I tell you, it really is a powerful zander soft bait. Its vibra-tail causes an irresistible wobble that instantly awakes predatorial instincts.
I fish this bait with a 6-10 lb line and the lightest weight possible, using a slow, steady retrieve with small movements from the rod’s tip. This grub can also be very efficient when fished in a drop-shot rig.
10. Big Byte Baits Shad
I initially bought this lure having no idea it was designed by Big Byte Baits. The 3” and 4” shads are amazing on lakes with big and aggressive zander. They work great with 2/0-4/0 jig hooks and weights from 1/4oz to 1/2oz.
This shad has an incredible swimming action both when fished using a rapid and aggressive retrieve, or at a slow-steady retrieve. It is also very efficient in river fishing, having caught many Danube zander over 10 lbs.
So there you have it! These are my favorite soft lures for fishing zander. They are the soft baits I trust the most, and I really think that with these 10 baits I could handle most of the tough situations faced on the water.
What about you? What’s your top 10? Did I miss anything?