I often find Original Floating® Rapalas® in various conditions in the bottom of old tackle boxes that I buy. Since I was a little kid, one of my passions has been antiques. I gravitate towards old tackle boxes and (avoiding rusty hooks) love to dig through them looking for treasure. Aside from remnants of melted plastic worms, the single most popular discovery is some form of lightweight balsa Rapala® Floating Minnow. Sometimes this will include foil-sided early models with embossed stars from when they were still made in Finland.
This got me to thinking… why do I find so many of these? Why are they always in such a state of disrepair and not pristine? Why do their newer counterparts show up nearly as often in Perch, Silver and Blue, Firetiger and Orange? And, perhaps an even better question, what do I consider my “Go To” lure when on a Boundary Waters Canoe Trip? Not necessarily my favorite lure, because if I’m perfectly honest Mepps® Spinners are my favorite because they were my Dad’s favorite and who doesn’t enjoy a bit of flash? Usually walleye, definitely Pike and the Smallmouth love em. Let’s face it though, they aren’t minnow shaped, don’t swim or look like a minnow except in the heat of the moment.
Most predators are attracted to anything that closely mimics their natural prey. Wounded or erratically swimming minnows. Or, when wounded ones aren’t on your radar, something that looks like what you’d expect to be swimming in the water.
Live bait is difficult to keep alive during the Summer months when the temperatures rise. It’s hard to transport and care for even when it is cooler outside. Most of us use artificial baits on extended trips longer than a couple of days. Most anglers have favorite colors and like to change it up according to the season. I prefer perch colors early and late in the year and will switch them out for Firetiger and Silver and Blue and crawdad brown and orange imitators during the heat of July and August.
Whether or not I’m going up to Quetico Park in Canada where barbless hooks are a requirement, I always pinch the barbs of my hooks off. Often on a Rapala® that means crimping down 9 hooks for the three trebles, at least six, depending upon the model. Fish tend to flip and writhe at the exact moment you are reaching into the net or for their mouths. At that point you are in danger of embedding multiple hooks into your hand or arm and believe me you don’t want that to happen. You especially don’t want those hooks to have barbs on them when they are driven deep into your thumb.
From the beginning Rapala® has tank tested and tuned by hand each of the lures that they produce. This is how you know that every model you pull of a new box or old tackle box will accurately mimic the action of baitfish. There are many different models available and I plan on highlighting a few of our favorites that produce well in the Boundary Waters. You can plan your wilderness tackle box accordingly and tweak what you take along in your canoe to your taste.
Shallow Fishing for Northern Pike, Walleye, Bass and Trout is an ideal beginning to the season. For this the Original Floating® Minnow is very hard to beat. Fish where you know baitfish will be: in warmer waters, near new weed growth just underneath, casting near structure like downed trees and shallow rocks. Add weight like a pinch on sinker of some sort (we recommend non-lead alternatives because lead poisons Loons and other wildlife) perhaps a foot above your Original Floating® Minnow and you’ve just extended the season and reason for this lure. Now you can troll at mid-depth with it.
If you like to hunt for large fish, you can use Husky Magnum® or Floating Magnum® Rapalas both as floating surface models as the Lilly Pads and grasses grow out of the water or off of a “bottom bouncer” a weighted wire that bounces off the bottom and allows you to fish large lures way down deep. This is a classic up north way to troll deeper waters but requires heavier rods, reels, line and leaders. The point is, as you are starting to imagine, that Rapala® makes a lot of lures, but each one has multiple uses!
While we’re on the subject of Big, one of our Outfitting Crew’s favorite lures is the Deep Tail Dancer®. Made to head down to the thirty foot range they seem to attract a great deal of attention from Lake Trout and larger fish in particular. They come in some fantastic color options. They’re a little bit like an overgrown version of the Fat Rap®, which has also been a favorite of Walleye and Pike for many years.
The CountDown® Rapalas® are the best choice for mid-range depth and they lend themselves to great stop-and-go motion when retrieving. One of my most successful afternoons of Walleye fishing involved casting medium sized Perch colored CountDown® Raps towards an island and counting to five before I began retrieving it in a steady, fluid motion instead of stop-and-go. I couldn’t cast it too close to the island because by the time I reached five, it would have sunk to snag in the rocks, but with patience in my pocket by the time I reached another five on the retrieve I had a Walleye on. Time and time again, the perfect size for dinner, one after another. Ever since then, especially on a hot day, I’ll go back to the CountDown®.
Anytime during the season when you want to get attention quickly, it’s a good idea to move to the erratic swimming motion of a Jointed Rapala. Your retrieve and depth choices can modify the display of this magical lure even more. Wounded Baitfish, wounded baitfish, wounded baitfish. It should be your mantra, especially when nothing else is working. If you are paddling steadily towards your first (or next) campsite and you want a lazy way to have the best chance at fresh fish for dinner, the Jointed Rapala is often your best bet.
Around camp, you’ll often find panfish. Usually that also means there’s Northern Pike, the wolves of the northern waters, cruising for big punkinseed and bluegill (not to mention Black Crappie). Traditional ways to fish for panfish include slip bobbers and tiny “flu-flu” jigs. I like to put on a piece of night crawler when I’m near home. People love to fish them with a slip bobber rig and small, silvery “crappie minnows”. Those traditional methods involve live bait. There’s a relatively new version of the fantastic performing Fat Rap called simply the Mini Fat Rap. They have a compact, tight swimming action that imitates (nearly perfectly) the speed and motion of a fleeing baitfish. This causes what seem to be instinctive strikes from panfish that you’d expect from its one and a half inch size. Again, add a weight six to twelve inches up from it on your line and you can create this action at a deeper level, down by where the bigger ones are hiding in the shadows.
Well, that’s why you find so many Rapalas® in old and new tackle boxes up North. Down South too, for that matter, but for the Boundary Waters and Canoe Camping Trips, it’s hard to beat a balsa minnow that has been hand tuned to catch fish for dinner. Breakfast too.
You pick the colors, you pick the style, just get more than one, because even if you don’t lose any, your friends will want to use em. These lures and/or other Rapala® lures are in-stock at our Retail Store, Piragis Northwoods Company at 105 North Central Avenue in Ely, Minnesota on the edge of the Boundary Waters.
Thursday, May 17, 2018
Boundary Waters Fishing: Go To Lures by Tim Stouffer
Labels: boundary waters fishing, boundary waters lures, bwca lures, bwcaw lures, canoe country fishing, canoe fishing trip, fishing the boundary waters, fishing trip, go to lures, rapala, rapalas, Tim Stouffer
I'm the Marketing Director, Catalog Director and Webmaster at Piragis Northwoods Company and the Boundary Waters Catalog here in Ely, Minnesota on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. We specialize in lightweight canoes and camping gear and have been serving our community and the worldwide community of paddlers since 1979. We know our stuff because we get out there and paddle. We are passionate about canoeing and wilderness.