Getting Started with Stick Baits

By Scott Mitchell

Stick baits are not a new lure style – however they have undergone some significant refinements in recent years. Stick baits are now readily available from micro sizes suitable for bream & whiting all the way up to XOS sizes for GT’s , tuna & even billfish ! They also come in both soft & hard materials as well as floating, suspending and sinking models. There is stick bait to suitable just about every fishing situation.

The main difference with stick baits is they have no in-built action. Most lures include bibs, blades, skirts etc. to assist in creating a swimming action upon being retrieved. Stick baits however have no in-built action. On a straight retrieve with no input from the angler, a stick bait will come straight back across the surface with little to no action whatsoever. There are some suspending/sinking “slider” models that have a subtle action when retrieved through the water column to emulate a wounded baitfish.

Fishing with stick baits relies entirely on you putting the action into the lure. This may sound a bit uninspiring but it’s not until you get a balanced stick bait into the water that you will appreciate their full potential. Stick baits are one of the most devastatingly effective and versatile lures available – there’s no other lure like them.

I have been fishing with the Shimano “Orca” 145mm stick baits on a range of our local pelagic species around Hervey Bay for the last few seasons with great results. I love fishing with surface lures and any fish you can watch eat your lure adds to the excitement & fun!

The Shimano Orca’s are designed for top water fishing and can be fished on a flat out, straight retrieve which will have them skittering across the top, or on a slower side-to-side sweeping/rolling retrieve with plenty of pauses which will allow them to dive momentarily before popping their head up again on the surface due to their design. You can also fish them with the classic “walk the dog” style retrieve by working your rod tip side to side. It pays to mix your retrieve style sup until you find one which the fish best respond to on any given day.

I am always on the lookout for garfish, long toms or flying fish during our local Longtail tuna season which is best from November to May, although we do get them all year round and encounter the largest fish during our cooler winter months; these fish are generally loners and caught while fishing for snapper around yellowtail schools.

If you see baitfish showering across the surface it generally means that there are predators in the area in hot pursuit and you should get an Orca in the water as quickly as possible. I will generally start with a straight retrieve skittering the Orca across the surface with the rod tip high. The strike will often come from out of nowhere and the key is to continue winding until the rod is loaded and you’re losing line. Try to resist striking as the fish will often miss the lure on the initial bite and you need to keep the lure moving until the fish eats it properly and you have a solid hook set. If the fish chases the lure to the boat without hooking up you can sometimes trigger a strike by sweeping the lure in a figure of eight alongside the boat – which can result in an awesome eat!

If you can see fish feeding around bait schools which have been balled up to the surface  it’s worth using a slower sweeping retrieve with plenty of pauses. This will imitate a wounded baitfish that will be picked off as a straggler and can again provide great visual strikes. Watch the fish’s body language and vary your retrieve until you get the strike is the key.

Another great stick or pencil bait is the Ocea “Head Dip”. These are 175mm stick baits with a unique dual AR-C casting system designed to enhance distance casting. It consists of tungsten weights mounted on internal rods running from the front to the rear of the lure. During the cast, centrifugal force presses the weights onto a specially designed spring that allows the lure to cast perfectly as the weights move to the rear. Once the lure lands, the AR-C system moves the beads back to the centre of the lure, ensuring perfect weight distribution, lure balance, and that unique head dip motion on the retrieve. The Head Dip weighs 97g and are supplied without hooks, so you can customise your rigging.

I have found that running single lure hooks (The ones which have the eye in-line with the hook point) as opposed to trebles has increased my solid hook up rate. You may miss a few strikes but once you get a solid hook up on singles they will rarely pull during the fight and cause less damage potentially to the fish. I like to run just the one on the tail for tuna and queenfish etc. but prefer a pair back to back on the centre rings for GT’s or other larger targets with the a second single on the tail. I have also run assist hooks on Kevlar cords as a “stinger” off the centre points with a single on the tail with good results.

Stick or pencil baits will often draw surface bites when noisier popping lures draw a blank – give them a go!