Retro Rapala

Mike Ladle has been kind enough to share a few more of his thoughts on a fine ‘retro’ lure.

The Rapala – still one of my favourite bass lures!

Mike in Action in deepest Dorset

Mike in Action in deepest Dorset

I’ve been fishing for bass for a long time now (before I moved to Dorset I lived on the North East coast where they were as scarce as hen’s teeth).  My first lure-caught fish were on basic, unjointed balsa plugs and these lures were a revelation to me and my pals.  Let me quote from an account I wrote in the early 1980’s:-
My pal Harry and I were fishing from a rusty and defunct railway bridge, now demolished, which crossed the entrance to ‘The Fleet’. The tide was flowing fiercely through the channel ideal conditions to try my newly purchased Rapala plug I thought? I clipped it onto the link swivel and climbed up onto the railway bridge. Most other anglers had already left because they were unable to keep their baited tackle down in the fast-flowing water. One chap, on seeing the plug, volunteered the encouraging information that he had “…never seen anyone catch anything on ‘spinners’ from the bridge”.
Never one to be put off easily, I dropped the plug onto the water surface downstream of the bridge and allowed line to peel off the spool as the lure drifted away. After seventy or eighty yards of 8lb nylon monofilament had gone, I gave a turn of the handle to bring over the bale-arm and held the rod pointing downwards until the lure had submerged a foot or two below the surface. Slowly I began to retrieve, one turn, two turns, and ‘wallop’ I was into a bass.  To cut a long story short I landed two bass in no time at all and I was ecstatic.
After my little success, Rapalas became ‘the thing’ to use for bass and my pals and I caught a lot of good fish on them.  If anything we found that the jointed ones were better than the straight ones because they were less likely to ‘tumble’ as they were cast.  Nine, eleven, thirteen centimetre jointed lures – they ALL caught lots of bass.
Being made mainly of balsa the lures are relatively lightweight which enhances their action but reduces casting distance (this is rarely a problem with bass and with modern braids even less so).  The larger (13cm) version casts further than its smaller relatives but it also fishes deeper so in shallow, snag-ridden conditions it’s more likely to get hung up.  However, in my experience it tends to attract a much better stamp of fish than the small Rapalas.  As for colour, black and silver, blue and silver and black and gold all seem equally attractive to the bass.  All the lures are wired right through and so there’s no risk of them falling apart as you play a fish.  Bass are not my only quarry and I find that J9 and J11 Rapalas are equally deadly for salmon, sea trout, chub, perch and pike (I don’t like using plugs for pike because they tend to engulf them).  In waters with pike present you’ll need a wire trace but it doesn’t alter the effectiveness of the lures.
These days of course there are hundreds if not thousands of hard plastics, sub-surface, divers, sinkers, poppers, gurglers, sliders, soft plastics, worms, eels, weedless minnows, shads, etc. etc. but I venture to say that if I used nothing but a Rapala I’d still catch plenty of bass.  Also, the fact that these lures – all tank tested – don’t cost the Earth appeals to my Yorkshire genes.J11F Bass 3 J11F Bass
J11F Wrasse
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2 thoughts on “Retro Rapala

  1. tony

    they are awsome lures in freshwater as well. the j5 in brown trout pattern is a deadly lure for small stream trouting. had a salmon on one as well as pike,chub and perch.
    hook up rates have improved since changing the trebles to single pluggin hooks, easier release as well.

  2. Dave tribe

    I remember the article. I think it was in the first sea angler “quarterly” magazine around 1985. If I’m right there was also an account of how Bass moved in and out on the tide with the fish holding around the low water mark as the tide ebbed, waiting for bait fish ? That article inspired me to get some lures (Gerrys of Wimbledon stocked Rapalas), and started my own love of lure fishing. Believe it or not my very first cast with a lure (Rapala countdown), was at start point in Devon and resulted in a supurb Pollock. I still have that same lure which I keep purely as a momento. Please pass on my heart felt gratitude to Mike and let him know that that simple article was much much more than just another magazine story. It was for me personally an inspiring revelation that has led me to many many hours of fun and fishing memories that will stay with me for ever. Thank you


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