Lures and Mobile Methods
Another popular way to catch zander is with a light lure fishing outfit. This has the added advantage of mobility, which is a real plus for any new water or one with few obvious features, where you are not sure where the fish will turn up.
Zander are certainly excellent at detecting prey in unsavoury conditions and much of the time it is the angler’s confidence that suffers in murky water, rather than the zander’s uncanny ability to locate the target. In fact my lure angling friend John Cheyne has had some hectic action with lures just after a boat has passed through lock gates, the sudden increase in water colour and movement serving to disorientate bait fish and give zander the perfect opportunity to go on the offensive. That said, the fishing often gets easier from October onwards, when boat traffic slows down and autumn rainwater freshens up the canal, making for slightly better clarity and active fish.
Rochdale Canal Fishing Photo Gallery
As with bait fishing tactics, tackle and lures tend to be scaled down for zander fishing. A light lure fishing rod with a crisp tip section is ideal for working lures in the 2-3 inch bracket and enjoying a good scrap with the typical ‘school zander of 2-3lb. Traditional diving plugs and spinners can work, but the most widely effective zander lure is the more modern soft ‘shad style jig. These can be worked slowly and ‘jigged across the deck with little twitches of the rod tip where required – and it is almost always the bottom foot of water where the zander will be found. Models with a single, upturned hook are ideal for canal fishing as they pick up less debris than other models. More notes on this method can be found in the chapter on lure fishing.
The author fishes a junction between canals, a likely passing point for zander.
Drop-shotting is another alternative, and you can even combine a conventional jig on the end of your trace with a small drop shot lure a foot or so higher on the line to effectively cover two levels in the water.
There is no substitute for a top quality braided line when zander fishing, which is superior in terms of strength, sensitivity and casting performance. It is vital to keep in touch with the lure at all times and ‘feel what it is doing. Zander experts often use coloured braids too and watch the line for suspicious movements, as zander will sometimes take gently or move straight towards the angler.
Less fashionable ‘mobile methods for zander also include flyfishing and wobbling. Flyfishing can be terrific fun and my own zander patterns often feature dumbell eyes to make the pattern fish ‘point up like a jig, and I’ve also tried incorporating small rubber tails to help the fish home in.
Wobbling seems seldom used for zander, but the ‘fireball rig is well worth a try: this is the practice of presenting a small deadbait on jig head, usually with a small length of wire attached to fasten a ‘stinger treble towards the tail end of the fish. The bait is then fished rather like a jig, the angler letting it sink to the bottom and then making a series of twitches on the rod tip to jig its way through likely areas, lifting and dropping back down attractively. The real fish has the added advantage that a biting zander will often hang on for longer, giving the angler more time to strike.