One of the most famous methods for targeting flatfish and other species is the ‘Baited Spoon’.
This is traditionally where you cut a table spoon from its handle, drill a hole into it and add a hook-length baited with live worm or crab. The result is a tried and tested technique that intrigues the likes of flounder, plaice and other species such as bass.
Unfortunately this rig is a little too cumbersome for LRF, but we have an excellent alternative, ripe with chances for customisation.
This method I’m talking about is the ‘Baited Jig’, and it can be used all year round, but I have used it to great effect this spring, as the sea temperature is still yet to catch up with the improving weather. The bright sunshine and often crystal clear water can make you feel that the fishing will be electric, but it’s often quite the opposite. Yet, if you give the fish something to chase, that is exciting yet reachable, the bites will come. This is where the rig has come to the fore with me recently.
The Baited Jig is as simple a rig as you can imagine, making it a scaled down version of the Baited Spoon, just with more modern components. I use a modern LRF metal jig, something like the Majorcraft Nano Aji in anything from 1-5g. I then use the Majorcraft Nano Aji Worm Assists that can be bought alongside the metal jigs. These have a handy clip on them to attach to any metal lure and are a short length of braid tied to a hook. I then ‘bait’ that hook with whatever artificial bait I fancy, my favourite being the Ecogear Aqua Shirasu, but any soft plastic will do. You can, of course, achieve the exact same result with self-tied assists and other brands of metal jigs, the fun is in the tweaking to suit your needs at your given spot.
To show how useful it can be, I’m writing about two productive trips that required an efficient technique to get the most out of the short time I had to fish.
On a day that wasn’t about fishing at all, I still managed to sneak in half an hour with the Majorcraft Benkei travel rod, rated to 7g. The focus of the day was relaxing in the early spring sunshine on the beach, but with the Cornish sea resembling the Bahamas, I was soon on the end of the harbour wall with rod in hand. The mark was postcard pretty, all blue sky, golden sand and even bluer sea. There was an easterly breeze that would make fishing ultra-ultralight an issue. To combat this, I clipped on a 5g Nano Aji in ‘Mameji’ colour, with Worm Assist clipped on the back, baited with an Ecogear Aqua Shirasu in a natural pink colour.
I figured the majority of fish would be hugging the bottom on such a bright day, so I focused there; letting the lure sink down through the blue, coming to rest on the rippled sand beneath. The retrieve was oh so simple – flick, rest, repeat. I lifted the lure off the bottom with a sweep of the rod tip then let it sink back to the bottom and left it for a moment.
It’s an effective technique that has caught me many species on jigs, baited or not. The difference being when baited, the Shirasu is slower to sink than the jig, which kicks up the scented soft-bait tantalisingly, wiggling its ball tail in front of any little predator that has spotted the movement.
On that day, it took four casts to find my first bite. It wasn’t the rattle I was expecting, perhaps from a weever or a small flatfish, but a solid thump on the rod tip. I missed the first take but the second connected and I was soon into a spirited fish. My mind immediately turned to gurnard, but the headshakes and awkward fight gave the culprit away. Beneath the bright twinkling surface soon appeared the clean silver flanks of a schoolie bass. I lifted the creature from the water with a huge smile on my face, the modest fish being a little larger than what I was expecting from a few hopeful casts on a beautiful day at the beach.
I had achieved my goal of catching a fish, it didn’t matter what it was and with LRF that is often the case. Another plus of being a Lerfer, is that often the smaller specimens can be more special than the larger ones, and that was soon to be proven true. In high spirits I cast again, repeating the same technique, hugging the sand. On my third cast I paused half way in, and just as I was about to turn the handle of my reel, a small thud reverberated up the braided line. I struck and felt the resistance of what was certainly a small flatfish. The little fish was rather outgunned even with my light tackle and quickly appeared at the surface, being chased by a bass!
Quickly, I hauled the small flattie away from the predator’s open mouth. I was glad I did, as in my hand lay a pristine baby turbot.
In my opinion, any turbot is a good turbot. They are such a beautiful example of evolution at its weirdest and most effective. With its camouflaged markings, large mouth and eyes that can almost see a full 360 degrees, the turbot is the king of UK flatfish – although my little fella was barely a prince yet. Fitting comfortably in the palm of my hand, I lowered the sandy coloured fish back to the water and watched as it urgently made its way back into the azure blue depths, hopefully to grow into the double figure beast it had the potential to be.
The next session would be on a weekday evening, fishing another Cornish harbour but with a setting sun and rising spring tide. After I had tried and failed with other techniques, I found myself turning to the Baited Jig again, this time a 3g Majorcraft Nano Aji in Pink Glow colour. I paired it with a pink Ecogear Shirasu and the technique would be the same as before – cover the clean ground in front of me with a stop start motion.
This time I was using lighter tackle, the 3 gram rated Majorcraft Aji-Do rod paired with 1.5lb breaking strain Ester line. With very few snags in front of me, I could afford to go light, and the reward would be how direct the action would be with such little resistance on the line. The sun had started to disappear and the harbour lights flickered into life. I had only just changed to the Baited Jig and it was like a switch had been pressed. On the pause, like the trip before, a thumping take bounced my rod tip, but this felt better. I struck and felt significant weight, and the Shimano Vanford’s spool squealed in delight. Ultralight tackle, working with ultra-precision.
I gently played the fish, judging it to be a nice flounder, wheeling around the gloomy depths. The up and down head shakes made me feel all the more confident in my assessment. I steered the fish away from the barnacle encrusted steps, knowing any touch on the jagged shells could part the fine line with ease. The battle went on, an exceptional fight for a flounder, a fish clearly back from spawning and on the warpath. After a few more runs, I won the war, as my brother Olly slid the net underneath the beaten fish.
Once on the stone of the harbour, I could appreciate how spawned out the fish truly was. In early winter, the fish could be double the weight, but it had clearly been busy producing the next generation. It was a rather bulbous eyed specimen, with the pink jig hanging from its jaw like a strawberry lollipop. Unhooked and photographed, I lowered the fish into the chilly water on the steps and watched as it kicked away, gliding out of sight, ready to build back its fat reserves for winter.
To top that fish off, another smaller flounder took on my next cast. This fish was a prettier faced flattie, and almost the complete opposite of its larger sister I had just tamed. Instead of an empty stomach this one resembled an old man with a beer belly, the fish bursting at the seams. I was honestly astonished that it went for my Baited Jig but it had, proving another win for such a straightforward way to catch fish.
I hope that provides a bit of inspiration to try an updated finesse approach to the traditional Baited Spoon. I am certainly not the first to do it, in fact the Nordic Lerfers have been doing it for years to great effect. And of course we cannot ignore that the majority of the tackle comes from Japan. But part of the endless joy that comes with LRF is reinventing old techniques and searching for new species in new ways.