Here I would like to give you all the tips for proper fishing with plugs in a short and compact way and create a guide as complete as possible. First of all, I have compiled general tips and basic knowledge about fishing with plugs, and then I will explain how best to use plugs to catch our predatory fish such as pike, pike-perch, perch or trout.
What are wobblers?
Wobblers are fish imitations made of wood, usually even balsa wood or cast from plastic, with or without a diving shovel. They send out signals in the form of pressure waves through the diving blade and its movement and excite the predatory fish. Some plugs also emit sound waves through built-in rattles or steel balls. Of course, optical stimuli through reflective materials and the smooth running of the plugs are also important.
With plugs or “crankbaits” you can quickly search large areas of water for fish. Wobblers have several advantages over spoons, spinners and rubber fish: One speaks of blinkers but not of intertwined waters, because wobblers often catch where other lures do not pull. No bait imitates prey fish as well as rubber fish with realistic decorations can keep up.
Wobblers either sink or swim and can be 10 cm deep to 10 m, so you can fish a large water column. In addition, floating plugs can be easily lifted in front of obstacles and the diving scoop also protects against many hangers, no rubber fish will imitate that. You can also simply guide plugs constantly over the ground without having to stop and rest, as with rubber fish.
At the end of the day you never get stuck with a flat-running plugs and that’s a good thing, because good plugs are very expensive.
There are wobblers that are one-piece, two-piece or multi-piece. Multi-piece wobblers run nicely serpentine but also produce less pressure waves, while one-piece wobblers do not run as nicely but instead exert more pressure, which appeals more to the lateral line organ of the fish.
The diving blade
The diving blade determines how deep or shallow a plugs or swimbaits runs. The larger and shallower the diving blade, the deeper it runs, the smaller and steeper the diving blade, the shallower the wobbler runs. So the plugs should be adapted to the depth of the water. In case of doubt I prefer to use shallow running models.
Extra Tip: If your wobbler does not run deep enough, you can simply add lead shot or other lead. But you should keep a sufficient distance to the lure to avoid a scare effect.
- There are wobblers without a diving shovel which are mostly led close to the surface and with hits into the line. Furthermore there are those, like in the picture below left, which are simply cranked in and come to depth even without a diving blade.
- Then the standard wobbler with smaller diving blade. Such wobblers usually run less aggressively and close to the surface up to a maximum of 2 m
- width and large diving blades provide depth and much more aggressive running
- Plugs with an L-shaped diving blade tend to run more aggressively and are popular for trolling
The mounting for plugs is actually quite simple and corresponds to any other normal mounting for spin fishing. Between the swivel and the main line there can be a knotless connector if you are fishing with braided line. Alternatively I recommend the FG knot tying instructions >>.
If you like it very simple you can also knot the plugs directly to the main line. Only when pike fishing you should use a pike safe leader material, such as steel.
There is a simple basic rule for the right shape of plugs, which always applies and that is to imitate the natural prey. If there are many arbours in the water, it is worthwhile to use slim minnows. Predatory fish often have a prey pattern and our plugs have to fit into this. Nevertheless the exact shape and colour does not have to be perfect, but the direction should be right.
If plugs don’t run properly, this can have various causes. Here I would like to show you how to get non running plugs back on course. Often the eyelets are bent, where you tie the plugs to the leader or hang them up.
The plugs always run to the left: Simply bend the eyelet gently to the right with pliers and vice versa. If the wobbler has a right-hand twist, simply help it with the pliers and bend the eyelet to the left.
If the wobbler runs too weak or too strong you can bend the eyelet up or down and change the run.
When changing from triplets to either other triplets or single hooks, it is important to make sure that the weights of the hooks are similar, otherwise the wobbler may simply not run properly. Larger wobblers are more forgiving of the weight difference than smaller ones. When changing from triplets to single hooks, the hook legs lengths of single hooks should be similar to those of triplets. You can also use heavier or lighter hooks to make plugs float (suspender), sink or even float up.
Top Wobblers: My recommendations
I have created a post here for my favourite plugs. These are mainly plugs that have been tried and tested for years and have proven themselves not only to me but also to other anglers.
Choosing the right colour
Choosing the right colour or decor is quite difficult with the huge range of plugs available. In general, the rule is that in clear water, more natural colors such as brown, green or silver catch. Very natural decors, like this one, are always a good choice. If the water is cloudy, shock colours such as yellow, red and neon colours are the order of the day, and the classic Firetiger pattern is also a good choice. It doesn’t hurt to consider the natural prey when choosing the colour and with a goby you can also use brown tones. When the sky is overcast or at night, plugs with a dark or black belly are especially good, as they stand out better from the sky and most predators always look up.
But you must not forget: fish do not see like us humans. Some species of fish have greatly enhanced colour vision and can also perceive ultraviolet light and colours. There are many plugs that use this characteristic and have corresponding colour mixtures.
Rattles in a wobbler
The same applies to rattles as to the choice of color but not quite as extreme. In turbid water they can help the fish to locate our bait. In overfished waters, strongly rattling plugs often have a frightening effect and should be fished less.
Casting plugs correctly
When casting with normal one-piece plugs there are no special features. But if you try to cast multi-piece plugs, you will find that the triplets get caught in the line again and again and the multi-piece plugs just don’t fly as far. The solution to the problem is often to stretch the plugs before hitting the water by carefully reaching into the line by hand to slow down the cast. This is even easier with a Baitcaster reel. Because of the permanent contact of the reel with the plugs, the plugs stay stretched automatically during the cast and don’t flutter around wildly. This is one of the reasons why Baitcasters are so popular in the USA.
There are different fishing techniques with plugs. There is the simple cranking, also called craning, up to more sophisticated methods and techniques such as popping, jerking and twitching. In general you can lead plugs as fast or as slow as they run and remain interesting for the target fish species. This can be very slow for zander in the river, while trout like it rather fast. Varying the retrieval speed is always a good idea and easy plucking with the rod will certainly not do any harm.
Twitchen is the name given to the repeated hitting of the rod into the slightly loose line to make the plugs jump from one side to the other with fast jumps. Suspender plugs are especially suitable for this, as they stop on the spot during short breaks and thus make the imitation of an injured and panicked little fish perfect.
Jerking is similar to twitching except that the strokes into the line are usually much slower. Jerkbaits have no diving shovel and have to be animated to life almost completely with the rod and reel. Big jerkbaits for pike and co. are very heavy and should be cast with the more stable baitcasters or multi reels because of the high reel load. With a strong stationary reel e.g. most of the Penn reels you can of course also use them.
Cranks means the easy catching of plugs. Of course you can and should sometimes vary the reel speed and also make short spin stops. But sometimes the fish also like very slow and monotonous catching of plugs.
Rod characteristics and the right rod for wobbler fishing
Fishing rods have three characteristics that are often confused or mixed up the terms rod strength, rod action and reset speed, so I want to explain them here. Who knows, can scroll down a bit. The rod strength goes from L for light or even UL for ultra light over medium M up to the XH which is an Xtra Heavy rod. The rod power, called rod power, determines which line and lure size I can cast with my rod. So here you choose according to the plugsize and the target fish species. An L or UL rod is designed for fishing with very light lures of mostly 2-15 grams and for fishing for small predatory fish like trout or perch. Especially UL fishing for perch has recently become increasingly popular.
You can find a selection of good rods for wobbler fishing here >>
The rod action and determines how far the rod can bend under load from the tip there are three basic types:
Parabolic: The rod bends almost into the handle when under load
Semi-parabolic: The rod bends under load up to about halfway
Tip action: The rod bends up to a maximum in the first third when under load
The reset speed determines how fast our rod returns to the starting position after loading. This is also called “speed” and again there are different basic types which can be divided even more finely. The reset speed goes from Xtra fast to slow. On very fast rods the rod tip will reset extremely fast, while on slow “slow action” fishing rods it takes time for the rod to straighten. The English term slow action tells us that there is a danger of confusion with rod action.
The rod for wobblers
A good spinning rod for normal wobbler fishing is less expensive and complicated to find than rubber fishing rods, because usually a moderate to fast reset speed is optimal which can be combined with a semi-parabolic to tip action. With a softer rod I can also feel if the lure is running and if it has collected any weed. The strength of the rod depends on the lure size and weight but also on the size of the diving shovel. If the diving shovel is very big it also puts a lot of pressure on the rod and it should be a bit stronger.
It looks different when it comes to rods for topwater lures, i.e. lures that run on the water surface in zig zag (walk the dog) or even popping. For stickbaits a softer tip action is sufficient, while for a popper rod it can hardly be hard enough.
The right line for plugs
The line also determines the diving depth. The thicker the line, the shallower the wobbler runs. So if you want to fish deep, you should use the thinnest possible line. For this reason I also choose braided lines for fishing with plugs. A monofilament line is also not suitable for surface lures, because the half stroke disappears in the buffer effect of the monofilament line. Because of the closer contact of braided lines to the lure, you can better see whether the plugs are running or have collected herb. The only exception where monofilament lines are superior is spin fishing for trout in a stream or other shallow and well sighted waters. Here I like to use monofilament line. It is also important to adjust the line strength to the obstacles in the water, if I want to fish close to water lily fields or even with surface baits I have to use a stronger line.
The right knot for wobbler fishing
The knot or the connection from leader to lure can be either a Rapala knot or a snap hook. Anything else will make the lure run worse. I only use snaps on plugs that allow this, these are usually longer plugs with 5-7cm and upwards. If you use small mini wobblers on a snap, you will notice that the wobbler might not run at all. The additional weight disturbs the lure run too much.
Tips for wobbler fishing for our predators
Wobbler fishing for pike
Pike can be caught very well in spring and after the closed season with flat-running plugs in shallow water. But even in summer, deep-running plugs are good at luring pike out of their hiding places like fallen trees or water lily fields. The best decorations on pike are pike decorations or dark green ones. Because even if the pike is not hungry, the presence of a rival will attract it and it will want to bite it. Other good decorations are based on natural food fish. On the lakes in the foothills of the Alps and large reservoirs these are mainly vendace / whitefish, but perch decorations are usually never wrong. The bait sizes are also based on the current food fish with 8-20 cm crankbaits or swimbaits but you never go wrong.
Wobbler fishing for perch
Perch can also be fished with plugs, but perch like very active plugs, especially in summer. Twitchbaits are especially good, they are more suspicious and float on the spot during breaks. In spring and autumn the perch are often a bit lower and deep running plugs are the order of the day. With plugs you can search for perch very well, because they often move around as a shoal and have to be found first. Large perch often stand a little bit aside under the shoal or in some cases have hiding places for example under boat moorings, jetties, trees and roots in the water. Once a shoal has been found, you can continue fishing with rubber fish or twisters.
It is also possible to catch selectively big perch with plugs by fishing with bigger 8cm + plugs. Most bar plugs are very light, so light rods should be used. 5-15 grams casting weight is sufficient. My recommendations for plugs can be found here
Pike perch can also be caught very well with plugs in the evening and at night. Suitable for this are 7-12 cm long, slim, flat-running models that are guided very slowly. This is because pike-perch are mainly active in the dark and then go actively robbing, unlike during the day, when they often doze quietly at the bottom. Zander are schooling fish and move around in small groups, and where there is one, there are often several. So it’s worth a try in shallow water or on sheet pile walls, as zander press their prey against it in a group and thus encircle it. Sometimes you can even see the small fish jumping out of the water, which is almost a bite guarantee if you place your plugs nearby. If you look for shallow spots on rivers like the Rhine, Elbe and other streams you can either fish parallel 2-3 m to the stone pack or you can always throw the lure into the sweeping current. I prefer to find a place that has both an outlet to a quarry pond or oxbow lake and cast alternately into the shallow and the sweeping current to catch up as slowly as the plugs are running. The current speed must be considered thereby naturally.
Furthermore, sea bass can also be caught in the Mediterranean Sea and in the North Sea in the same way, because their behaviour is very similar to that of zander. A slow and monotonous management style is top here. The bites come hard with both fish species.
I have also compiled my favourite pike-perch plugs in a top 5 list >>
Rods for pike-perch fishing with plugs you can find a comparison in all price categories here.