Fishing for zander with lures is consistently gaining in popularity in the UK. This is a no surprise to me personally as zander fishing can be very exciting with plenty of bites and good size of fish being landed. Big reservoirs like Rutland or Grafham are great places to target zeds with lures but they can be tricky and technically challenging. If you are a skilled lure angler with the right equipment at the right time you can land even 100 fish a day. In this article I will go through tackle and techniques I'm using when fishing those waters (mainly Rutland).
What jigging means for me?
Before I start talking about tackle and technique it is worth to stop here for a moment and talk about jigging. For some reason jigging, especially when anglers talk about zander fishing, is being associated with vertical jigging only. This in turn makes many anglers thinking that to catch zander you need to master vertical jigging, have a dedicated vertical jigging rod, reel and pants. Now the shocking bit - vertical jigging sometimes works, most of the time it doesn't, and almost always I can outfish anyone using this technique when fishing on Rutland. Why? Because casting-jigging is more effective, yet only when you know how to do it properly. To summarize this paragraph for me jigging is simply to present a lure in a way that it moves up and down in a water column and this is what zander like.
Rod and reel choice
I usually got 3 rods with me and the minimum you should take with you is 2 rods. One of them should be fairly short, you would use this one for vertical fishing. Although the shorter rod will be primarily needed for just dropping your lure in the water next to the boat I like to have this rod to be able to handle 50g jig head with a soft lure during cast. My personal choice here is Guide Select Mutant rated up to 25g - this rod will cast more and I'm confident to overload it. I also cast with this rod often, it is just much easier to make hundreds casts during a day with shorter rod. There is plenty of nice rods for vertical fishing on the market and Dragon made recently new series of rods dedicated for vertical fishing.
The second rod I use mainly for casting is longer and can handle more weight, here I use my absolute favourite Team Dragon 2.4m 18-42g. For many this lenght might seem a bit too long for a bot fishing especially here in the UK. Again, this is a personal choice really and you will know best which length suits you best. I like this particular rod for catapulting lures long distance easily, great feedback and x-fast action. The advantage of longer rod is more leverage when striking, something I'm lacking a bit with first rod I mentioned at 1.98m long.
When it comes to reel choice I prefer big reels, they need to handle heavy lures with ease and turn without using too much of your energy. This is crucial when you fishing from a cast and your technique is based on lifting a lure off the bottom with your reel rather than a movement of your wrist.
Braid choice is important. We will fish deep water, often during windy weather and you want to stay in touch with your lure all the time. This means braid needs to be thin and strong. I use diameters from 0.12mm-0.14mm and it usually is Dragon Invisible Braid. Some anglers will use thinner braid lines even down to 0.08mm which enables them to use slightly lighter jig heads. As I cast a lot, even with the rod I use from time to time for vertical fishing, I don't use anything thinner than 0.12mm.
How to fish?
Generally during zander season on Runtland fish are in depths 12m+. Given the fact that it is a big water you will need fishfinder and you should try to find depths they are present on particular day. At the start of the season you might find them everywhere but most likely it will be around 12-15m. When water gets much colder and December comes you might need to fish as deep as 30m to catch anything.
When it comes to technique I much prefer to cast. I find vertical fishing good when fishing from anchored boat and after multiple casts fish following your lures come closer and stay right under your boat. In any other fishing situation I found casting and searching through a lot of water working better and not as boring as trying to drift and fish vertically.
Lures for zander
Anglian Waters used to limit size of lures used for zander fishing to minimum of 5'' (12.5cm) this is no longer in place and you can use smaller lure if you wish.
I never used lures smaller than 5'', in fact my favourite lures are bigger than that and very often I fish 8'' lures. There is plenty of zander on Rutland and they compete for food. Bigger lure is more visible from distance and in my opinion more often than not it provokes stronger hits. The smallest lures I use are 5'' Relax Grubs (measured with tail straightened as during retrieve) and they are usually last resort during slow days.
Here is a list of lures I'm using most often:
Probably the most important part of your set-up. Strong sharp hook and right weight of your jig head. For me the choice is only one here - Dragon V-Point. It is a guarantee of top quality.
When it comes to weight you need to experiment with this a little bit and adjust it accordingly to your set-up and fishing conditions. You also need to change weight during a day, not only to match depth you are fishing on but also fish preferences.
To fish Rutland you will need weights from 25g up to 50g and don't be surprised if you won't be able to use anything lighter than 35g on a windy day.
I hope this short article will help to choose right tackle for your next zander trip.