For decades upon decades there have been many lures that have come and gone. Thousands as a matter of fact, and some darn good ones, came off the shelves and disappeared into tackle boxes all over the country. Some of the different styles of artificial baits continue to transform from their original shape and size to conform to the needs of anglers and the conditions they may face. One of these pioneer baits that really haven’t changed in nearly 50 years is the original Rapala. With a few cosmetic changes and evolution of other comparisons, the original Rapala Minnow has stood tall.
It’s slender, minnow type appearance captivated the fishing world, and continues to lead the fishing industry in its irresistible characteristics that drives fish crazy on every continent. I stand in my garage and scan over some of the old baits I have hanging in my shop and there is that Rapala starring me right in the face, like to say “remember me?”
My dad was a purest and very seldom used live bait some 40-50 years ago. He had his go-to baits and his tackle box had rows and compartments full of artificial lures with names like L&S Mirror Lure, River Runt, Pikie Minnow, Red Eye Wiggler, Johnson Silver Spoon, Daredevil and several others that were too numerous to recall. All alone in this one compartment was this silver minnow looking lure that had an appearance like none other in the box. Some of the paint was missing in spots, like an old dog must have been chewing on it. I asked my dad if I could tie it on, and I got “the look,” you know the look that asks one if they are crazy or something. It really wasn’t selfishness that dad was displaying, but a sense of not wanting to lose his favorite go-to bait. It caught everything from walleyes to bass to northern pike. I never wrestled that Rapala away from dad, although since his passing, I do have it now. Over the years I have purchased many of these “magical baits,” but there always will be that riveting memory of the first one.
Around 37 years ago, I started guiding for walleyes at night on Lake Geneva in Southern Wisconsin. As with most gin clear walleye lakes, Lake Geneva produced walleyes in the dark of night and couple that with a lake that had a lot of recreational traffic, it was essential to sneak around after everyone but the walleyes, went to bed. There were several of us that developed patterns that caught walleyes in the dark and the floating Rapala was our lure of choice. Most often we had found that the walleyes were roaming large shallow flats with sporadic cabbage beds. Many of these spots were located in depths of five to eight feet and were difficult to fish. One had to sometimes weave in between moored sailboats that were located in some of the best walleye spots. Gas motors were not the best way to go about this method. (God! I wish we had four-strokes in those days.) For the majority of the “night stalkers,” we used our electric motors at near full power and would slowly troll these flats with #11 Floating Rapalas. The size was crucial and several of us preferred the three treble hooks compared to the two trebles that were on a #9. At the speed we were going our baits would dive to about four to six feet, and at times we would pinch on a split shot two to three feet above the Rapala, just to gain an extra foot in depth. This was a deadly method for taking walleyes at night, working very shallow water efficiently and effectively. You know the amazing thing, “it still works.”
Many anglers across the country either live or fish on a body of water that has a lot of pressure. Just because of the recreational use during the daytime, it doesn’t mean that you can’t go out after dark and catch plenty of fish. Gull Lake in Brainerd, Pokegama Lake in Grand Rapids, and Lake Carlos in Alexandria are all clear lakes with a lot of activity during the day. These are all prime candidates for the after hours trolling techniques that were applied over 30-40 years ago. I’ll tell you one thing, some of the monster walleyes that live in those lakes only “come out to play” after dark. We have noticed a preference for larger baits at night, and it could be the size, profile and target of these larger baits plus the forage that exists, make them so attractive. Most often, except for early season presentations, I have always preferred the larger floating Rapalas, specifically sizes F11 thru F18.
Years ago, we trolled with medium size spinning reels loaded with 10-pound test monofilament line (low stretch if possible) and seven-foot medium action rods. They would work just fine under today’s standards. Nowadays, with the insurgence of super braids, Daiwa line counter reels, there has become a little more sophistication. Having the proper amount of line out time after time can be important to have your bait run at the proper depth, consistently. Just remember with line counter reels you are held to a trolling presentation. There are situations where a spinning reel like the Daiwa Tatula LT 3000 loaded up with Sufix Advace monofilament or Sufix 832 Braid, can be functional, either trolling or casting.
As the years have come and gone, there have been even changes in the floating Rapala, and they are all for the better. With 19 different fish attracting colors, and seven different sizes, it’s safe to say that the Rapala family of floaters has taken on major cosmetic changes and will continue to provide anglers with the best minnow baits in the industry.
The newest members to the Ultimate Minnow family have been the Husky Jerk, the X-Rap, Ripstop, and ShadowRap; they have become somewhat glamour children and upstart replicas, but like all the Rapala products, they are fish catching machines. With neutral buoyancy capabilities, awesome color combinations, alluring and erratic action, all of these mentioned baits are the new state of the art minnow baits that can be used in additional presentations. When the retrieve is paused for any reason these baits stay at the same depth and just put the brakes on. These baits are lethal for every species of game fish, and there is a fond affection from walleyes, smallmouth bass, northern pike and several species of trout and salmon. Whether trolled or fished as a jerk bait, fast or slow, make no mistake this bait is truly a masterpiece. All of these baits are available in numerous colors and several sizes to fit your angling situations.
Going back in time, to methods and lures that have worked for decades, is not the worst idea one ever had. The foundations that we have built in each other’s world of fishing and the techniques we have learned, are all part of the puzzle, called success. The many things on the water that I have learned over the years are etched in my mind forever. Artificial baits, such as Rapala, continue to build foundations in fishing that will far outlive us all. “Don’t be on the water without em.”