Casting the lure towards the vast green mat of milfoil, I cranked slowly on the handle of the baitcast reel, tensing instinctively. Somehow I just knew a strike was coming. Seconds later the mat of milfoil literally exploded as a seven pound largemouth nailed the soft lure shimmying in a v-wake across the surface.
After a challenging fight, I worked the fish—and about a pound of milfoil—in close and carefully slipped the hook out of his bony white jaw. None the worse for wear, the fat bass flipped its tail disdainfully and darted back into the lake.
The rat had come through again!
Few lures are more exciting to fish than a topwater rat imitation. Although these small rodents are not common food items, a number of gamefish feed on rats, voles, moles and mice whenever they get the opportunity.
I’ve caught smallmouth, largemouth, peacock bass, pickerel, pike, trout and muskie on these lures. In some areas redfish and speckled trout even feed on rodents. In fact, it’s doubtful that any predatory gamefish would pass them up when given the chance.
Vary Your Offerings
A number of rat lures are available. Most are made of soft plastic, with either solid or hollow bodies. Various methods are used to make them weedless. Some have hooks embedded Texas-style inside the body, while others have double hooks barely protruding on top. Both arrangements work fairly well. This is a good thing, because the best action with these lures comes near cover such as stickups, brush piles, log jams and especially weed beds.
Try Different Retrieves
Start out with a slow and steady presentation. If that doesn’t produce, move to a more erratic motion. If you are still struggling to get bites begin speed up your cadence. The fish will let you know what they want on any given day.
Target Your Casts
Openings and pockets in vegetation are especially good spots to try. Bass and pike often hole up in these locations waiting for a morsel to swim by. Inch the lure up to these openings and then slowly twitch it across them. Your rat should look as though is trying to escape. Points and logs that hang out over the water are also great places to try. A mouse could walk out on the log and then slip in.
Wait To Set The Hook
To set the hooks firmly you need a rod with some backbone and stout line. It’s often tough to connect on strikes with this type of lure. Usually the best bet is to not set the hook immediately. It can be hard to do, but if you yank too fast you’ll likely pull the lure away before the fish has it fully in its mouth. Wait until you see the mouse disappear and feel the fish’s weight, then pull back hard!
If a fish strikes, but misses, don’t immediately reel in. Let the lure sit motionless for a minute, and then twitch it a little. The fish will think it wounded the rodent and return to finish it off. If you continue missing strikes consider adding a stinger hook.
Bonus: Targeting Trout
These lures will also catch trout in rivers. Large browns and rainbows are inordinately fond of small rodents. Use a slow, smooth retrieve to tempt these fish. Most of the time they’ll be found hovering beside logjams and sweepers along shore waiting for the rodents to stumble in.