Reach Fish Where No Man Has Gone Before.
You’ve been there, I’m sure. We all have. You’re standing on the bow of a skiff, arm cocked, lure dangling, ready to cast. A moment before, you heard a smashing hit around a bend in the shoreline. As you approach the general vicinity of the strike, you hear another. But it’s strangely muffled, and you know what that means. A big fish has burrowed its way far back under the overhanging branches, and it’s rooting around, stacking bait into corners where it can feed at will. The problem? It’s so far back under the “junk” that there’s no way to present your lure. So you sit there with a wistful look on your face, listening to that big fish ravaging bait within feet of the skiff, as unreachable as the moon. So…what are your alternatives? Well, you can drift a live bait on the shadowy edge of the shoreline. You can try to sneak your plug a few inches under the overhanging leaves, knowing that a hang-up is likely. You can chug a big top-water lure through the open water and try to make enough noise to lure that fish out. And if all else fails, you can jump off the skiff screaming bloody murder and claw your way back between the branches using a few carefully selected adjectives. Hey, I’ve been tempted. But take heart. There’s a technique that — while not always practical or necessary — can change the way you approach shoreline fishing. Simply put, “skipping” provides access to fish that once seemed unreachable. If that doesn’t get your attention, what will?
When and Where to Skip Lures
Skipping works best when fish are far under some sort of structure that prohibits conventional casting methods. Mangrove shorelines — especially at higher stages of the tide — are a perfect place in which to skip a lure, but docks in residential canals make great targets, as well. Any place that offers structure, shade and some semblance of protection — as well as an overhang that seemingly negates the chance of standard casting methods — qualifies as a good spot to skip lures.
Which Lures to Skip
A wide variety of lures can be used for skipping, from hard-bodied plugs to jerk-baits, depending on the skill of the angler. Naturally, a smooth bodied lure that will “roll” or hop atop the water’s surface when cast is the best bet, and lures featuring flat sides and bulky hooks are much harder to skip. I have friends who can skip plugs under mangroves with great accuracy, but I prefer to use the skip-bait standard: a relatively smooth soft-bait rigged “Texas-style.” This article will address those types of lures specifically, since in my opinion they are ideal for this type of angling. Soft-baits were originally designed for freshwater bass fishing, and those freshwater anglers were the first to discover the advantages provided by skipping. That discovery has led to the creation of a wide variety of soft-baits that are ideal for bouncing into tight places. The Yamamoto Senko and Ika, Charlie’s Twitchin’ Shad, Slug-go, Mann’s Shadow, Berkley Power Slug, PRADCO Sling Shot, Jawtec Chatterbox, Guido’s Scatter Shad and Bass Assassin Shad Assassin, Zoom Bait Trick Worm, and others are great for skipping. “Texas style” rigging — which results in the hook being flipped 180 degrees and stuck into the body of the lure, rendering it weedless — is ideal for this application. Of course, like any type of lure, anglers will develop their own preferences. My advice: buy two or three styles and see which you like best, then stick with that brand until you master it.
How to Skip Lures
The premise behind skipping lures is easy. It’s accomplished using the same philosophy used to skip a stone across a lake’s surface, though that feat is a bit more challenging when accomplished with a rod and reel. The idea is to get the lure moving toward the intended target on a very low, flat trajectory, so that it hits the water at such an angle that it does not “dig” and sink; rather, it touches the water’s surface lightly in a series of hops, and comes to rest where the angler intended. To skip a lure, leave it hanging a couple of feet from the end of your rod, or about the length of your leader line. Start with the rod tip low and pointing toward the water, “load” the rod with a short back-swing and cast the lure — again, with a low trajectory — toward your target. As the lure moves through the air and across the surface, feather the line with your free hand. The object is to get the lure to contact the surface a few feet in front of the opening so that it skips back under the overhanging structure and comes to rest as far back into the open area as possible. Sound easy? It’s not — until you get the hang of it. This technique calls for quick reflexes and a tight drag. Big fish that pounce on skipped lures hold most of the cards; they’re already far back in the structure and a second or two of slack line is all they need to wrap you around roots or a dock piling. Your reflexes need to be sharp and your vision and hearing acute, and you’ll be engaging in short, dirty brawls that usually end — one way or another — soon after they begin.
Best Skipping Tackle
While some anglers can skip lures effectively with bait-casting reels, the rest of us mortals will do much better with a spinning outfit. Why is a spinner generally more effective? Spool spin. While bait-casting reels offer wonderful control and placement, they tend to backlash frequently when used for skipping, especially when used by inexperienced anglers. Stick to spinning reels, at least while you’re learning. A 6’-6” to 7-foot, medium to medium-heavy action rod works fine, along with a medium-sized spinning reel loaded with 10-17 lb. test (depending on the density of the structure and the size of the average fish). 20 to 30 lb. leader line is fine. Remember, the lighter line you use, the more accurate your casts will be, but go too light and you’re bound to lose many of the up-close battles. I tend to use 12 lb. test for most of my shoreline skipping, but I’ll quickly switch to 10 lb. test if most of the fish seem to be on the small side. I lose the occasional pig, but I prefer the accuracy afforded by lighter line, as well as the greater demands it puts on me when a big fish is hooked.
A Word About Tides
Skipping lures can work well at practically every tide stage, with the notable exception of very high tides that literally push the water surface up flush with the overhanging structure. Very low tides often force fish into deeper water, so to have your best chance at skipping success, check your tide charts and try to fish the middle stages of each tide. Keep an eye open for signs that betray feeding fish, like those maddening pops far under the mangroves that used to drive you crazy until you learned about this creative technique.
How to skip cast
2. Assuming you’re casting right to left, slowly sweep the rod back to your right, keeping the point low.
3. Once the lure swings back horizontal with the water’s surface, stop and allow the weight of the lure to “load” the rod.
5. As the rod approaches the starting point, abruptly stop the forward sweep and “snap” the rod tip in the direction of your target. Imagine that you’re trying to skip a stone across the water’s surface.
7. When performed correctly, your lure will hit a few feet in front of the intended target and proceed to skip under the overhanging structure. Naturally, the angle of your cast will vary based on the distance to your target and the amount of space under the overhanging structure
Note: As you perfect your technique, experiment by skipping your lure off of the water’s surface both closer to and farther away from the boat. By learning how to skip lures using a wide variety of angles, you’ll be prepared for practically any casting challenge.