Funny Fish Favorites - The Fisherman

Funny Fish Favorites

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The venerable Jumpin’ Minnow is not just a striped bass slayer, albies and bonito will also crush this pint-sized spook. Photo by Capt. Corey Pietraszek

A selection of lures that have proven effective on those funny albies.

Albie season is a small window in a long season so making the most of your opportunities is critical. Yet too many waste away those weeks with the “same old, same old”. If you broaden your horizons a smidge, you could be making a lot more hay during that sliver of sunshine. There are a whole litany of lures at our disposal for these fish. If it’s 2 to 5 inches long with a hook in it, it will probably catch an albie at some point. Yet, despite the surplus of options, too many fishermen use only one or two lure varieties, and in even fewer ways. However, I’m also going to tell you that lots of other things work too, and sometimes they work when your favorites do not. Expand your albie arsenal this season and you just might squeak out a few more hardtails in an all too short season.

jetty
For the afflicted, albie fever is a September marathon that we hope will last well into October.

1. Soft Plastic Shads

PADDLETAIL
Keitech Easy Shiner

Pick a shad, any shad. Make it 3 to 4 inches, put it on a 1/4- to 3/4-ounce jighead, hum it out there, and hold on. For the most part, they will all get the job done as long as the tail kicks. The primary advantage of these lures is that they’re mounted on a leadhead and fished on a straight retrieve, as opposed to all the rod action a soft jerkbait needs. This means that their action isn’t compromised by strong crosswinds. The bowed line of a crosswind will make jerkbaits difficult to work as the contact to the lure is compromised. A small shad on a jig head though just chugs along, with its lifelike action preserved and its tail kicking. Also in regards to presentation, a straight retrieve can certainly get it done with these lures. However, a retrieve that alternates between a burning and moderate pace can get hit more readily on tough days.

For specific models, I like the Keitech Easy Shiner and its knockoffs. They produce a great swimming action, even at slow speeds. The 3-inch Cocahoe Minnow is a great albie shad, and the new 3-inch Al Gags Whip-It Fish, which is designed for maximum casting distance, is definitely worth a shot this season. As with soft plastic jerkbaits, white and pink are great colors, along with patterns containing glitter, which add an extra dimension to these offerings.

2. Small Sebiles

STICK-SHADD
Sebile Stick Shadd 90

The Sebile Stick Shadd and Magic Swimmer are often associated with using larger sizes for striped bass, however these lures come in many sizes, including little tiny ones that little green fish can get their pointy mouths around. More importantly, they both sport an erratic action that albies find hard to resist.

For both small Magic Swimmers and Stick Shadds, I feel as if the sinking models have the edge. The fact that they sink means that despite their small size, the lures still hold fairly well in wind and waves. It also means that you can crank the Magic Swimmer at a pretty good clip without it flying out of the water, while also being able to give it little pauses, pops, and twitches without it wobbling to the surface. Similarly, the sinking Stick Shadd can be worked hard in the same fashion to create an erratic action similar to that of soft jerkbaits, which are known albie killers. Good models for each include the Magic Swimmer 95 SK and the Stick Shadd 90 SK. The discontinued Magic Swimmer 110 Fast SK is also superb if you can find one; it’s not much larger than the 95 SK, but it casts significantly better. Finally, as with so many other albie lures, you can’t beat white for a color.

3. Small Slug-Go’s

SLUG-GO
4.5-inch Lunker City Slug-Go

If you’ve been fishing for funnies for more than 10 years or so, this lure will hardly be a secret as it was the go-to soft bait for albies at one point. I revisited it in 2020, and to my pleased astonishment, it still smoked the fish. It even managed to do so when some of those newer jerkbaits fell short. It’s a case study in trying new things and investing some effort in the overlooked.

Slug-Gos can be rigged weedless and worked like other soft jerkbaits, but I opt to fish them on a 1/4-ounce jig head 95 percent of the time. Albies do in fact hold deeper in the water column sometimes, and finding a small lure that gets down, stays down, while producing an action that the fish find appealing, is tough. I like to retrieve it somewhat slowly, accompanied by sweeps and twitches of the rod tip, but even a straight retrieve, broken with the occasional twitch is lethal. In terms of color, the usual suspects are as effective as ever, but the Arkansas shiner pattern is the real MVP for this lure. It completes the Slug-Go’s resemblance to silversides and sand eels, while its metallic iridescence adds a subtle but enticing amount of flash.

albie
The old school tins still get it done, but when the fish get finicky, it pays to have some variety in your bag.

4. Rapala X-Rap

X-Rap
Rapala X-Rap

Like the slug-go, the X-Rap is a repurposed freshwater import. Like the Sebiles, it’s a small profile hard bait with erratic action. It should come as no surprise then that albies and bonito are highly susceptible to its charms. However, it’s a lure that can be somewhat misunderstood by anglers with a strictly saltwater background.

Yes, you can toss it out there and crank it back on a straight retrieve a la Bomber or SP Minnow. However, the X-Rap is a true hard-bodied jerkbait, a class of lure well known to freshwater anglers. To get the most out of its action, it has to be worked with twitches of the rod tip, “jerks” if you will. These jerks, coupled with pauses during which the plug suspends, produce a wild darting action on a quick retrieve. Much like the Stick Shadd, the action produced is similar to that of Zoom Flukes or Albie Snax. Names aside though, the jerk isn’t everything. Short bits of retrieve from the reel causing the plug to wobble off the pause can cause hardtails to pounce as well. It is varying the retrieve and action that makes this plug effective. Sizes in the 3-1/8- to 4-3/4-inch range are the models to seek out in either the standard or saltwater varieties, both of which work. X-Raps come in all sorts of fun Willy Wonka colors, but I’ve always stuck to silver and the fish seem to like it.

5. Small Surface Plugs

JUMPIN-MINNOW
Rebel Jumpin’ Minnow

Albies on topwater is something that everyone is likely to be aware of, yet almost no one actually tries to make it happen, and for good reason. If I had to pick the least consistent producers on this list, these plugs would be it. Yet, while not always the most productive, they are the most fun when conditions favors them.

Like shads, any topwater plug that’s “albie fun-size” will probably work at some point. Specifically, I favor small spooks such as the Rapala Skitterwalk and the Rebel Jumpin’ Minnow. Most are likely familiar with using these plugs for stripers, and working them in that same walk-the-dog fashion, albeit faster, is just as effective with false albacore. In addition to greater speed, getting the lure to splash and throw water is a great albie-specific flourish on the retrieve. Furthermore, getting the lure to slash wildly nearly in place, barely moving forward, can be productive at times as well. I once had an albie blow up on a Jumpin’ Minnow like an M80, and upon landing the fish, I discovered that in its zeal, it had swallowed the plug to just behind the screw eye on the nose.

“Skimmer” plugs, like those made famous by Roberts and Spofford can be deadly on albies as well, providing one can find one in a small enough size, which can prove difficult. A 3/4-ounce version of the long-discontinued Line Stretcher from Surface Tension rides along in my albie bag each September, and it usually accounts for a few fish. These lures skip and throw water like a burned tin or epoxy jig, but are far more durable, making them an asset when that mode of topwater bite is on in rocky locales. In terms of color for either the skimmers, spooks, or whatever topwater you venture, you cannot beat variations on white, bone, and silver.

Albie season is a short and spotty affair. Chances are, you’re going to be out there on those days when things do not line up just so. This can be combated by going through a true rotation of lures, trying to unlock what the fish are into, even if the conditions are subpar. A wider selection of lures results in a wider range of fishable, and even productive, conditions. So if you find yourself flogging the water in a fishless, slack jawed stupor with the old standbys, it may be time to try a funny lure for funny fish. You may look back fondly on it come late November with drags still singing in the muffle of memory.

 

MORE TOP FUNNY LURES
Fishermen staffers have some albie favorites of their own. Below are six lures that have a proven track record as sure-fire funny fish offerings. Choose the smallest size available when targeting albies, as well as Spanish mackerel and bonito.

Flanker Speed Jig Bait
Flanker Speed Jig Bait

Yo-Zuri Hydro Minnow
Yo-Zuri Hydro Minnow

FishLab Mad Eel
FishLab Mad Eel

Hogy Epoxy Jig
Hogy Epoxy Jig

Z-Man MinnowZ
Z-Man MinnowZ

Fat Cow Epoxy Jig Fat Minnow
Fat Cow Epoxy Jig Fat Minnow

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