Lessons Learned From the Lure Test Tank

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Bruce and Test Tank with nice acting lure.

Some have asked, “So what good is your test tank?” in various ways, some with sarcasm in their voice. Besides being fun to build on the off-fishing season, there is a lot to be learned from testing lures. (see this facebook page for a video of the test tank) One was “… does it measure my urge to dive in there and eat the lure or what?” The key to remember here is use bait or lure that the FISH like and are attracted to, not people. Just because you like pizza, it does not mean the fish will like it. On the other hand just because you don’t like worms, don’t assume fish will not like them.

One thing that I learned from my Depth Raider speed and temp probe (which I installed temporarily in the tank) is that I have been running too fast for many of my lures. At 2.5 to 3 mph, many lures do not perform very well and I have trolled at this speed very often. The most effective speed for my lures seems to be closer to, if not under, 2 mph. I’ll have to do some testing on this next summer to see if we catch more fish at SLOWER speeds.

I have been able to verify and understand why many of my under performing lures don’t catch fish. If they don’t have the right shape, they just kind of wiggle in-effectively at most speeds. In this case, for some of them, I have been able to bend and tweak them to get the desired action. Others are just too heavy of metal to perform well at the speeds that I troll. Maybe other fishermen would have luck with them when fishing for King Salmon on the lower great lakes though, since they are more aggressive fish.

The shape of my best performing lures is now impressed in my mind, so I can tweak some of the less active lures into the same profile. I have done this on a few already with good test tank results. I can’t wait until next summer so I can try them on real fish – the proof is in the pudding as they say.

I now see why my all-time most favorite lure, which I lost last summer, (see Fishing Tips blog post here) was so good. I remember the special bend (that was not original, but came about from fish abusing it) that made it flutter so attractively that even a fish gorged with smelt could not resist. It was a Diamond King with yellow and orange paint that, by the time I lost it, was all chipped and very un-attractive looking to most fishermen. The fish did not care about the missing paint, but they sure liked the action. I have other Diamond Kings, with similar shape AND colors that do not perform as well, but with this new information that I learned from my test tank, I have adjusted them – now they are all absolutely DEADLY! (again, we will see next summer)

Now, after testing many lures and brands, I think I can eliminate the urge to buy a new lure just by looking at it’s profile and weight. Heavy lures just do not perform well for me and if the profile is not right, and I’m not sure I can adjust it, I won’t buy it. I have many lures in my box that have been purchased just because they looked good, that I will just get rid of now.  Also, I will stay away from buying lures just to try them. (eventually, I just might re-coup my time and material investment in this test tank just by not buying new lures)

Some of my lures have been bent from fish, or carelessness from being stepped on and I have retired them from fishing. Maybe I can re-shape them and test in the tank before putting them back into service.

I don’t have to waste precious fishing time trying out lures. For example, I got a box full of old lures from Gramma Tilla recently that I have been testing in the tank. This has proven many of them in-effective, at least in my eyes – no action or un-attractive action. On the other hand, there are a few old ones from the box that I can’t wait to drag down deep for lake trout because I just know they’ll catch me some fish – only time will tell. (more on this next summer) Many of these old lures are home made, one of which is made from a solid silver spoon. I thought this might be a good lure to try on the lake next summer, but after seeing that it has NO action in the tank, I will not waste any time fishing with it. In other words, it looks good, but only on the wall.

Do you have any lure you’d like to test? Bring them over and we’ll put ’em to the “Tank Test” to see if they look yummy!

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About Brian Helminen

Brian is the owner and Captain of Sand Point Charters, LLC. He also owns and operates Designotype Printers, Inc. with his wife, Margaret. They have a cottage on Lac La Belle that can be rented by the week in the summertime.

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