Lures, lures, lures.
It is a gross understatement to say that southwest Montana is an angling paradise. From big rivers and small streams to stock ponds, high alpine lakes, and massive reservoirs, an entire lifetime of fishing can easily be had in the range of a tank of gas. While it might be fun to haul around a tackle pack the size of a draft horse, the beauty of lure angling lies in its simplicity. In this region of Montana, there are four types of lures that are primarily used to target trout.
In-line spinners or “spinning lures” incorporate a rotating blade above a weighted body and a hook. These three elements are threaded onto a piece of heavy gauge wire that is twisted at both ends to create a loop. The loop at the top is for tying to the line, the loop at the bottom end secures the hook. When pulled through the water, the blade rotates like a propeller, creating flash and disturbance. Fish find this combination appetizing—or irritating—or a little bit of both.
Stick baits are pieces of wood or plastic shaped to look and act like baitfish when pulled through the water. The first models were hand-carved from wood. Many of the best modern ones are still made of wood, with the addition of a plastic lip, which enhances the swimming action of the lure.
Jigs are simple fishhooks with a lead ball formed around the hook just below the eye. Some “jig heads” come in specific molded shapes meant to imitate the appearance of forage fish. Jigs are commonly used with live or dead bait or soft plastic skirts or tails. They can also be dressed like flies.
Spoons are flakes of metal that wobble or spin when pulled through the water. There are two holes at either end—one is for tying to the fishing line and the other is for attaching the hook. The hook attachment is usually done via a small split ring. Spoons can either be painted to match forage fish, polished to enhance their metallic sparkle, or both. They can be fished alone or with the addition of bait, such as night crawlers or leeches.
It is possible to be a highly successful angler with just five lures. Some of these are tried-and-true classics, others are newer on the scene, but all of them are proven fish-catchers and worth a try next time you hit the water.
1. WillowStrike Holographic Rainbow/Trout
These little lures are flat-out deadly on any waterbody where juvenile rainbow trout are in abundance. This lure is dense enough to sink relatively quickly, and the willow-style blade spins fast and seductively at a variety of reeling speeds. The unique holographic paint produces great shimmer and shine even on the cloudiest of days. It’s available in five weights from 1/16-ounce to 1/2-ounce.
These lures are designed for controlled-depth fishing. They sink at a much faster rate than similarly styled stick baits. The L-Minnow is highly productive on lakes and in deep pools on larger rivers. This lure is versatile—it can be casted or trolled, and its unique wobbling action can entice even the most finnicky of fish. Available in ten different patterns, the L-Minnow is a great go-to when fishing water that holds numerous species of game fish
3. Micro Glass Minnow Series Jig
If the fish are biting, they will most assuredly take one of these. Jig it, twitch it, troll it, or strip it, the Micro Glass Minnow Jig is so effective it’s almost cheating. Handmade in Helena, these jigs come in three different “flavors” that will match the forage fish of many targeted species. While they are designed to be used like traditional jigs with the addition of various baits, these little lures perform quite well “naked.”
4. Colorado Spoon
Thomas Fishing Lures
This little spoon should be a staple in any tackle box. It can be casted, trolled, stripped, and twitched. It comes in three different color combos, but those in the know tend to opt for the silver and gold, 1/10-ounce weight. Not only can this spoon be slung with any spinning outfit, it can also be used on a six-weight or heavier fly rod to great effect, when swung or stripped.
5. Aglia Spinner
It would be sacrilege to leave out this legendary lure from any list. Available in more colors than you can shake an Ugly Stik at, this lure is truly the go-to for most spin anglers. One cannot go wrong with a couple of #2 (1/6-oz.) gold spinners. These lures are killer when fished with the current—retrieve it just fast enough to keep the blade spinning and hold on.
A Note on Hooks
Fishing with lures is a surefire way to catch a limit. However, because they are so effective, lures may catch fish you’d prefer to release. With the exception of the jig, all of the aforementioned lures come standard with one, and in some cases, two treble hooks. Treble hooks are virtually impossible to remove from any deeply hooked fish without causing mortal injury. To ease hook removal, and ensure post-catch fish survival, simply snip off two of the factory prongs from the factory hooks and pinch the remaining barb. Better yet, remove the factory hooks altogether, and replace them with a red Gamagakstsu trailing or egg hook via a small split ring. The red adds a little extra ‘blood” and is sure to entice those lunkers looking for an easy meal.
Kurt Dehmer owns Durty Kurty’s Guide Service in Bozeman.