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Lazy Crank for huge Asps

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Lazy Crank for huge Asps
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Every angler while being out fishing, was trying at least once to tempt a large Asp to take. Frequently feeding just in front of angler or in a current close to anglers position. Even the use of every single lure that you have is not helping out. Large fish was feeding undisturbed, not reacting to anything that You’ve been trying to tempt it with, serving to its feeding zone.

It happens, that from time to time we see the attack of a large Asp followed by complete silence. Even long casting to such a fish is not getting any takes, and fish doesn’t show again. From my experience, once noticed Asp is not usually swimming anywhere far, just dives to deeper water. Like a large trout it has it’s own feeding grounds and those places where it rests, gaining strengths before next attack, observing baitfish as it gathers and choosing proper moment for next action.
Every spin-fisherman has theoretical knowledge how to catch an asp. But not all can present a real specimen asp. Most of anglers look for asp on the top of rock dike or in the middle parts of the currents. But there you can usually catch smaller ones, which take our lures without much hesitation. Large asp is the fish of the end of the currents, deeper water and steady stream. It is a fish that You will find in the autumn deep river – cut bank, in the swirls below sunken tree. Below mid – river rock, on the edge of deep riffle and shallow reef. Below any current deflecting obstruction, that gives some shelter to baitfish, if there is any deep water around. Such places can be inflows of reefs, places with swirling currents, old, interrupted dikes. Our chances are better if there are some sunken trees upstream of such a place, flow is steady and there is some nearby deeper riffle with roaches and chubs dwelling in.
Tackle

My hunt for river asp isn’t a play with small fish. That is why all the tackle have to be very solid and reliable. It isn’t a very rare occasion that bleak – like crank is attacked by a zander or catfish. Very large asp is well capable of demolishing trebles, breaking even a strong mono or  destroying so good looking snaps. Just to add to that, places that we will be fishing are full of sunken obstacles and it is a pity to left a tonne of lures in the water.

When fishing for large asps I use a 3 metres long, super fast action rod, with casting weight of 32g. With this rod I can cast asp lure very far and strike the fish from a distance. I also use spinning reel in the size 3000 and, obviously, a braided line. While choosing braid vs. mono it is good to keep few aspects in mind. Braid gives us same breaking strength as mono, but with much smaller diameter. But braided line is also less stretcheable and if fish takes really aggressively it can break in that moment. From my observation I see that asps are fighting much more aggressively on such low – stretch combo. Last season I tested braid and mono on many occasions and conclusions were the same.

While fishing on light tackle, one day I hooked 75cm long asp. After short run fish become calm and allowed to be brought to a boat without much fuss, and after few last short runs allowed me to land it very quickly. It all took maybe a minute. The same day, after swapping to combo with braided line I hooked asp 65cm long. Even though the  fish was much smaller it gave me a nice fight. Take was similar. Hit and run. But on braided line asp was not planning to become calm. It was shaking its head, few times jumped out from the water and made few long runs. After approximately 3 minutes I was finally able to land an extremely tired fish. And I remember a lot of such examples.

 

When fishing for large asps I decided practically not to choose lures other than sinking cranks. Only if they are not effective I use large spoons or minnow-shaped softbaits. When I was using twisters, zanders where very often by-catch, so I’m not using them any more. All my cranks resemble bleaches, chubs or silver breams. I use the last ones mainly during fall time. Sinking crankbait allows you to reach proper depths quickly, which relates to a number of takes. Large asp will take a lure much more willingly if it doesn’t need to chase it for a distance of few metres.

If there are no takes I change my lures frequently, to find the proper one in the shortest amount of time. I change them mostly using the action factor. I choose the colour only when I’m done with choosing the most successful action for the lures.

What is interesting, for most of the year lures which have almost no action seem to be the best. Especially when asps are feeding on shoals of large bleaches. When I was testing both company made and hand made lures I observed that the most successful have very delicate action.  Even that fast current and many swirls logicically will make it hard for predator to localize its prey, the lures with close – to – none action proved to be the most successful in such locations. It took me some time to convince myself to such lures. First of the kind – Thrill made by Salmo was lying in my box for few weeks before it was finally put into the water. But in the first cast this lure gained me a take! And just by coincidence I have discovered very effective way of presenting this lure. That day I was fishing with a fresh braid. Just after the very long cast I have discovered that there is a small knot on my spool. While I was untangling my braid lure was drifting with the current to the shore. When I finally managed to free my line I lifted my rod and started a fast retrieve just under the surface. Take was instant. Very gentle with long run of the fish. Thrill was almost not working, but still tempted the  asp. That day I caught 3 more asps fishing the same way. This adventure changed completely the way I see fishing for asps. I decided to put away stereotypes and start to explore a new way to success. Dead-looking piece of foam painted like a live bleach become a start of great catches. Today three quarters of my boxes are reserved exclusively for this lure.

Inflows and mid-river reefs

 

Inflow is an ideal place for a large asp, but only when it is wide, deep and with stones – covered bottom. Flow has to be distinct and beyond the rocks there has to be silent and deep water, where baitfish might find some rest. I have noticed that the stronger the flow and deeper the water is, asp will find their places further in the swirls created behind the inflow. If the water is very thin, flow is low and current is calm fish will be positioned closer to the inflow, sometimes even in-front of it. In such places you will barely see surface attacks typical for asps. Smaller fish are usually attacking baitfish in the close surrounds of inflows, under the shores or in the currents. It has to be remembered, though, not to avoid such locations, even if a longer observation tells us that there is no large fish there. If the inflow is wide and deep I cast my lure across it, sometimes even a bit upstream and I allow my lure to drift on tight line. With pauses I retrieve about a metre of my line, sometimes a metre and a half. But I do this by raising up the tip of my rod, very slowly. Thanks to that lure looks like a weak fished, loosing its energy to fight the current. In such places takes are usually very strong, with a long run of the fish downstream. On inflows you can expect a take in every place, as well in the swirls below the reef, if you will retrieve your lure fast, as in the inflow, or in the currents below the obstacle creating the inflow.

In the beginning of October  I found such inflow on my river. There was a gap of 30 to 40 metres between the reefs. Water was deep, with strong current. I was fishing there mainly in the morning time. Under the shore, close to the reefs, asps were feeding almost all the time. But they were not the large ones. I managed to check it by catching few of them, none exceeding 60cm in length. So I started to fish the inflow systematically and precisely. First, I fished the start of the inflow, catching one fish of about 70cm. Then I fished the mid-section. In the place where two currents merge, in a typical wedge, the stationed and gently jerked lure was attacked by a huge asp. The run lasted for dozen of seconds, and then the fish jumped, hooking itself loose. I discovered later that one of the trebles hooks was straighten…

 

Shorelines

 

While fishing along the river bank cut by the current we have to look for any obstacles creating hiding places for baitfish. Fallen trees, old drain works remains, reefs. Each of those places is worth to be fished first by  fishing with the current, then by fishing downstream. Crank fished upstream may be attacked in first cast. But it happens sometimes that it is worth to cast several, sometimes dozen times to the same place. If fish are not reacting it may be worth to fish such a place downstream.

Shorelines may be special places. You can catch every predator there and asp caught in such locations are often the most difficult ones to catch. Especially those large ones. Who masters catching asps along the shorelines cut by the current, from between fallen trees, will manage to catch them anywhere, on almost any spot.

Ideal riverbank is made from sand and clay. But current should not be moving any sand. Bottom should be hard and deep, covered with rocks and trees. Current should be strong and more or less steady. If you observe splashes from silver breams or evening surface feeding of small chubs, around the branches sticking out of the water, you may be sure that large asps are not far away.

Once, I managed to prove to my friend, who had not believed in it, that in such zander location you can catch an asp deliberately. As soon as the sun started to shine to the top of the trees baitfish started to feed. Under one of the trees some large predator started a real feast. Attack closely resembled those of the catfish. My friend was trying hard to catch that fish with a bulky crankbait, while I sat and watched his attempts. Finally he gave up, went out of the water and told me that it is my turn now to catch that catfish. I just smiled, knowing well that what is causing splashes of the baitfish is not a catfish. On my third cast with Salmos Thrill I hooked a large asp. Exactly 75 cm. In one hour I managed to catch following two fish of similar size. Each one slowly presented Thrill, jerked gently every 2 or 3 turns of reel handle.

Sand and gravel reefs

Sand and gravel reefs are places specially liked by the large asps. I fish there similarly as on the inflows.  I fish slowly the top and the close to the top slopes of the reef. After having finished with the top of the reef I start to send my lure further from the top of the reef. Sometimes I allow my lure to fall slowly to the deepest parts below the reef, just to raise it close to the surface by few fast retrieves and rapid moves of the tip of my rod. I worked the trick for such places, that allowed me to catch some nice fish on few occasions.  After the cast I hold my rod vertically to the water surface and I jerk the tip of my rod to the sides when retrieving. Something between 10 and 2 o’clock. Takes  usually are when lure is accelerating to the left or right. I think that such presentation imitates fast attempts of a small baitfish to escape to the sides, after spotting a predator. It is worth to accelerate your retrieve after fast jerks to the sides.

Main current

It is the location of the largest of the asps. If only there are some obstacles on the bottom, that gives a cover for the asps, and there are some feeding grounds of roach or silver bream near there. It takes only a larger rock or mogul on the bottom and such place may be a potentially good spot for large asps. When fishing the main current it is good to find deep and long trough. Fishing in such places is not an easy job to do. Depth and strong current makes it very hard to get small and twinkling lure close to the bottom. I fish such places across. I start on their top, and cast my lure some distance upstream, so it can reach wanted depth before getting to the start of the trough. It is quite similar to coarse fishing with a float on the river. It is worth, while controlling the drift of the lure on tight line, to jerk it about a metre up. I do this with my rod only. And that is how I fish troughs, working my way downstream.

If the water is very deep it is worth to fish such places first close to the bottom, then mid layers of the water, and surface layers in the end. If we fish such locations from a boat it is worth to anchor it few metres upstream, and some distance to the side of the trough. Such anchoring will allow us to keep our lure in one place for some moment, it is worth to play our lure on a stand from time to time, especially near the underwater obstacles.

Asp tricks

Being well theoretically prepared, we go fishing. We choose interesting spots in which we expect fish to be and try to choose the best out of them – it will be our fishing spot. When hunting for a large asp I don’t run here and there, making few occasional cast on every spot. I fish one location precisely, it sometimes takes me even few hours. If I fish the reefs I cast my crank far beyond the currents. I close the bail, retrieve the loose line and allow current to work my lure. Every few moments I retrieve a dozen cm of line and jerk the rod tip. Lure gentle tap the bottom, imitating weak fish. When lure reach the fast currents I raise my rod so the lure can raise to the surface. I’m still working it very slow and pause from time to time, allowing it to fall slowly few dozen cm. After it leaves the currents I accelerate it gently. Then, depending on how fish are feeding I either retrieve it fast with jerks of my rod tip or retrieve it slow with pauses, almost like for zanders. Takes are usually when lure raise from the bottom when entering fast currents, or leaves them and moves to the slower water. You have to be very patient when fishing such way, but we are not targeting small fish, are we? And those large ones are not so frequent.
The most important thing when fishing for large asps on slowly retrieved crankbaits is the presentation of the lure in such way, that their movement resembles weak fish, easy to be targeted by a lazy asp. So do not rush your retrieve,  even when fish are responding well  to such a faster one. Slower retrieve may not offer us so many takes, but I’m sure that you will be glad with the size of your catch.
We fish the troughs that we expect asps to be present in very similar way. It is worth to tap on the bottom with heavy jig head to know the spot specific and possible obstacles when you fish from the shore. If you fish from the boat it is worth to give it few swims, to learn the bottom characteristic on your sonar. If we learn the characteristic of such trough and we know where  the rocks are, where is the sunken tree or where some hole was washed in the bottom – we can tie lure to our line and start to fish. We cast it a bit upstream and retrieve it slowly, jerking our rod tip. When our lure gets closer to the localised before structures we raise the tip of the rod, imitating the escape of the fish, but we should not do this fast. We have to remember that our lure should imitate the fish which is weak. When our crank passes the structure we allow it to sink to the bottom and continue our retrieve, remembering to jerk the tip of the rod from time to time. We can expect the takes when imitating the escape of the fish to the surface. You have to be very vigilant all the time, because large asp can attack a crank slowly falling to the bottom, and bad timing with strike usually equals losing a beautiful catch.

We fish sunken trees from the upstream side at the start. There, in the swirl baitfish rest. In the washed hole just below roaches and chubs are hiding usually, and asp are not far away from such place. I cast my crank as far as I can upstream from the sunken tree and retrieve it with the current as close to the obstacle as I can. I retrieve my line slowly, just to speed a little  the lure from the current. I jerk the tip of my rod to imitate the best I can the behaviour of the injured fish. At most of the times takes are very powerful and sure. When our lure is passing the sunken tree we should expect the attack. But quite often fish will follow our lure almost to our position, just to attack it in front of us. Frequently it finishes with huge splash of the water and destruction of our tackle. If there is no takes I fished such sunken tree from the downstream side. I try to present my lure as close to the bottom and to the tree as I can

While fishing the “lazy crank” downstream I observed that asp takes are very gentle. Almost like a zander ones. That is why I recommend very fast rod and even a braided line, to feel this gentle tap on the rod tip and react fast. Fish caught in such a way are usually hooked by the tip of the nose, on the tail treble of the crank. What is interesting, such retrieved crank is usually attacked by larger asps, over 60cm. When fishing this July and August from around 40 asps that I caught that time only two were below 60cm, rest was between 60 to 85 cm.

Size and colour

Typical asp lures generally resembles with their colour a bleak, dace or chub. So we should be armed with lures in such colours. But it is worth to have something different as well. Asp thanks to his great vision should generally avoid chartreuse, yellow or orange lures, treating them as inedible and unnatural. But sometimes it happens that such a fluo coloured lure, differentiating a lot from asp natural prey is gaining takes, while natural looking ones are avoided by an asp. When fishing in crystal clear water it is worth to keep attention to details and buy lures exactly imitating asp prey. I fish mostly with bleak imitation in olive, blue or metallic silver. The darker it is, the brighter lures I use.

I don’t use snaps and tie my lures directly to the line with a loop not restricting their action, so the lures are working better and moving freely. When I fish during summer I use smaller, around 7cm lures. Large quantities of fry sometimes makes this size even to large, especially when fishing close to the rocky river shore. But if we plan to fish between fallen trees and the inflows between the reefs seven cm long lure is perfect for summer fishing. When it is getting colder and leaves start to change their colours I reach for larger lures. From September on I fish with 9 cm and larger crankbaits. The presentation during the fall remains the same. I fish the same spots as during the summer, practically the same way.

 

Weather

 

Each one of us has his own theories and observations about feeding of fish, depending on weather, atmospheric pressure and moon phases. I observed, that if we localize a spot that is rich in asps, especially the large ones we can always catch at least one large fish, not depending on weather. Especially if we give it some attention and time. Ideal weather for asp eldorado is incoming weather front. Few hours before fish are getting into some kind of feeding frenzy and attack everything that moves. Even though specimen asp are not an easy catch.

Last year, during such a day I went with few of my friends fishing for asps. We were fishing from the shore, fish were attacking baitfish every few seconds. Baitfish in panic were sometimes even jumping from water to the shore, but we were still unable to catch anything. Very fast, typical asps speed was not giving us any results. So I decided to sit for a while and observe the water. I’d noticed that fish were attacking in the swirl below the obstacles, very close to them. There was a very large asp feeding close to a rock which held a few sticks that had been carried by the water. Attacks were repeating from the side of the main current. I went in to the water to the edges of my waders. The rock was approximately 40 metres away from me. I was casting my crank few metres upstream from the rock, from the side of the main current. I allowed my crank to drift to the through beneath the rock and I was trying to get my lure to the surface, as close to the rock as I could. I won’t tell you how many lures I left on the sticks before I managed to work out all the details, so the lure surfaced exactly between the sticks, below the rock When it happened the attack was instant. A geyser of water and jump in to the air. Fish instantly took downstream, what allowed me to fight the fish safely. Fish was over 70cm long and very fat as for a summer asp. I caught two similar asps from that place. Every attack was spectacular and fight with the fish was very exciting. The secret came to be the slow retrieve of the crank to the through, getting the lure close to the obstacle and then surfacing it fast, as close to the lure-consuming sticks as possible. My friends, who were catching in usual express style were having very poor results, catching four asps by three of them, and the largest was around 60cm.

 

The hunt for specimen

 

Catching large asps is not only a matter of choosing right location, tackle and proper technique. It is also the strategy, the struggle, not only with the fish but with yourself as well. It happens that you fish for few days blank, it happens that you will see an asp, following your lure right to your feet, just to turn around and swim away. It is easy to give up then, to be tempted to fish for a small and medium fish, so much easier to catch. And it is the biggest mistake that an asp hunter can make. Hunter that is interested in those old, large and lazy asps, which can be very choosy and won’t attack express-like moving lure, unless they are in feeding frenzy.
Without a doubt – they are not the fish for impatient ones. The most important is consequence and persistence. I have never noticed, that if you fish deep you have to prowl on the shore or be invisible. You just have to try to be quiet and not move suddenly, not to spook the fish.

It even happened to me, that after neck – braking creeps trough the nettles in the unbelievable heat, when I finally managed to take a casting position – I was tempting an asp for almost an hour, without any results, even though fish was obviously feeding under sunken tree. When I finally decided to stand up and stretch my legs and did the last cast under the tree, the take occurred. I think these are not the asps which are spooky, it is their prey which is easy to spook and that is what makes them really aware. Or maybe they are just following the prey fish closer to the bottom, which can be very useful for us.

If we are sure that asps are present in the spot, they are following our lures but not making decision to attack, it is worth sometimes to change your lure. Large, wide, sliver bream – like spoon might be the thing to break the impasse and will bring you success. There are situations when minnow – like soft bait made from hard rubber can be deadly efficient. One from the kind that only the tail is wobbling.

You will find the perfect lure for the day by trying in error method as the fastest way. Systematic approach and stubbornness sooner or later will bring you much – wanted results. By learning your spot you will soon learn the habits of the fish in given conditions. By skilfully merging theory and practise learned on the water you will be fructified by the results – a beautiful fish. Nice fights with the fish, that are capable of getting few dozen metres of line from your reel, jump of the water and finally get loose by straightening the trebles of your lures.

I recommend you to try to fish for asps with “lazy cranks”, to arm yourself with patience and persistence. Those features will help you to meet with the asp of the lifetime. Those large and fat asps are the crude strength and fight till the end. After the first large asp an angler who tries to catch them deliberately, will not see other species. Like in trance, he will direct his steps to his favourite fishing spot just to feel the atmosphere of such fishing. Adrenaline, that levels are sky high after every attack of the large predator seen. Just to finally feel the mighty hit on your rod and listen to the sweetest melody – a reel screaming for few dozen seconds, that sometimes will make you feel that it will not finish at all!

 

Michał Olejniczak
Dictionary of used phrases.

 

  1. Currents – the lane of swirls of the river current, on the edge of the current and the calm water, created below the obstacles.
  2. Reef – Rocky shallows in the river current, creating rapids and interrupted flow of the water.
  3. Inflow – area of faster current appearing between two obstacles, like between two reefs.
  4. Shoreline –bank of the river cut by the current
  5. Sand and gravel reef – shallow place on the main current of the river, made from sand and gravel, with upstream slope being very gentle, and downstream slope being very sharp.
  6. Through – longitudinal hole in the rivers bottom, washed by a very strong river current.
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