Years ago a Friend of my dad’s told me he had a new bait he wanted to show me. He went to the kitchen grabbed two clear boxes and handed them to me. I opened the first box and pulled out this shad shaped hard plastic bait with no bill or lip on it. I said ” what are you going to do with that”. He laughed and said it is one of the best baits on the market today. I asked him how to fish it and he told me ” throw it out and reel it back in as fast as you can. Well needless to say the bait I’m talking about is the rattle trap.
The advise I recieved on how to fish the rattle trap from my dad’s friend is the same advice or idea I believe most people have about this bait. The cast out and burn the bait back in presentation is a good one but there are many other things to consider when fishing the rattle trap.
First thing I will touch on is the name ” Rattle Trap “. Actually the bait is consider a lipless crankbait but Bill Lewis made this bait famous and naturally the name of his lipless crankbait is Rattle Trap. There are many brands of lipless crankbaits out there and everyone has their favorite. Mine just so happens to be the original rattle trap. Now, I’m not telling you that the rattle trap is the best, I’m simply saying it’s the one I have the most confidence in so it’s the one I use.
Now that we know what type of bait is the subject of our discussion let’s get into some common mistakes most anglers make when fishing this bait. The first mistake that comes to mind is the idea that the rattle trap is a cast and rip bait. What do I mean by that? Simple you cast it and reel it in as fast as possible. This presentation is only one of many you can use with this bait. Another mistake anglers make is using the wrong equipment. And the final mistake is not throwing the bait in productive areas.
Let’s start with the equipment you should use when fishing the rattle trap. First thing is the reel. Buy a good high speed reel that fits comfortable in you hand. I f you are going to throw a rattle trap all day, especially if you are burning them, you need a comfortable and fast reel. I have had people in my boat stop fishing the trap even though we were catching because they were just flat burnt out. Next thing you are going to want is a medium action rod with a fast tip. You don’t want a stiff rod. Just like a deep diving crank bait you want a rod that will give. Two reasons for this, one it’s more forgiving when you are fighting the fish with small treble hooks and two, that give in your rod will many times keep you from pulling the bait out of the fishes mouth when he hits it. One thing most anglers don’t consider when throwing a rattle trap is the type of string they use, this is very important. I do not recommend using braid because it does not stretch and you will lose more fish because of it. The size of the string you use is also important. If you are going to be burning the trap on top of grass and you need to keep it on top use 20lb test or heavier. The heavy string will help you keep it up and it will also help you from breaking off when that fish diggs down deep in that grass. Obviously if you want your bait to go deep use lighter line like 12 to 14 lbs test and that will help the bait to dive or keep it’s depth easier.
Ok, now that we have the right equipment let’s talk about where we should throw the rattle trap. This is easy, throw it where you would throw a worm, a spinnerbait, or any of you favorite baits. Basically throw it where the fish are. When I first started fishing a rattle trap I hated it, I could never catch fish on it. One day I was fishing a tournament on Toledo Bend and my partner started catching fish on the rattle trap. I took one out my box, tied it on, and started throwing it. My partner caught fish but I didn’t. I fianlly figured out what he was doing that I wasn’t and that was he was throwing his trap in cover and running it up against that cover. I stayed at Toledo for a couple of more days after the tournament and proceeded to catch an unbelievable amount of fish. I was hook on the trap ever since. The key to catching fish on the rattle trap is to put that baby in the cover and make it come in contact with that cover. If you are fishing grass make sure your trap is staying in contact with the grass, Mike Cork wrote good article on fishing traps in the grass. If you are fishing stumps make sure you are making that trap hit those stumps. This is not a bait you can worry about losing. If you want to catch fish you are going to lose some traps, that’s just the nature of this type of fishing.
We now know where to throw it, let’s talk about how to present it. Like I said at the beginning of this article I was told to throw it out and reel it back in as fast as I can. This is obviously not the only way to fish this bait. I have found that the rattle trap works good at different retrieves. The most common is to throw it over grass bed and rip it in, but sometime the grass is deep and ripping it in will not keep you in contact with the grass. Play with your retrieve, if you are not hitting the grass slow it down, or if you are hanging up in the grass speed it up. I have seen times where I berely moved the bait so I could keep it in about 12 ft of water and stay in contact with the grass. Many time I will use a rattle trap over a diving crank bait because I feel I can control my depth better. In stumps play with your retrieve to find out how they want it. I have caught them in the stumps on very fast retrieves and very slow retrieves, let the fish tell you what they want. One ther thing to consider is the size of the rattle trap. I use heavier traps when te cover is deep and lighter traps when burning them over shallow grass. Obviously the heavy trap sinks faster so it easier to keep it deep and lighter trap doesn’t sink as fast so it’s easier to keep it on top of that shallow grass.
I have been fishing rattle traps for years now and it is without a doubt one of the best baits I have ever thrown. I have put more fish in the boat with rattle traps then possibly any other bait I have ever used.Next time you fish a lipless crank bait apply these simple techniques and you too will quickly become hooked on fishing with them.