Dropping water temperatures have a major influence on the zander in Amsterdam. They are rapidly becoming much more passive and increasingly ignore lures that were very successful until recently. Aggressively fished vib lures are completely ignored. Also, the number of bites on soft baits decreases rapidly. At the same time, you can see the fish slowly but surely looking for deeper water. At the bottom of the slope, at 8 to 10 meters depth, the fishfinder shows more and more signals of zander. Shallower spots, up to 5 meters deep, are becoming emptier.
Zander keeps feeding in shallow water
It then seems logical to focus on the deeper water. After all, that’s where we see the most fish. That turns out to be a misconception because although you see concentrated schools of fish, they do not or hardly bite. Single zander may make a mistake by touching your soft bait. But waiting over half an hour for a bite doesn’t make any sense either. It turns out to be much more effective to focus on the zander that still feeds on the shallows – even when their numbers are decreasing. These fish are apparently not yet ready to hibernate in the deep water. They have to eat a little more to get through the long months. That is good news for us: these zanders are at least prepared to attack our lures. That is if you choose the right lures and the right technique.
The power of the drop shot technique
Last week we were able to properly test the effectiveness of various techniques. I have been out on the water four times and have clearly noticed that actively fished shads and vib lures become less effective. And that while we could still see quite a few signals of zander several inches above the bottom. This is active fish for sure. In any case, these zanders seem to be active. The solution turned out to be simple: switch to the drop shot. By offering the soft bait as subtly as possible, you try to convince doubting zander. Slight bites that are invariably missed with the shad, we can cash in with the drop shot. A ‘weightless’ rig ensures that the soft bait slips in the fishes’ mouth just a little bit easier. And that resulted in a clear win for the drop shot. During the last session, my guests caught 18 walleye while I was stuck on two fish while vertical with a shad. Today’s topper turned out to be the Spro InstaWorm. This is a remarkably large worm, but that appears to be no problem given the good catches.
Few colorways are as popular as the “fire tiger”: green back, chartreuse flanks and an orange belly. To top it off, there is often also a black tiger print on the back. Pike and zander are particularly fond of this pattern, but why? While researching for my book, I came across the secret and suddenly everything fell into place.
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin have investigated the visibility of the different colors in both clear and cloudy water. It is striking that in cloudy water, blue is no longer recognizable after a few decimeters, and you can no longer recognize red at a depth of two meters. Green and yellow, on the other hand, can also be recognized at a depth of 4 meters; deeper than any other color.
Chartreuse, the yellow-green stunner
The above explains the success of “chartreuse”, a color between green and yellow. Chartreuse is also clearly visible in deeper water, especially in cloudy conditions. Or at least more visible than all other colors. Add some orange and a highly contrasting black tiger print and you have a pattern that has been doing great in our frog country for decades: fire tiger. So if you go after pike and zander and you have to deal with “dark” water, you better have a fire tiger in your tackle box.
My favorite fire tigers
When I see that the water in Amsterdam has little transparency, I will not leave home without the UV Mojito (fancy name for “fire tiger”) of the 12 cm Spro Iris Popeye shad. Another top color of this shad is the UV Brown Chart: brown back with chartreuse belly. If I go after the pike in Amsterdam with cloudy water, then the yellow-green 3D River Roach Paddle Tail is a winner. Of course there are hundreds of other good options, as long as they contain yellow and green!
More information about choosing the right color lure can be found on pages 147 – 150 of “Think like a fish”.
Just a short but very practical tip for the pike fishermen among us. Forget the swivel and use the FG knot instead to tie your fluo carbon hooklink to the braided mainline. I list the benefits for you:
- The FG knot is much more refined than a swivel and is, therefore, less noticeable.
- Because the FG node is smaller, debris is also less likely to get stuck behind. A clean line results in more bites, so more fish.
- The FG button does not suffer from fatigue and is therefore more reliable.
- The FG button fits through your top eye and therefore all your other eyes. This is a great advantage, especially if you want to fish with (very) long hooklinks (or guides).
- The FG knot won’t damage your tip eye if you accidentally turn too far in. A swivel, on the other hand, can demolish your top eye in one go.
- The FG knot is free.
I don’t dare to say with certainty exactly, but vib lures result in excellent zander catches after sunset. I was introduced to these rattling hard baits by predatory fish expert Michel Dekker. He showed them to me during a river fishing masterclass for my book (see pages 273-282 in ‘Denken als een vis‘ – only available in Dutch, unfortunately). That session he caught a monstrous asp with it. I have been a big fan ever since. Simply put, you can fish these baits the same as a soft bait. That is to say: cast it in, let it drop to the bottom, and then jig it back to the shore. Make sure to touch the bottom frequently to make sure you are in the ‘zander zone’. In most cases, the moment that the vib lure falls to the bottom is the moment when the zander takes the bait.
Especially larger zander love the vib lure
The results during the day were already very promising, but in recent months we have noticed that they perform very well just after sunset. In fact, on some evenings you catch it much better than with a shad. It is striking that we mainly catch the larger fish with it. The average length of the fish we catch with vib lures is estimated to be 10 cm higher. While I’m not sure why they do well in the dark, I do have a few ideas.
In the first place, these vib lures give off – the name says it all – vibrations. These extra stimuli in the form of vibrations make the walleye extra perceptive. The hard bites could well be a sign that they mainly attack the vibs out of aggression. Another possible explanation for the success is the relatively large size of these baits. Where a shad is often fairly thin and long, the vib has a much higher body. This allows the zander not only to see the bait better but also to register it better with its lateral line organ. In short: it is almost impossible to fish such a rattle unnoticed past any zander. I would love to show you how to get the most out of this special bait during a fishing day (or night!), because there is a lot more to learn about it.
Traditionally, vertical fishing and dropshotting are the most popular ways to catch zander in Amsterdam. In recent years I have found that casting with softbaits (also known as ‘diagonal fishing’) is at least as effective in many cases. Not only in terms of numbers, but also the size of the fish you will catch is often better. There are several explanations for this.
How to cast soft baits
Before we proceed, let me tell you what casting soft baits is all about. At least, when fishing for zander in Amsterdam. The principle is simple. You cast your soft bait away from the boat, let it drop to the bottom, and then fish it back over the bottom in leaps. So you do not fish directly under the boat, but from it. The line is not vertical in the water, but diagonal; hence the term ‘diagonal fishing’. The power of this technique lies in the ‘moment of suspension’: the moment when the bait drops down. The longer this moment, the more realistic it looks and the more likely a zander will strike. That is why I use the lightest possible jig heads, usually 5 or 7 grams.
No boat, no fishfinder, no trolling motor: no stress
The big difference with vertical fishing (and drop-shotting) under the boat, is that the fish you target cannot perceive a fishing boat above them. Also, the fish not notice the signals from the depth sounder and the sound of the electric trolling motor less quickly. By casting away from the boat, you simply make the fish much less aware of your presence. Certainly, the more boats hit the water, the more often fish will associate a boat with ‘danger.’ You solve that problem by fishing diagonally instead of vertically. Especially during the summer months, when the fish are found on shallow waters, it can be very effective to cast instead of jigging vertically.
Active fishing is more fun
In addition, I personally find it more fun to cast fish because you are more active and the bites are often slightly harder. The latter is also because the walleye are less shy. They don’t expect anything wrong with that crazy fish they want to eat. That said, it doesn’t mean that vertical and dropshotting under the boat can’t be good ways to catch lots of beautiful fish. But on some days you will notice a clear difference. Ultimately, it is of course up to you as a guest to decide whether you want to vertical, dropshot or cast. I would like to show you the differences!
In recent weeks, pike has clearly started bunkering. They are working on their fat reserves by eating a lot of fish to get through the long cold winter. We notice this in the beautiful catches of many and large pike. The great thing is that they are a bit heavier every week. We have been particularly successful with quite large soft plastics such as the Spro Shockwave and the River Roach Paddle Tail from Savage Gear. They cast off the shore zone and actively seek out the pike. That we have found them is clear every time by a hard bite. We fish the large open water with even bigger lures, including the 32 cm long Truline River Roach from Savage Gear. In recent weeks we managed to catch several pikes every fishing day, the largest of which was 117 cm long.