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Catching a Dream Perch on the Shadow Rap Shad

I guess we all have experienced that special feeling at some point of our lives. A moment in which time just stops, and you can take a deep breath. The feeling of accomplishing something.
A while ago I had that kind of an experience. A true moment of emptiness, in a way, as I was staring out over the horizon after releasing a perch of a lifetime. 

I would love to share that experience with you all. A couple of really tricky fishing days in the Swedish coast. Mid-winter, freezing waters and heavy snow storms. Good friends and success on the Rapala Shadow Rap® Shad!

Preparations at the cabin 

We had just arrived our rental cabin after a long and challenging car drive. The weather was not the best for travel, as we faced both heavy rain and snowstorms along our way. Now it was dark. 

We were sitting in the warm cabin and the open fire was making a loud crackling sound. We were finally here. Some of us had already unpacked and were organizing the gear. Checking hooks and lines, rods, reels and lures. Unknown country music was playing on the background and topped-up glasses of red wine were waiting on the table.

It was pouring rain outside and the weather forecast for the day after did not look very appealing either. But hey, we had experienced it so many times before. We knew it was going to take hard work if we wanted to see those stripes and red fins. My last thoughts before switching off the lights that evening? “I hope they are there tomorrow.”

A Pitch-black morning

After an early wake-up, the smell of fresh coffee filled the kitchen. Soon we were on our way. The powerful and freezing winds were pulling our jackets as we were trying to get the boat in the water.

A short but dark boat ride later, we made our first anchor of the day. It was raining. We took a couple of minutes to get our gear in order. The sun had not yet risen. A cup of smoking hot coffee was exactly what was needed. 

The sound of the rain hitting our boat on that pitch-black morning was actually quite satisfying. A group of swans had just woken up and were searching for breakfast close by. Then a few moments later, the first rays of sunlight broke through the clouds.

We were finally fishing! The first casts where flying through the air and it felt exciting. Little did we know how hard the fishing would be on that day.

Shadow Rap Shad – original & modified!

Lunch break. The cold rain had now turned into snow. Heavy flakes and even harder winds had just passed over the small mountain and reached us. Some warm beverage, nuts and chocolate were on the menu.

We had already made a couple of hundred casts without any contact. Or well, some angry pike had shown their interest in your lures of course. But we were after perch.

The Shadow Rap Shad from Rapala has been a great success for us on our previous trips. This lure has really been a game changer regardless of the temporary struggle we had locating the perch. We were absolutely certain that sometime during the day the perch would start hitting our shads. 

Shadow Rap Shad is a 9 cm long hard bait lure. It weights 12 grams and flawlessly mimics the movement of a fleeing baitfish. It is a versatile lure. You can make long casts with a steady retrieve, as the Shadow Rap Shad swims with a horizontal struggle. 

Or use it as a jerk bait with small or heavy twitches or jerking action. That has been working really well for me. On a pause the shad slowly rises towards the surface. Which also makes it perfect to fish in heavily vegetated areas and shallow bays. 

On days when fishing is extremely slow and hard, we have made some modifications on the lures. Nothing super advanced. But it can really make a difference on those slow days. Since the Shadow Rap Shad is slow rising, we have replaced the split rings and hooks in order to create an even more levitating action. That way the lure levitates even longer in the water or does not rise at all. 

We’ve been using the following VMC® products for our modifications:
- 3561 SS size 1 split ring
- 7548 black nickel hook, size 6 
- 7552 black nickel hook, size 6
 

 

Eating time!

We still have a couple of hours of sunlight left before the sunset. The days are short at this time of the year, for sure. It has stopped snowing, and surprisingly the wind has calmed down too. We are fishing a smaller bay area along the Swedish coast.

An important thing we always do, is inspecting the movement of the water in the area we are fishing. If the wind is pushing too much saltwater from the ocean, what usually happens is that it forces the fish to move as well. That makes locating the perch more challenging.

Dropping water temperatures and north winds are also something that´s usually been negative factor for us. And of course, low air pressure is something not to wish for. 

For the tenth time today, we are passing a shallow weed line. The structure is easy to see on the sonar. And when looking very closely, we can see those small shoals of perch hiding inside the vegetation.

We are drifting on when suddenly something strikes my lure. Because of the low water levels, I have changed into the modified Shadow Rap Shad with the new rings and hook. I make a long pause after a small twitch – and it works. I have a fish on!

And what a nice perch that is, now safely laying in our net! A really well-fed and healthy fish. Excellent for the first one of the day. We carefully measure the fish. And it’s a record breaking 50 cm and 1680 grams! I am very satisfied.

Something had definitely changed in the weather and right away more of us are catching big ones. 

Key to success: long pauses

Size instead of numbers. There was not much perch but the ones who attacked our lures were fat and healthy! Seems like the long pauses were the key to success.

I took a look at my watch; we did not have much time left. I sat down for a last cup of coffee. The darkness was taking over as the sun was setting. Once again, the swans were slowly heading towards shore. The big eagle we had had over our heads all day, was sitting down staring at us from the treetops. 

I stood up. Our friends on the other boat had a fish on. We could hear their screams of joy.

– How big it is, mate?
– Well, it is the fish of the day for sure. 2,1 kg! Ha-ha this is crazy, mate!    
– Big congrats! That´s a huge one. 
Little did we know that my next cast would turn my life up sided down.

“The lonely bigger perch who does not want to play with the rest”

As most of the perch that were active before had placed themselves, we relocated next to a weed bed closer to the shore. I remember thinking that there must be a lonely bigger perch who does not want to play with the rest.

I could hardly see my Shadow Rap Shad flying through the air. Somewhere out there in the dark I heard it land. I made two or three jerking movements followed up by a long pause. And there it was. A strike that would wake up even the dead! I was pretty sure I had hooked a decent pike.
– It is definitely a pike mate. No need for the net. 
– Ah, I’ll grab it anyways. 
– it’s a perch mate! IT IS A PERCH!

I can say, that there’s been only a few times when I’ve known that the fish in my net would most definitely break the magical mark. Without hesitation, this perch would be my new personal best. I’m shouting and screaming, like a kid on a birthday party. The perch is so damn huge! And with the total length of 53 cm and 2,3 kilos… It is a fish of a lifetime. 
 

The empty feeling is here again. I am finding myself staring out into the dark as we are driving back. My last thoughts that day? “They were there”

 

#RAPALA - Shadow Rap Shad