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Big pike lures for Zander

There are many good Rapala lures for zander, and a huge variety of crankbaits in different sizes and swimming depths for trolling. Today I will be focusing on the bigger lures and the ones mainly created for pike fishing but that I found are also excellent baits for hungry zander, that are not afraid of a big opponent.

When I started fishing for zander years ago, I believed that they were mainly targeted with small lures. This was probably because the popular methods were trolling with 8-15cm slender minnow like cranks and using perch sized soft baits for casting. Also, when I caught my first few zanders of a kilo or two, I noticed that zanders’ mouth wasn’t as big as pikes. This further led me to believe that zanders mostly prey on small fish and baits. But the truth is something else...

A zander is a predator that regularly attacks big fish. My first encounter to this was years ago when I was fishing for pike with a large 25cm bait and I suddenly got a lot of hard bites but couldn’t set the hook. I couldn’t believe how I missed so many hard strikes from pike! On the fifth or sixth attempt I finally nailed one and to my surprise it was a one kilo zander. That’s a quite small zander for such a big bait. I wondered if they were overly aggressive that day or if this was normal, until the same thing started to happen more and more often...

Digging more into the subject and talking to some trolling specialists, I found out that they often use big baits as the Rapala Magnums and Slivers for zander. Then, the pelagic sharp shooting boom for big zander came and people often used very large baits with this technique.

I also talked to my friend and co-angler Tommy Blomander in Rapala Proguide Sweden, who is probably one of the best in the entire world on catching big zander sharp shooting and what he told me was eye opening.

He had caught a huge zander that had fed on big bream up to a kilo! That sounds insane but he told me that they first bite the huge target fish to wound them. It is normal for a zander to do this several times to disarm or even kill the fish before they crush them with their strong jaws, so that the fish becomes soft and easy to swallow. Since we all know how hard the zander can bite, this makes sense.

Yet not many were casting hard baits for big zander – many used small to medium sized jigs. This in mind, I decided to try casting for zander with big cranks. I did this mostly in open and deep waters or on shallow water at night time. Once we found the right areas, we started getting results. I fell in love with casting big cranks in total darkness - feeling those fish swimming behind the lure, pushing it a little just before you get a hit so hard, you’d think your rod will take a swim.

The tricky part for me has been finding when and where to target zander by casting cranks, but once I find the right areas, they attack the lure quickly. After a while the fish might disappear for some time, but I think that is because I have limited experience with this technique and haven’t figured out the species entirely yet.

The big X-Rap® Petos have worked best for me and I have caught plenty of zander when targeting them, and also as bonus when fishing for pike. I fish for zander with the Peto mostly with either very slow retrieve or using the stop-and-go -method. The push often comes when retrieving the lure and the actual bite comes almost always when making a stop. I use the Peto on shallow water, mostly in the evening and night time, when the zander move there to feed, or just on the slope to deep water. For deeper water I add some 10-20gr lead and the hits mainly come when I stop, and the lure starts to sink fast. 

Another lure that has been outstanding is the X-Rap® Jointed Shad. It almost shares the number one spot with the Peto in amount of bites. I’m not sure why but there is something to the swimming action of the Jointed 13 when retrieved very slowly with stop-and-go -method that seem to trigger the zander. I mainly use this on active zander, that means evening and night time when they start hunting and it has worked well on shallow water and pelagic fishing.

The sinking and long casting Rapala Shad Rap Magnum is also a suitable crank when targeting zander. Its high profile and perch type of shape imitate the smaller perch well, and in many waters, perch is often the main food source for zander. When fishing in the medium water column, I use this lure for pelagic fishing and deeper slopes. Regarding methods, slow stop-and-go is the way to go and its slow sink adds versatility to my zander lure line up.

The key to fishing with all these lures is the slow stop-and-go-retrieve. This may be the reason why people like to drive the boat in an s-shape – it is easy to both increase and decrease the speed of the lure.

During days when zander are truly aggressive, I have noticed that they often hit my Shadow Rap®s and BX® Minnows when fishing for perch. This inspired me to try the Super Shadow Rap® when targeting active zander and it has been amazing. I remember one time I saw some active zander and had a hard time getting bites. After a while a had a big 5-6kg zander hit my Peto so I saw the fish, but it didn’t hit the lure properly. This was on shallow water and I have rarely seen the zander so aggressive chasing a lure. In desperation I thought of the Super Shadow Rap and on the very first cast, when making a long 3-4 second stop it got hit like there was no tomorrow. I ended up landing a few zander on it, nothing massive, but the lure truly made all the difference that day.

Also, worth mentioning is that there are plenty of other big lure models that work on zander. Casting the Rapala CountDown® Magnum® 18 and 22 are safe bets for zander and I have even caught some using the X-Rap® Scoop. The X-Rap Scoop is a minnow inspired spoon and is used with the stop-and-go -method. It has a nice dropping flutter, imitating a wounded fish and my biggest zander ever was caught on the Scoop. I fished a spot around 10m deep and was roughly 2-3 meters below the surface when making a stop, so the lure started sinking and wham, there she was, my personal best zander.

There are still lots to discover for casting big baits for zander and probably many very nice lures. I’m keen to continue exploring since it’s a very exiting species and method. For example, the BX® Swimmer is a lure I really need to try out since the Jointed 13 is working so well.

If you have any experience around this style of fishing or questions, you can contact me on Instagram @mikko.seppanen and I’ll get back to you.

Tight lines!