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Hard Baits for Hard Strikes – the Best Rapala Lures for Shallow Zander Fishing

”It’s a special kind of feeling you get when you feel that fierce tug on a hard bait. That’s the feeling that keeps you coming back to the stony, shallow waters.” 

Hit the waters!  

There’s a special time between the spring fishing for pike and the late autumn chase for the fat perch – the time for zander fishing! During that short period, I drop the usual jigging-with-soft-baits routine and seek the shallow, rocky areas because that’s where the action is. That’s where rods will bend, and hard lures get scattered with teeth marks! But, before getting to the fun part, one must do a little bit of detective work. 

First, check your surroundings. Go through a paper chart or consult your sonar equipment to get an overview of your destination. Hell, even Google Maps and Google Earth can have the information you’re looking for! The bottom line is that you’ll need to know the waters before you start fishing. Because the shallow areas with rocky bottoms and large blocks of stones are the places the zander usually roam – the sooner you find those areas, the better. And if you’re planning to use a light spinning reel, I’d advise you to stick to the areas with depths less than 5 meters.  

Which lures to use and why?  

To cover the most critical situations, I’ve chosen three hard baits from Rapala. These three musketeers I can gladly recommend to you – they’ve been absolute killers during my previous zander seasons. The first is none other than the Shadow Rap® Shad. The Shadow Rap Shad’s superiority starts from the design: this lure boasts a higher profile with a lot of flash, meaning that it won’t go unnoticed by the fish. And as far as lures go, the Shadow Rap Shad is quite an aggressive one to fish. Whether you fish it fast or slow, the bait’s action is sharp and enticing. During pauses, the Shadow Rap Shad starts a slow rise towards the surface. Make sure to include these pauses in your fishing, because that’s when the zander usually go for the kill.  

My second go-to is the Shadow Rap® Jack Deep. When exploring the deeper sides of the shallow plateaus, this lure’s a natural. The aerodynamic design makes it perfect for long casts, and the swimming action is aggressive enough to make any zander lose its cool. The Jack works even in super-fast retrieves, and just like the Shadow Rap Shad, it rises slowly towards the surface when stopped. 

And the last stop: our pudgy little brat! The BX® Brat has a nice, broad swimming action and can easily be retrieved with calm, steady reeling – or with frantic twitching! The BX Brat vibrates as it sways from side to side, and this vibration speaks volumes to a lot of different species. But, for zander, I fish the BX Brat with short stops over the rocky bottom. This way, you can feel how the lure almost rolls over the rocks, luring those sneaky predators out from their stony lairs. 

Paying attention to timing 

Often when people talk about zander fishing, they automatically refer to nighttime trolling. And there’s nothing wrong with that, as zander really are nocturnal predators. It’s very often that you find them either late at night or early in the morning in the higher water columns. However, that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t feed in the daytime. From mid-day to early evening, when the sun stands high up in the sky and there’s a light breeze over the water – that’s when I’ve had some of my best zander fishing ever. But, if you’re planning to keep fishing well into the night, I’d recommend you try out a bit more pelagic fishing style. When the darkness falls, seek the areas where the shallow waters plunge into depths of around 3–4 meters. Scan those areas and be prepared to wait for a bit. And upon the trip home, you can even do some trolling while at it. For that, I recommend one of my absolute favorites: the Tail Dancer®. Highly appreciated in the trolling circles, the tail Dancer works fantastically for casting, as well. 

So, as a summary: fishing for zander can be an intricate sport with a lot of research and experimentation involved. But when you feel that wild, intense strike – that’s when you know it was all worth it. 

-JN