Rippin', Pullin', Pokin'.
Many of you can vastly improve your fishing success for this season and seasons to come by thoroughly incorporating rippin', puffin', and pokin' moves into your presentation plan. Field Editor Steve Ryan addressed this subject in part for walleyes in his March/ April article "Pullin' and Thumpin' for Walleyes Right Now." Field Editor Cory Schmidt's article in this magazine on "bombing walleyes" also gets at part of the process, but in each case the moves and the lures that can be used need to be seen in larger perspective--and they apply to most of the fish we seek, not just walleyes.
The fundamental move at work is to lift a lure and let it fall. Nothing revolutionary there. But most anglers stop short by not realizing the spectrum of moves that can be put into play, especially on the extreme end of things.
Most of you already "poke around" with lures. Pokin' is initiated with a short pull or pop of the rod tip--maybe an inch or so, typically with the rod tip held up at from 10 to 11 o'clock. The lure moves up a tad and falls a little, as it also creeps forwards just a bit and stops. There are many lures that work here, for various species. A jig in combination with a softbait is a prominent choice. A soft lure like a craw-something (Berkley Chigger Craw or Pit Boss) in combination with a weighted swimbait hook also works well.
Pullin' is more aggressive--accomplished by holding your rod tip at about 10 o'clock, and pulling (more than snapping) the lure up and forward with a rod-tip move to 11 o'clock. In most puffin' maneuvers the angler follows the lure down with the rod tip, keeping it on a semi-tight line. Pullin' can also be a bit more aggressive, with the angler popping the rod tip more aggressively to 11 o'clock and letting the lure fall back on a slack line. Pullin' works great with a jig and softbait, especially paddletails, or a weighted swimbait hook and softbait, but also works well with hard lures, including lipless lures, spoons, and blades.
Rippin' is too extreme for most anglers, but it can be magic at times. It works with the same lures just mentioned for puffin'. Make a long cast, engage the reel, and let the lure sink to the bottom. (The Rapala Rippin' Rap has been a favorite rippin' lure, especially for large-mouths, smallmouths, and walleyes. It's also a great lure for pullirt'. Some lures are just special, a topic for another time.) The line goes slack when the lure touches down. That's the last time you want to see the lure actually touch down, unless you need to re-establish contact with the bottom at some point during the retrieve.
Position the rod tip at 9 o'clock. With one hand (my left) palming the casting reel and the other gripping the rod butt, sharply snap the rod tip to 11 o'clock. Immediately drop the rod tip back to 9 o'clock, allowing the lure to plummet toward bottom. As the rod tip drops and the lure plummets, remove the hand from the rod butt, grab the reel handle, and reel through most of, but not all of, the slack line created with your snap and drop back.
The lure must fall on completely slack line. The next rod-tip snap should rip through a bit of the slack left over from the last snap. That helps to increase the snap speed of the rod tip and thus the snap speed of the lure on the next rip. The alternative to holding the rod as I've described is to palm the reel with both hands. Rip-pin' works best with casting tackle but is workable with spinning tackle. Rippin' works best with the lure at longer distance--say through the first two-thirds of the retrieve, because the lure jumps too high as the retrieve approaches the boat (or shore).
Ripple works best when you get a rhythm going with the rip-drop, with the lure touching down on bottom or at least dropping near bottom for the barest moment before it rips up again. If it sits stationary on the bottom for even a millisecond, it's too long. The fish are just there on the next rip. You almost never see or feel the bites.
With the fundamental range of options established, one can see there are many potential progressive movements to play with in between each of the three defined maneuvers, from pokin' to pullin' to rippin'. The options are further increased when you note the number of lures that can also be used. At times a maneuver won't work because the lure's wrong for the situation, even though the movement's right. And vice versa.
* The potential productiveness of rippin' in particular is totally counterintuitive at times. You wouldn't think it would be a killer for smallmouths and largemouths in 45[degrees]F water in spring, but it often is. Same in fall. Sometimes, too, in summer. And also in winter oftentimes across the South and through the ice in the North, although obviously rippin' retrieves on ice are straight up and down.
* Fish aren't all magically always into just one move or another, or one lure and not another. Sometimes, something like rippin' is good for one more fish when you've already tinkered with a school and caught a few doing something other than rip-pin'. Other times, though, it's exactly the opposite--if you're willing to try rippin' in almost any situation you face, especially if you're not doing well, you often find it's the main producer for that day. I keep saying that fish can't tell you they want something if you don't show it to them. Too many anglers talk themselves into thinking most fish are tentative most of the time when often it's the opposite, and they don't respond because we're too tentative. Doing poorly often is mainly a presentation problem and poor fishing shouldn't bring a knee-jerk response to temper back, when leaping forward often makes as much sense.
I watched footage of some of the 201.4 Bassmaster Classic, where many anglers were fishing with lip-less lures. It was almost all straight retrieves with an occasional stall here and there. The only rips came when lures hung on hydrilla. That's when many of the strikes came. It was implausible to me that anglers would fish through areas and leave without ever once taking time to rip or at least pull all the way through some of their retrieves. Apparently most of the participants thought the water too cold (about 45[degrees]F) to be that aggressive, but my experience has been otherwise.
* Try this if you're a walleye angler on the water in June. Take a step even beyond rigging a 5-inch paddletail swimbait on a 3/4-ounce jighead and swimming it through a weedbed. Rig a 7-inch Berkley Gulp! Jerk Shad on a 1-ounce head and use the rippin' technique to fish through weedbeds or over smoother bottoms on deeper flats. Just try it. And not just once. Give things like this a chance in several instances, to be fair.
* For bass anglers, have at least one rod rigged with a 1-ounce rubber-skirted jig rigged with a 4-inch Berkley PowerBait Ripple Shad (or similar swimbait) slipped on the jig with the body of the swimbait flat. Rippin' is too much most of the time, but snapping this combo up off the bottom aggressively through the edge of weeds and letting it thump down on a slack line gets big fish going when standard stuff won't at times.
* Meanwhile, in May (last issue) I wrote in the Inside Angles column about using the soft Sebile Magic Swimmer, one of last season's hottest lures for me. Many of the strategies there rely on Rippin', Pullin', or Pokin', especially the "Pop Tarting" technique, which might be worth reviewing.
Maybe tie a string around your finger to remind yourself to consider what we've discussed here as you hit the water this season for just about everything that swims? Pokin' and pullin' are laidback, comfortable, and intuitive. Rippin' not so much. Sometimes logic and a little applied science go a long way to produce fish. Techniques like rippin', on the other hand, require large-scale suspension of disbelief.
BY DOUG STANGE EDITOR IN CHIEF