Trolling Cobras - Improving your catch rate

Bill Presslor

If you asked most Australian trout anglers if they ever used spoons for their fishing most would likely reply that they seldom ever use this type of lure. In reality the Tasmanian "Cobra" style of lure is really a type of spoon, albeit a heavy, uniquely-shaped lure, it is still basically a spoon. Every size, shape and description of spoon has been manufactured over the years, but nothing else comes close to these little plastic and lead marvels. The Cobra style of lure has an amazing scope to accommodate a broad range of applications for almost any fishing condition. With the addition of a couple of new innovations to this style of lure Australia's most popular and successful fresh water fishing lure has just become even better!

The Cobra style of lure has been around for a very long time now, with a range of manufacturers producing this type of lure. Until recently there has been little change in this style of lure, with most makers offering a range of colours and finishes, but remarkably most of the differences are little more than cosmetic. With all the ardent followers of this style of lure around, I am probably going to get hate mail for saying this, but the biggest difference in most of these lures has been the range of colours available. Designs of lures with slightly different weights or subtle changes in the body size or wings has been the norm, but basically the lure has remained much the same, until recently.
Two manufacturers, Lofty's Lures and Wigstons Lures have introduced a new deeper diving lure during the last couple of years. Although both these lure making firms have no doubt been researching this problem for some time it's very interesting to note that their approach and the finished products are very different. Because of this the two lures, Loftys Wide Wing Cobra and Wigstons Dual Depth Tasmanian Devil, both have a unique action and a range of applications. No matter what your personal preference in brand may be, I would suggest that both styles of lure deserve a place in your tackle box to accommodate a range of conditions. I'll get into the similarities and differences between these two lures a little later.
The main purpose of this article is to help create a better understanding of how this lure works and what you can do to improve your success and catch rate. There are a number of factors that play a part in how well your lure is presented to a fish including your choice of line, rigging, hooks, boat speed and the lure itself.

One of the most critical factors in achieving optimum performance from any lure is line selection. The line you choose for a particular application deserves a lot of careful consideration, after all it's your main connection to a fish. Though it has been said countless times in this publication and elsewhere how important line selection is, a lot of anglers seem to pay little attention to this detail when it comes time to spool up for a fishing trip. The age-old adage about getting what you pay for certainly rings true when it comes to line selection.
The technology and choice available to anglers in the form of monofilaments, co-polymers, braided gelspun, and fluoro carbon lines is really quite staggering. The array of manufacturers and brands of lines, along with the price and availability, seems to have expanded enormously in the past ten years. The most important areas for consideration with trolling applications should be line diameter, stretch and abrasion resistance.
When you are trying to decide on a line for trolling, keep in mind that lines which are primarily made for casting are not the answer for trolling. In many of our impoundments you will encounter submerged trees, rocks, fences etc., that will really test out your line. Trolling lines need to be fairly tough with good abrasion resistance and low stretch, not soft and limp like a good casting line. The brand you choose is a personal preference, but buy as good a quality line as you can.
Line diameter plays a major role in how deep your lure runs when trolled or retrieved. Thinner diameter lines allow your lure to run deeper and optimise the lure's built-in action. In most applications diameters in the 0.18 to 0.22 mm range are your best bet for trolling Cobra style lures on surface or flat lines. My personal choice for flatlining is line of 0.20 mm diameter. Lines of this size (and of course all others) can vary enormously in breaking strain from one maker to another  Most major brands are between 2-4 kilograms breaking strain for 0.20 mm line which is more than adequate for most trout trolling applications in Tasmanian waters.
Line stretch and resultant breakage can be a problem with some lines. Stretch is usually difficult to detect until you snag up or try to land a big fish. Ordinarily you can see or feel the difference when your line has stretched and not fully recovered. When your line is stretched it may also show up as a different colour, most noticeable with darker coloured lines. To avoid problems like this most line manufacturers recommend that you cut approximately 1.5-2 metres off your line and retie your lure after landing a big fish or getting snagged. Most anglers don't do often enough.
Today's new generation of gel spun braided lines are amazing to use. Surface trolling or flat lining with braided lines is almost like learning to troll again. The amount of stretch in this type of line is so minimal as to be almost non-existent. Your first hook-up on a fish will amaze you with what you can feel; every head shake or flap of a fish's tail is transmitted through this type of line. If you have never used this type of line keep in mind that with so little stretch you need to run a very light drag and use a rod that is soft enough to be forgiving and act like a shock absorber. Lines such as Fireline, Spiderwire, Fins and the Australian-made Platypus are all excellent performers.
Generally, line diameter for downrigging is not as crucial as when surface trolling.  Having said this you still need to choose your line carefully. Your selection of line for downrigging should take into consideration what type of line release clip you use and the type of downrigging you intend to do. If you are constantly chasing the bottom in snag ridden waters you need to consider a tougher abrasion resistant line. For most Australian conditions line from 0.20 to 0.30mm will handle just about any fishing situations.

Rigging Tricks
One tried and true approach to rigging this style of lure usually entails passing the line through the body of the lure, through a small plastic bead, and tying it to your choice of hook. As the lure moves through the water the hook is pulled up tight against the bead which in turn locks it in one position. To gain the most from your lure the hook should be able to move freely. Using a split ring instead of a bead, allows free movement of the hook.

Hook Options
The standard hook that comes with most of these type of lures is usually a single treble hook. After experimenting with several different types of hooks for the last three or four years, I almost never use a treble behind a Cobra style lure. Invariably, if you have my sort of luck, when you hook up on a small fish they seem to have a real knack for getting caught with all three prongs of a treble in their mount.
When you try to get the treble out you can do a lot of damage to the fish. Because catch-and-release is something I firmly believe in and want to practise, I now use single hooks. My favourite pattern is an open eye siwash hook. An Eagle Claw 210NA, VMC 9171N1 or Gamakatsu Saltwater fly siwash hook are all brands I've used with great success. Gamakatsu have recently introduced a Lure Single Hook that also looks very promising.
One of my main concerns when changing over to single hooks was whether or not the hook-up rate would be as good as with a treble. My experience has been that it's even better and rarely do you seem to fail to hook a fish. The Siwash pattern of hook is used extensively in the US and Canada for salmon and steelhead. This type of hook features a very long point, short shank, wide gape and usually has an open eye which you can crimp over a split ring. Regardless of what brand or pattern of hook you choose, make sure you keep it razor sharp.

Deep Innovations
The introduction of the new Wide Wing Cobra and the Dual Depth Tassie Devil has proved to be a real bonus for trout anglers over the last couple of seasons. Wigstons Dual Depth Tassie Devil uses a combination of dual towing points and heavier weight (20 grams) to achieve a deeper diving lure. On the other hand Loftys Wide Wing Cobra adopts a wider wing and retains the 13 gram weight of the standard Cobra. My experience with these lures has shown that they are both quite sensitive to speed. The Dual Depth needs a slightly faster (2.5 - 3.5 km/h) because of its heavier weight while the Wide Wing seems to operate best at slower (1.5 - 2.5 km/h) speeds. Both lures need to run at the right speed to avoid line twist. As with any lure of this style watching the rod tip can tell you what's going on with the lure. If you pick up weed on the lure it will change the action of the rod tip alerting you to the fact that it's time to bring the lure in to clear it. Both of these lures work equally well for lead lines flat lines or downrigging but my preference is to run them on a flat line or surface line. For downrigging I prefer to run a standard lure of 13 grams or the smaller 7 gram model when conditions warrant.
Most anglers seem to shy away from the 7 gram or 25 gram size lures for trolling but I've found they are both very productive. The size of the forage fish you are trying to imitate should dictate what size your lure should be. The 25 gram lures have a very strong action that can be extremely productive if you are chasing big trout and salmon. The smaller 7 gram size lure is great for shallow water or weed bed trolling and has the same great action. The 7 gram is also an excellent choice of lure when you want to run a slider off the downrigger.
With the advent of the new deeper diving lures, the amazing range of colours and sizes means Australian anglers have a greater choice than ever before. Dollar for dollar these lures are some of the best value tackle around, so no matter which brand you choose you can support a unique Australian product!
Bill Presslor

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