A rubber fish is an artificial lure made of rubber or soft plastic that is used in angling to catch predatory fish. Fishing with rubber fish is part of spin fishing, where the bait, after being cast, acquires its catchiness only through active movements of the angler, instead of being passively presented in the water as in the case of sit-on fishing. The most common method of fishing with rubber fish requires a special bait presentation, in which the bait is guided in bouncing movements over the bottom of the water, and which is called jigging or jigging (English to jig – bounce, wiggle).
In addition to the term “rubber fish”, the pseudo-anglicism ” shad ” (English term for a genus of herring-like fish) has also become established in the German-speaking world. In the English-speaking world, however, rubber fish are generally referred to as soft lures or soft plastic lures.
How it works
A rubber fish in the narrower sense is simply the actual bait, made of rubber or soft plastic, which resembles a prey fish in shape and size. For use in jigging, however, a rubber fish must be mounted on a long-legged fishing hook, which is provided with a lead weight. On this hook, the rubber fish is strung so that the hook tip protrudes from the “back” of the rubber fish, while the lead weight sits directly at the “mouth”. These leaded hooks are called jigs.
The combination of jig head and rubber fish enables the typical jigging lure action, in which the angler lifts the rubber fish from the bottom of the water with the help of his fishing rod or reel in a swift movement. When the movement is complete, the lead weight causes the rubber fish to sink back to the bottom, whereupon the movement is repeated. This creates the impression of a small fish “jumping” over the bottom of the water, which is supposed to fool the predator into thinking it is a worthwhile prey.
Usually, instead of a realistically imitated tail fin, rubber fish have a flat and disc-shaped paddle tail that protrudes at an oblique angle from the body of the rubber fish. This paddle tail creates a vibrating or wagging movement when jigging due to the water resistance, the pressure waves of which are intended to additionally irritate the lateral line organ of the predatory fish.
Technical progress in rubber fish production
As with all everyday objects, technical progress does not stop at rubber fish. In recent years, anglers have been presented with ever more sophisticated developments by the major manufacturers. The pioneers here are especially rubber lure producers from Japan. Initially these innovations were limited to the addition of flavourings and various salts to the rubber mixture, but now more and more complex stimulus elements, as known from the wobbler, are being transferred to the rubber fish. In the meantime there are rubber fish with semi-transparent bodies with reflective foils inside. Similar to the frequently used glitter particles, also called “flakes”, these are supposed to imitate the light falling into the water in a particularly realistic way and as a kind of flashing of the flanks of a fleeing prey fish. This is intended to stimulate an additional, natural hunting reflex in the predatory fish.
Some smaller dealers and manufacturers have now even gone over to measuring natural prey fish with millimetre precision using highly complex 3D programs and recreating them on the computer 1:1 and extremely true to life. From the recorded data, special casting moulds are created with which very realistic rubber fish are individually cast by hand. The liquid rubber used here is often mixed with varnish with pearl and glitter effects to achieve the most seductive appearance possible.
In order to perfect the image of a natural prey, details such as scales or biologically correct colouring are worked out in a final step by application with an airbrush gun.
- Hans Eiber: Die besten Angelköder für Fried- und Raubfische. BLV Verlag, Munich 2005, ISBN 978-3-405-16991-6