Using Small Crank Baits to catch Monster Porgy
By Roger Aye. His YouTube Channel can be found at Cooking and Fishing
Don’t be surprised to find a tog or two.
Traditionally, porgy fishing brings to mind idyllic summer afternoons onboard an anchored boat; chum logs deployed, hi-lo rigs baited with sandworms or salted clam, waiting for the sharp tug of a larger fish amidst the swarming of countless pin-sized porgies. It’s rarely thought of as an “active” form of angling, and while the fish themselves can be described as “scrappy for their size,” the fight – such as it were – will rarely put a deep bend into the typical outfits used by porgy fisherman all over the northeast: conventional rods capable of slinging 3oz+ sinkers.
When I started pursuing porgy from my kayak back in 2016, my background as a freshwater bass angler naturally led me to experiment with various artificial lures for all the local saltwater species. Happily, I quickly discovered that porgies not only chased down small metal jigs and soft plastics with aplomb, but the right presentation will often cull out the biggest, strongest, baddest porgy out of a school. Furthermore, on appropriate tackle, they will certainly test your drag and knots and even proper rod angles during the fight, fulfilling their role – as a friend once put it – of “freshwater panfish on crack.”
Here’s a challenging way to catch porgy on light tackle. Best Bait for porgy
THE BEST PORGY BAITS
It’s no surprise that porgies will be drawn to small Berkley Gulp baits, such as the 3″ Mullet and 3″ Minnow. I generally fish these as trailers on the back of small, 1/4oz bucktails or plain ball head jigs. If the area you’re fishing is particularly snaggy, a drop-shot or dropper loop setup will work just fine. Either way, the water-based scent trail of Gulp will certainly draw in porgies from afar, and you will catch a mess of them in short order. The problem with using Gulp baits and other soft plastic lures for porgy is, like real bait, you have to change bait often. They get ripped up and pulled off the hook easily, and in the case of Gulp, you need to keep them in their original packaging or some sort of watertight container, otherwise, they dry out into a shriveled jerky.
The next option is small metal jigs, anywhere from 1/4 – 1oz, worked in small lifts and drops along the bottom, will get absolutely smashed by porgy. They are drawn to shiny objects, and no bait or gulp is necessary; in fact, “tipping” the jigs with bait or even gulp will often draw in smaller porgies to your offering. I have a theory that once a porgy reaches a certain size (say, 15″+), small baitfish comprise a significant portion of their natural diet. And few artificial lures mimic a fleeing or injured minnow as accurately as a fluttering metal spoon or jig. The drawback to using metal jigs and spoons is they create a horrible line twist, a fact that any trout fisherman can attest to. They will spin both on the upswing and on the fall, and if you’re using spinning gear they will inevitably create a mass of line twist that has to be dealt with sooner or later. They are also extremely snaggy, and you can expect to lose several of them to the bottom over the course of a day.
Rapala Slab Rap
And so finally we come to the perfect artificial lure for porgies, the only lure I bring to target these big summertime brutes – the Rapala Slab Rap (2”, SLR05). It’s originally an ice-fishing bait meant for crappies, perch, and walleye, but the profile, size, weight, and balance lends itself perfectly to shallow water porgy jigging. Made from a strong and durable ABS plastic, it is a kind of vibrating lipless crankbait (though w/o rattles), heavy for its size and most importantly, swims straight and true without tumbling through the water like metal jigs and spoons, creating virtually no line twist, and with a slight modification, are extremely snag resistant as well.
You can fish them out of the box, but I strongly recommend a couple of modifications.
- Replace the tiny treble hooks with Owner #2 Single Replacement hooks. Also swap out the weak split rings with #2 Owner Hyperwire Split Rings. Porgies will fight 3x harder than any freshwater fish of similar size, and will trash those stock hardware in no time.
- Replace the split ring at the line tie with a strong snap. I recommend the Decoy Egg Snap in size 1.
- Generally I only equip the Slab Rap with a single tail hook. This reduces your chances of snagging the bottom almost to zero. In the 3+ years I’ve used the lure in this configuration, I’ve lost only 1 to the rock gods.
In terms of color, my favorites are the Glow Hot Perch and Glow Yellow Perch. The shiny colors (like Chrome or Clown) on the Slab Rap do not stand up to the rigors of porgy fishing. They start to flake off within the first few fish, and although they will continue to catch, the matt finishes hold up for an entire season or more of chasing slab porgies to no ill effect.
The proper rod reel and line setup is critical for this form of light tackle porgy fishing.
The perfect rod will have a light, fast, sensitive tip to pick up the rather subtle pecking of even large porgies, and have enough backbone to penetrate their jaws on the hookset. Any freshwater spinning rod designated as “dropshot” rods will do the job. They need to be soft and light enough to absorb the characteristic “pumping” porgies do during the fight, and protect your hook from ripping out of their mouths. Often they are barely skin hooked.
Two rods I recommend are the Shimano Zodias 6’8L or ML, and the new Daiwa Rebellion 7’ML. Another worthy candidate is the Shimano Curado 6’10ML.
1000 – 2500 reels with a smooth drag system is essential. As mentioned, many times the biggest porgies will bump and slash at your bait, and wind up getting barely skin hooked; this calls for a smooth drag that can react to any sudden surges during the fight.
Two reels I recommend are the Shimano Stradic FL 1000 and 2500, and the Daiwa Tatula LT 2000.
With any spinning combo, I’ve gone entirely to braid to leader setups. The braid absorbs the inevitable twists caused by spinning tackle, will cast farther and give you much fewer headaches than using straight fluorocarbon or mono. 8 – 10lb, high visibility braid so you can use your line as strike indicators, connected via an alberto or FG knot to a 6-10ft length of 8lb fluorocarbon leader is the configuration I run on all my light spinning combos.
For a high vis braid, I recommend 8lb Daiwa J Braid x8, in chartreuse.
For leader material, the Seaguar STS in 8lb is extremely abrasion-resistant and economical.
THE METHOD FOR FISHING PORGY
Although I’ve caught porgies with my slab rap setup in upwards of 30ft, it’s a technique best suited for mid to late Summer into Fall, when the biggest porgy venture into the shallow rocky areas that dot Long Island Sound. With a kayak, and especially one with a pedal drive system, I can work over these expansive flats and island chain shorelines methodically, locating schools of quality fish, plucking a few choice specimens and moving on to the next school. It’s a far cry from anchoring up and chumming…and not only maximizes the fun factor, it accounts for an inordinate number of 17”+ fish.
If you have a sonar unit on your kayak or boat, it pays to look for vertical hard structure. Pieces that will hold tog in the Fall will hold porgies throughout summer. The sweet spot for me is vertical rocky formations that sit between 8 and 15ft. These can be edges of reefs, big boulders, or rock spines. Most porgies will set up on the leeward side of structure in current, and roam a bit more during slack current. They rarely break cover or leave bottom to chase a lure, so you must present your lure with precision.
USING A SLAB RAP
There are 2 main methods to working your slab rap. One is the short pitch cast, almost a vertical presentation, where you flip the bait out over deeper water (8-15ft), let it settle on the bottom, and start jigging it back to the boat or kayak. Once vertical you can jig it in place under the boat, paying attention to the fall; that is when 99% of your bites will come. In swifter current I let the slab rap fall on semi slack line, watching the bow in my braid for any ticks or twitches. When you see a strike in your line, set the hook immediately; it is invariably a porgy slashing at your bait!
The other method is casting your slab rap out, letting it settle to the bottom, and using your reel to impart all the action. Keep your rod tip low, and give 2-3 quick pumps of the reel handle. Then let the lure fall on tight line, and feel for any bites. When it’s very windy, this method keeps your braid out of the wind, and keeps you more connected to your lure. Since your rod tip is low and your line tight, you can react to any bites with a lightning quick hookset.
TIDES AND STRUCTURE
During high tide, some of the largest porgies will swim right into the shallowest rock structure along the shoreline or over isolated rocks, no more than 3 or 4ft deep. They will always hold tight to rocks, and short pitches past the target will pull out some truly big fish. Often these shallow porgies will take on a dark, almost gun-metal coloration, and in my opinion they fight harder than their deeper water cousins.
Make sure your drag is set appropriately light; it doesn’t take much for that Owner single hook to penetrate. More so than your 8lb leader breaking, it’s to protect that hook from pulling out of the fish’s mouth, and as mentioned a surprising number of porgies will be either skin hooked or hooked outside the jaws. The good news is, unlike their much smarter brethren the tog, even the biggest porgies rarely make a concerted effort to sound bottom. They fight gamely, but without much purpose, and of the countless big porgies I’ve brought to the net I can think of only a handful that successfully broke me off in rocks.
Set the hook, keep your line tight, and let your rod and drag do the work. In our neck of the woods, there are no other species that will provide as much fun on light tackle as the mighty porgy.
And don’t forget to check your local fishing regulations as things vary from state to state and month to month