Fall is right around the corner here in Northern California and that means our trophy brown trout season is almost here! We catch big Shasta Lake browns all year long, but the fall, winter, and spring months are the best time to fish for these big, hard fighting trout because they will be in the upper levels of the lake after the fall lake turn over. This is also the time of the year when the brown trout begin their annual spawning migration up the arms of Shasta Lake to the tributaries like the Sacramento and McCloud River arms. This annual spawning ritual helps us locate these big beautiful trout with relative ease and we experience some of the best fishing of the year during this time. Now when I say “best”, I mean both quality and quantity of browns that are located and the daily chance of hooking into several big browns is often accomplished.
There are a number of tackle techniques I deploy to successfully catch big browns on Shasta Lake all year, but one of them has become a mainstay in my tackle arsenal which I use daily to find success when pursuing both brown and rainbow trout on Shasta Lake. This past year I stumbled on a specific lure manufacturer back in Pennsylvania the makes what I call stick baits that are very effective for catching big, Great Lakes fish species, but specifically for my benefit, big browns. The name of this lure mfg. is Bay Rat Lures. Their website address is bayratlures.com and they have a great selection of hard baits they have developed for catching all kinds of Great Lakes fish. I’ll break down how I fish for and often catch big trout using the Bay Rat Long Shallow and Slash Rat stick baits on Shasta Lake.
Let me start off by saying that I have been fishing these baits through the entire spring and summer season this year and have had a lot of time to test their effectiveness, especially on Shasta Lake. Some of the biggest trout of the season came on the Bay Rat Lures I’ve used, and as a lot of you have seen, we caught some great fish this year! As stated before, these Bay Rat Lures have earned a permanent place in my trolling spread, and to be honest, I’ve hesitated to even talk about them because of their value to me on the water. After working with Bay Rat Lure this past year, I felt compelled to get the word out to trout fishermen here on the west coast. As an American made lure company, and a company that has given me customer service that is as good as it gets in the fishing industry, I feel like they have earned my full support.
I’ve tried several color patterns in the Bay Rat Long Shallow and Slash Rat series this year. Many of the color patterns will work and have definitely had their awesome days on the water. Two color patterns have emerged as the top producers and have caught dozens and dozens of multi pound trout this year. The first pattern that started to really shine was the Brown Trout pattern in the Bay Rat Long Shallow “Glow” series. This 4 3/8'“ shallow diving lure caught fish on its first day out and has been every day since. Its a great hand painted pattern that has fished great as far down as 100’. It fished so well I started to look for similar Long Shallow finishes and decided to give the Goby pattern a try out as well. Turned out, the Goby pattern Long Shallow was dynamite and has turned into a top producer as well. I also ordered some of the same patterns in the Slash Rat series and found them to be very effective as well.
I use a lot of different techniques when trolling and have found the Bay Rat Lures to work equally as well no matter what technique I’m using. I will say my favorite way to fish them is right off the back of the boat using downriggers. I use a 25’ set back and run them deeper than any of the other lines I have out to the side of the boat. I do most of my trolling in the 2.0-2.5 mph range and both the Long Shallow and Slash Rat series run very well at those speeds. I can also run them in conjunction with the fast trolling Optimizer spoons, which not many other lures can do and still catch fish. The Long Shallow’s and the Slash Rat’s have a tight wiggle, dive very little, and have bb’s that give the lures a subtle rattle. They most often run true right out of the package, but to maximize their effectiveness for your desired trolling speed, make sure you run them next to the boat making sure they are swimming straight. This is critical and should never be over looked when trolling and diving baits, deep or shallow. To tune the Bay Rats, simply adjust the nose wire to the left or right (opposite direction lure is swimming towards). A straight runner will always catch more fish than a bait that leans to the left or right when trolled.
I use a small duo lock snap to attach the Bay Rat Lure to my PLine 15# fluorocarbon leader and will often use a small bead chain swivel 6’-7’ above the Bay Rat which attaches to the 20 lb leader I have spliced into my 30 lb. Power Pro braid line. People are always asking what size leader I use and are often surprised when I tell them 15#. I’ve heard endless stories about the big fish people have broken off using 6 lb. to 8 lb. leaders and I just shake my head. I’ve guided clients into over 100 big browns and rainbows this past year and only one was lost to a leader break and that was because of a frayed leader from a big fish with sharp teeth. Theres no reason to hunt for big fish if you think you need a light leader to catch them. Big trout are not line shy, at least on the lakes I fish here in the Redding, Ca. area. When we hit that 15+ pound brown, I’m not losing it to a light leader break.
I’ve fished these Bay Rat Lures both shallow and deep and can say they work at every level. I like to run them side by side at the same depth and normally use two patterns. Rarely will I use two Goby’s or two brown trout patterns at the same time. The trout have a choice with both Bay Rats running in close proximity to each other and sometimes that makes a big difference in the number of bites you will see in a day. Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve used several other colors and most have produced fish. There seems to be periods when a loud pattern like the Fire Tiger Long Shallow or Slash Rat will really get a bite going so get a variety of colors, so stay flexible and fish more than just the brown trout and goby’s.
Many people ask me what kind of scents I’m using. I prefer to use Atlas Mikes Gel and Fuzion scents over all others and really think the flavor comes down to personal preference. Atlas Mikes makes a variety of trout scents and they seem to do the trick for me. As much as I enjoy using the gel, glo, or Fuzion scents, I always try to keep the Bay Rats clean after a days use. I think its important to keep your plugs clean whether your running them with or without scent. Dirty lures don’t catch as many fish as clean lures do in my opinion.
To finish this article, I think its important to emphasize that the majority of the fish you will catch on the Bay Rats will be above average size. I would say 90% of the fish that hit these lures were all multi pound trout. It became so clear that these were big fish lures, I briefed my clients after we set lines about the probability of the big fish hitting the lines on the downriggers. Seldom was I wrong. This brings me to my last suggestion for those of you that start fishing the Bay Rats. Change the hooks on these lures before fishing them if you intend on fishing waters that hold big trout. The Bay Rats come with super sharp, high quality hooks, but if you get into a big brown that fights hard on its way to the boat, you’re going to need a stronger pair of treble hooks. Big fish will straighten the hooks that come with the Bay Rats. Often the bigger fish will go for the head on these lures and will get hooked with the belly hook. As these fish make hard runs and roll or jump, they will leverage the bodies of the Bay Rats to bend these hooks which can result in them coming un plugged. I change out the stock treble hooks and put on #4 2X Gamakatsu treble hooks. These are just tough enough to withstand just about every fish we’ve hooked after changing them out.
I’ve been getting the word out and am hoping our local west coast tackle stores will keep these awesome lures in stock this coming fall season. Ask your local tackle retailer if they will stock them and let them know you’ll be buying some. Once the word gets out, i’m sure they will get tired of the inquiries and get some in their stores. In the meantime, you can order them online at bayratlures.com or contact James@bayratlures.com if you have questions before ordering. thanks for reading this article and if you have any questions for me, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my website at jeffgoodwinfishing.com and fill out the information on my contact us page. Tight lines!