How to fish the CAL

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             The C.A.L. (Catch Anything Lure, more affectionately referred to as Cheap Ass Lure around the office) jigs are a versatile series of jigheads and soft-plastic tails that can be adapted to virtually any fishing situation and species. If you lack the patience to let the D.O.A. shrimp settle to the bottom, tie on a CAL. They’re also easier to throw and retrieve properly under windy conditions or in swift current.

            Jig heads in the series are available in six different colors--white, chartreuse, glow, red, natural and black. Weights range from 1/16 to 1 ounce, in short and long shank models. Don’t ask which one is best. We just held our annual D.O.A. Outdoor Writers Event, and among the 24 guides from around Florida who helped us take the 50 writers and sponsors fishing, each one had his own preference, even though many of them fish the same waters for the same fish.

            The general rule is to fish dark lures in dark water, light-colored lures in clear water. A dark lure presents a silhouette that fish see more easily. We also recommend using contrasting colors in turbid conditions—light head/dark body, or a plastic body with a contrasting tail. The Shad Tail, Curl Tail, and Paddle Tail models also create a vibration that fish can locate under any water conditions.

Of course, the most important rule is to fish the color you have faith in.

            Like the shrimp, CAL tails are available in lots of options--47 colors currently and a variety of models and sizes.

            The most popular model to fish is probably the 3-inch Shad Tail. Simply impale it with an appropriate-size jig head to match wind, current and depth conditions (increase the weight as wind, current and depth increase) and throw it out. Although most fishermen employ some type of twitch/drop retrieve, beginners can simply let it sink and reel it in. The vibrating tail attracts fish with virtually no input from the angler. Some days, especially in the winter when the water is cold and fish metabolisms are slow, fish display a preference for a slow, subtle retrieve and a lure that requires minimal energy to chase down. Which brings up another general rule: The colder the water, the slower the retrieve.

Shad and Curl Tail

            The CAL Shad Tail is also an extremely effective weapon for trolling, especially behind a kayak. Simply stick it on a 1/4-ounce head, throw it behind the kayak, and start paddling. It’s a great way to locate schoolie trout, but it also catches 50-inch snook.

            For the ultimate in action even at a very slow retrieve, tie on a CAL Curl Tail. These are virtually foolproof lures. Even resting on the bottom, the tail wiggles. They’re very effective barely crawled along the bottom.

            To fish either of these 3-inch baits weedless over shallow grass, Mark’s specially designed 3.5 D.O.A. Long Neck gets a better bite on the lure than standard worm hooks. A 1/8-ounce D.O.A. Pinch Weight, or even a portion of one, attached to the hook provides additional casting distance, but more importantly acts as a keel to keep the lure from spinning.

            CAL Series tails can also be rigged on weedless, screw-in hooks such as the Owner Weighted Twistlock CPS model. The Shad Tail works well for shallow-water use with a 3/0, 1/16-ounce weighted hook. These hooks also make it easy to add fish-attracting eyes and color contrast to any of the CAL soft-plastic tails with Chug Heads or Hot Heads.          

Paddle Tail

            D.O.A. Lures also makes a 3-inch Paddle Tail. Paired with a jig head, this lure looks great bouncing along the bottom. In addition to the beaver-type tail flipping up and down, the ribbed body produces pressure waves which make it easy for fish to locate. Bottom hugging species--flounder, pompano, trout, snook, redfish--love it. Another attribute is that it is a very tough bait, standing up to much more abuse than typical soft-plastic tails. It’s not uncommon to catch several dozen fish on the same tail, and find it’s not the least bit mutilated at the end of the day. That makes it a very inexpensive lure to use—a dozen tails last a long time.

Jerk Baits

            In addition to shad tails and paddle tails, Mark makes CAL jerk baits in 4- and 5½-inch models. They offer the most rigging options.

            Rig the 4-inch models on a short-shank CAL head, or weedless with the 3.5 Long Neck worm hook. The long-shank CAL jig heads enhance the chances of a solid hookup with the longer jerk baits, or use the 5.0 D.O.A. Long Neck worm hook.

            Especially early in the morning, add a D.O.A. Chug Head to these jerk baits and fish them as a topwater plug, either walking the dog or popping them. The concave head can be rigged to keep the lure at or near the surface, or turn it into a lipped diver by twisting the lip to the bottom. Rigging it as a topwater has several advantages over traditional plugs.

            First, the single hook can be rigged weedless. That lone hook also makes it a lot easier on both the fish and angler to remove; for kayakers especially, the idea of a snook, tarpon or ladyfish jumping around the boat with multiple treble hooks can be somewhat disconcerting, especially if fishing in the dark. And there are days when fish won’t commit to striking a lure on the surface. They’ll boil beneath it without grabbing a hook. With a soft-plastic CAL rigged with a Chug Head or Hot Head, an angler can simply stop the lure and let it sink slowly, which leaves it in the strike zone like a wounded bait; the fish will often strike as it sinks. By slowing the retrieve, the jerk bait becomes a subsurface weedless twitch bait. A fish nervous about whacking a surface bait may, on the other hand, hammer a lure a foot deep. The CAL/Chug Head combination gives you the option of covering whatever portion of the water column you choose.