CaryGreene

Best Bunker Imitations, from Peanut to Full Sized & How You Fish Them

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I thought it would be cool to do a series of posts regarding bait-fish imitations and decided to start off with the Menhaden, or "Bunker" as we commonly refer to it as. What I'm hoping for is actual photos of your favorite Bunker imitations and accompanying stories of how you fish them, perhaps even some photos of the results! With Bunker present, Stripers, Blues & other predators from Weakfish to Sharks are potentially found. Is there anything more challenging than a Peanut Bunker blitz or, times when 12" to 15" bunker are porpoising in nervous water and we can only guess what might be happening below....until...BOOM! It's game on!! I'll post a few photos myself, very soon. For now, who can start us off.

 

Are Bunker in your area a Brownish Gold, or are they Silvery? What lures do you use to imitate them & how do you fish them?post-40947-0-61810100-1452597483_thumb.jpgpost-40947-0-14349500-1452597523_thumb.jpgpost-40947-0-52071600-1452597554_thumb.jpgpost-40947-0-40135600-1452597581_thumb.jpgpost-40947-0-02777600-1452597966_thumb.jpgpost-40947-0-03208300-1452598023_thumb.jpgpost-40947-0-03317800-1452598088_thumb.jpg

 

The first picture is a large Metal Lipped Swimmer that Mike makes. This is a great ug when big Bass are around and you want to swim something nice and slow. I use it for various conditions. If the water is flat calm, it can be a killer either played very, very slowly, creating a subtle V-Wake as it wobbles just under the surface. I also really like metal lips when fishing submerged rock piles or boulder fields.

 

The third photo down is a Slope Head Metal Lip which digs in slightly deeper. This is my favorite lure for larger Bunker & has been deadly for me. I have not found Metal Lips to be particularly good in current. I always do far better with them in slacker water, calm or with waves.

 

Another good technique with a Metal Lip is to work them in the frothy, bubbly water 1, 2 or 3 waves "further out" from the position you are standing in". In broken water like this, they are deadly & if you haven't played around with a Metal Lip & you try one, you're going to love the incredible action they create as they thump and swim back with nothing more than a slow steady retrieve.

 

Pikie Bunkers are a real specialty item and they swim amazingly well. I use them all summer when big bunker are around. I will use certain colors for stained water and other more realistic colors for gin clear water. The Bubblegum & Wonderbread Pikes are great for attracting a strike & the big benefit to me is that I can see them swimming along, even in muddy water. The fish feel their thump & probably a bubblegum colored Pikie has an advantage under these conditions because it will stand out better.

 

The 3 After-Hours Metal Lipped Swimmers are the best actual swimmers that I have seen, something about the rounded nose of the lure must give it an incredible kicking wobble. There isn't a lure in my plug bag that is more fun to fish than these.

 

With Metal-Lips, all you need to do is vary the size of the bait you are seeing to the size of the metal lip you chose.

 

I attached a picture to illustrate size, the sixth and seventh pictures down are medium and small sized. The micro Metal Lip and the baby Pikie aRe outstanding for when smaller Bunker are around. Both are made by Mike.

 

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Next up are Dartes & Bottle Darters. I posted my favorites & am hoping to see some other lures by different manufacturers like these in this thread. The first photo shows the two Darters. One is Mike's Beast Darter and when big fish are around, and you are fishing where there is both current and depth this is a great lure to use. The other is a Tattoo Darter & they are great for smaller Bunker. I have Tattoos in Yellow & Lemon-Lime also, for cloudy or murkey water.

 

I usually bring a 10 and a half foot or 11 foot conventional rod for these and I like a conventional reel with a star drag & no level wind for fishing them. I didn't include a photo of a large sized plastic Storm or Tsunami Paddle Tail, but often when I'm doing this sort of fishing I am all set up with bucktails, Darters and Storm Paddle-Tails. The idea is to huck or lob debate up high into the air and out into the current then, you left the bait drift very far away perhaps along a seam at the edge of a rip. Once you are out a substantial distance, you begin a very slow tantalizing retrieve letting the garter zigzag in the current. It should dig in and run 5 to 10 feet down, kind of similar to a paddle tail, which I would really fish the same way. Super Strike Darters are also outstanding choices and are a real go to for me as well. I like the Yellow or the Black & Chartreuse color schemes mainly.

 

The second photo down shows some Bottle Darters, one is from Mike, the other is just a standard North Bar. Bottle Darters don't run as deep but they dig in wonderfully and run back in the upper portion of the water column with this lure you want to swim in a little faster than you do with a standard darter, you will get explosive strikes with these lures and you can let them drift 100 yards or more away from your position before you bring them back along a seam. If you fish in areas where there are lots of people, like the Cape Cod Canal for example, and you do this sort of fishing there will be three or four guys down from you that you will constantly get hung up with they have to pick a good spot where no one else is kind of hard to do these days!

 

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Now we're getting into what I call searching patterns and this is where an X-Rap or an SP Bunker, or a Magic Swimmer style pattern can be used either in a blitz or as a searching pattern working in a long structure like a jetty or submerged rocks or you can just fling it out into the open water and take your chances these patterns are great searching lures and I fish them almost every single time I fish when Bunker are around.

 

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Pencil Poppers and walk the dog style lures are probably the most fun of all to fish and when bunker are around you definitely need to carry a few. I have found with smaller size bunker the After Hours Rascal Jr. is a fish catching magnet. When you need to reach a fish maximum distance is required and a heavier Pencil like the Left Hook 3 oz. Raptor can save the day you have to work at vigorously due to the weight as you will find the heavier the pencil is the tougher it is to swim along. It's a trade off so you will want a lighter pencil that floats which is deadly when fish are in close and I have your pencil for when you need to reach out. My favorite lure on the planet Earth is not pictured, but it certainly belongs in this class and it is the Super Strike Sinking Little-Neck. I will work some pictures of it in later in the post rigged up with a teaser which makes it even more effective. When Bunker are panicking, Pencils are what you need to be throwing. From the boat I have caught over 10,000 baths in my life on surface lures like the Yozuri Hydro Pencil. I fish these walk the dog type lures primarily from the boat and I fish them all season long they are just crazy deadly have been year after year after year. The key to them is you just start and stop them. Bass love them.

 

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Nothing is more frustrating and more difficult to deal with than a Peanut Bunker Blitz. Sometimes simple lure like a pearl Little Cleo spoon, or a Point Jude Peanut Bunker will slay fish during a Peanut Bunker Blitz. Here are a few other options for when fish are real fussy.

 

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The Shimano Wax Wing lure is terrific for when fish Bass are feeding in the upper part of the water column but not showing. Ocean Lures makes a good pattern also. A small Rattle-Trap is also great for Peanut Blitzes. Also, the tiny Badonkadonk Peanut is a great gin clear water bait that is especially great in salt ponds & estuaries.

 

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Tins can be a terrific choice if you are fishing in the wind, for blitzes or just to keep it simple. I fish the Aelwife Little Cleo and the Swedish Pimple (even huge ones) when Bunker are around.

 

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Peanuts can also be imitated by the Rebel Banana Boat, which works very well during a blitz.

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I saved one of the most effective lures I have seen made in the last 10 years for last. The Stick Shad, as it is known was originally made by Sebile. Now there are lots of knock-offs available what you want to look for is a full sinking one this lure zigzags back and forth side to side subsurface and really imitates of panicking baitfish not to mention it has a terrific profile for a bunker and is exceptionally deadly when you have Bunker around.

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Edited by CaryGreene

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Live Target makes a good bunker imitation that I have done well on, also smaller sized Sebiles are great when peanuts are around a good side to side action plug always seems to get some interest :)

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When peanuts were around in the first few weeks of November in jersey I used full size Danny's to a ccw 2.5 oz metal lip and did well. I was casting that ccw in a 25+ mph east wind and crushing big blues and big bass one morning. You could see the purple blob of a lot of peanuts all over the wash in between waves and they were scattering all over and washing up on the beach. Full on blitz. When blues became a problem and I didn't want to lose that 30$ plug I switched to a white 1.5 oz bucktail and started catching bass when I landed my PB 35lber. So metal lips, swim shads, bucktails, sp minnows, ss bullets, anything smaller profile pretty much.

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I guess the first thing I try to determine with peanuts or adults is whether I am better "fitting in" or "standing out."  By that, I mean, do I want a good imitation, or do I need something to grab attention from the thousands of fish being chased in every direction. 

 

Here is a sample of what has worked for me over the years (more attention getters than match the hatch)

 

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Here is a result on the fly

 

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And then once in a while, you get to a point where hooking something is nice, but just watching the magic happen is equally rewarding. I only wish I had taken this with better equipment. That hopefully won't happen again. Here are a few minutes from a day of peanut feeding activity on Long island.

 

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My goodness those are some nice shiny lures. :) 
In my experience very nice paint jobs and plugs that look just like bunker patterns don't produce as much as lures that mimic the profiles/action of bunker and more solid colors. White and yellow by day, and black by night. The XRAP above being a perfect example. I'd rather fish a ghost white Xrap than bunker or fishy looking pattern any day.  Same with metal lips, darters, and pencils.

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I guess the first thing I try to determine with peanuts or adults is whether I am better "fitting in" or "standing out."  By that, I mean, do I want a good imitation, or do I need something to grab attention from the thousands of fish being chased in every direction. 

 

Here is a sample of what has worked for me over the years (more attention getters than match the hatch)

 

attachicon.gifIMG_0762.jpg

 

Here is a result on the fly

 

attachicon.gifIMG_1941.JPG

 

And then once in a while, you get to a point where hooking something is nice, but just watching the magic happen is equally rewarding. I only wish I had taken this with better equipment. That hopefully won't happen again. Here are a few minutes from a day of peanut feeding activity on Long island.

 

Nice bluefish on a fly!

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Big needles are my favorite plug for when bunker are around. They are pretty much my favorite plug anytime but they really shine when big bait is present.

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