Rat-L-Trap’s effectiveness helped to earn its place as a primary, go-to lure in just about any situation or condition.
Like most young anglers, my first attempts to fool fish were with bait. But it didn’t take long to make the transition to using lures, just like the pros I watched on television, the guys who seemed to always catch a huge bass right at the end of the show. Of the many styles, makes and models of lures that were available in stores and tackle shops at the time, it was the new lipless crankbait that was the latest craze. The Rat-L-Trap was the first of the lipless, rattling crankbaits, a style of lure that opened up many possibilities for both fresh and saltwater fishermen. It was a totally new design, and its long-term success is easily verified by the number of imitators it has spawned.
The Rat-L-Trap is about as user-friendly as a lure can be; no “tuning” or modifications are needed, and it didn’t take long for it to become a staple, not only for me, but for many of my fellow fishing pals. It quickly earned its place as our primary, go-to lure in just about any situation or condition. We wouldn’t think of hitting the bass pond without having at least a few “traps” in our meager, sparsely populated tackle boxes. And whenever it got to be near “the end of the show,” as we’d say on a less than stellar day, Rat-L-Traps were what you’d find on the end of our lines.
The shad-shaped, noise-producing (rattling) Rat-L-Trap crankbait features a combination of sound and action attractive to a variety of predatory fish. The lure is manufactured by Bill Lewis Lures in Alexandria, Louisiana, a business that has been 100 percent family owned and operated since it was formed in 1971. Today, the company employs about 100 people, many of whom have been there for over 20 years. Bill Lewis Lures Rat-L-Traps and other lures in its product line can be found in tackle shops throughout North America, Australia, Europe, Africa and Japan. All Bill Lewis lures are handmade and built in the factory in Alexandria, using all American-made components.
When founder Bill Lewis was working on the design of the first Rat-L-Trap, he took the completed prototype out for a test run with high hopes. To his dismay, he found the lure “stood up on its nose” when dragged through the water. In fact, he found it didn’t really seem “to do much of anything” at all. So he added some lead BB-size shot to the rear compartment to serve as a counterbalance, hoping this modification would help the lure run more like a wounded baitfish. Well, it did that and more. After the modification, Bill and his son, Buddy, found the lure was so noisy that they could actually hear it as it ran through the water. To them it sounded like an old, rickety “rattletrap,” which inspired the name, and a new concept in lure design was born.
Since Bill Lewis incorporated the first sound chamber into the original Rat-L-Trap back in the early 1970s, the variety of colors, patterns and designs have expanded considerably. It is available in six sizes (in both fresh and saltwater models), and hundreds of colors. The Original Rat-L-Trap, Mini-Trap, Mag-Trap, Tiny-Trap, Super-Trap, Redzone Rat-L-Trap, Spin-Trap, Spark-L-Trap and Rat-L-Top are the most popular models. In addition, the company has expanded its rattling lure product line over the years to include topwater baits, such as the Spitfire (popper) and the Slap-Stik (floating stickbait).
Using sound and vibration to attract fish is based on the theory of how fish use sound to locate food. Besides being a very productive lure for triggering strikes from largemouth and smallmouth bass, the Rat-L-Trap is equally effective on a variety of other fish, including walleye, pike, muskies and assorted panfish species. Saltwater anglers have found that Rat-L-Traps can be deadly on inshore sport fish like striped bass and bluefish.
There are several proven fishing techniques an angler can use to increase the effectiveness of the Rat-L-Trap. One of my favorites is the “lift and drop.” During the retrieve you simply use your rod tip to lift and drop the lure through the water column and over structure. This method is most productive when used in deeper water and is a great way to cover the depths and to locate exactly where the fish are holding. Most often the strike will come during the fall. It’s also an excellent way to tempt a fish that may be following the lure into striking. By varying the retrieve – stopping every four or five cranks of the reel handle – you imitate the action of an injured baitfish and keep the lure in the strike zone just a little longer than you would with a steady retrieve. When using this method, the strike will often come during the pause. Similarly, when fishing in deep water and for ice-fishing applications, the weighted/sinking models can be used for vertical jigging. Simply lift the lure with a series of quick jerks to get the rattles working, and then slowly lower it again, causing the lure on its descent to “swim” and wobble like an injured baitfish. But always be sure to keep the line tight in order to feel even the slightest take and to keep the hooks from fouling with the leader. Another effective technique involves casting and “speed-retrieving” the Rat-L-Trap. This is best used when fish are aggressive or reside in warm waters, or both. Speed-retrieve can also be used as a fish-locating tool and is especially effective when the lure is “ripped” through aquatic weeds and vegetation. The Rat-L-Trap also works well when trolling.
You’ll find models ranging from 1/8 ounce (Tiny-Trap) to 1 1/2 ounces (Super-Trap), and certain models are available as floaters or sinkers. With so many colors in the Rat-L-Trap catalog, you should have no problem finding one that matches the forage in the areas you fish. In clear water, you can never go wrong with natural forage colors like perch and sunfish, and with the color and pattern of crayfish. In murky water, go with larger sizes in bright colors like fire tiger, chartreuse, orange and red. In shallow water, always use smaller sizes. A good rule of thumb is, if the fishing is tough, change patterns and downsize until you have success. The original chrome patterns have proven effective time and again over the last 30 years. I have found that the Rat-L-Trap is so good there’s hardly ever a need to change lure types. It’s often just a matter of changing Rat-L-Traps until you find the right color, size and presentation.