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June 2005 field test

Soft Lures for Saltwater

The best artificial baits rattle, pop, glow in the dark or just taste good to fish.

By Gibbs Milliken

In Texas, innovations in soft fishing lures seem to come from independent makers experimenting with odd materials and shapes. It all started in 1949, when Nick Creme of Tyler, Texas, invented the soft plastic worm. Since then, few anglers fish without some variation of this technology.

One trendsetting soft lure designed specifically for saltwater is the now famous B & L Corky, a chunky 4-inch baitfish with over-size wild-looking eyes that drive trout and redfish crazy. Made in Houston, these fine baits have always been in limited supply. All genuine Corky lures are very well crafted, with rattles and internal steel cables connecting the treble hooks to the main eye. ($5 Original Corky, B& L Mfg., (713) 946-9188, www.corkybandl.com)

The most advanced baitfish styles emit flashes of color from light-refracting holographic strips and flecks inside their translucent bodies. They’re also impregnated with salt or scents that encourage striking fish to hold fast and run with the tasty bait. Tidal Surge Split Tail lures from Baytown, Texas, offer a diverse color selection of 4.5-inch durable stretchy plastics that can take a beating from multiple strikes and that contain a special “fishy” scent that is a proven attractor. ($2, Split Tail, Tidal Surge Fishing Lures, (281) 420-7604, www.tsflures.com)

In larger lures, the 6-inch thumper-tail Yum G-Shad comes scented with their LPT simulated enzymes and sport bright-colored reflective bodies. Similar designs in the Berkley Saltwater PowerBaits are prerigged with internal weighted hooks, a distinct advantage when the fishing action really gets going. Their new Swimmin’ Pogy looks, feels and smells like a baitfish and its 1-ounce low-balanced weight runs well in the strong currents off the piers, jetties and surf. ($3.44, 3-pack, G-Shad, Yum Bait Co., (479) 782-8971, www.yum3x.com ; $3.95, 4-pack, 4-inch Swimmin Pogy, Berkley Pure Fishing, (800) 237-5539 www.berkley-fishing.com)

Soft plastics that are eyeless can be enhanced using large-eyed Holographic Head Jigs. Predator fish are strongly attracted to baitfish displaying a frightened look along with a distressed movement. These heads in various sizes, weights and styles offer a distinct advantage when fishing in clear or slightly colored water. ($3.99, 1/8 ounce 5-pack, Holographic Jig Heads, Bass Pro Shops, (800) 277-7776, www.basspro.com)

Realistic invertebrate designs like the Creme Killer Diller Shrimp are proving very effective in the bays. Another is their heavy Saltwater Super Tube with pulsing tentacles that, when properly rigged using a bleeding red treble-hook, resembles an injured squid trying to escape. ($2.12, Shrimp. $4.82, Super Tube, 8-pack. $5.48. Creme Lure Co., (903) 561-0522, www.cremelure.com)

Even more naturalistic are the crab patterns by ReaLures that are almost identical to the living thing. They are prerigged to work the bottom, and the hook is imbedded in the soft carapace to reduce snagging. When slowly retrieved, the crab appears to walk or swim sideways with legs and claws moving in lifelike motions. ($4.99, 2-inch Perfect Crab, ReaLures, (504) 279-0683)

Popular for night fishing are shrimp, crab and fish patterns that glow in the dark. They contain phosphorescent impregnations activated by simply holding a flashlight or other strong light source close to the lure for a few moments. These are particularly effective around lighted docks or piers by casting into the dark just beyond the floodlights, where larger fish often feed. One of the best of these is the fully rigged Popping Shrimp fished under a Dinner Bell Cork that simulates a natural fish feeding sound. ($4.99, 3-inch Popping Shrimp. $2.99, Dinner Bell Cork. ReaLures (504) 279-0683)

Anglers have so many choices, that it is often difficult to choose what bait and color will be most effective. If in doubt, just ask a coastal guide or bait shop which soft plastics are producing best for the season, location and water conditions.

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