New lines of fishing equipment equipped with the latest technology and made from fiberglass and plastic materials are being offered in the market. These include lures with eye-catching designs and colors and reels with liquid crystal display devices and automatic trigger mechanisms.
This year, some old favorites take on a new shine.
“Try a hula popper. All you need is a Hula Popper.” This is the advice that Irwin “Steamboat” Salovin gives me every summer when I visit his son. To him, it’s the only bass lure to use. But Steamboat knows that not once in recent years has either his son or I fished the Hula Popper, a popular Arbogast lure since 1941. It’s a nice lure, but a bit old-fashioned.
So there I am at a sports show speaking to Ken Chaumont of Bill Lewis Lures, makers of the enormously successful and much-copied Rat-L-Trap crankbait, when Ken whips out a sparkling and newly introduced SpitFire topwater plug. It’s about 3 inches long, with a tuft of hair on a rear treble hook and a scooped-out head. Chaumont notes that the deep scoop will push lots of water out in a forward slash as well as create a good popping sound. Slimmer, lighter, and with a rattling chamber, the plug looks like a Hula Popper on a diet. It also looks a bit like a Chug Bug, a slim popping plug made by Storm Lures, and one made by Rebel called a Pop-R.
A few days later, on an equatorially humid morning on Lake Sam Rayburn in southeast Texas, shad-chasing largemouths readily attack my popping, splashing SpitFire. One of my companions, seventeen-year-old Reese Weller, is using a topwater walking plug, and we have a frenzied contest to see who can catch more bass. It’s a draw.
In the midst of the fun, I remember Steamboat and the Hula Popper and a comment by colleague Bob Stearns, who said, “I’ve never seen a business re-invent the wheel more than the fishing tackle industry.”
That may be true, but have you noticed how spotty the wheels are looking these days?
Is there anything really new in the fishing tackle for 1995? The undramatic truth is that there are some interesting developments in various product categories. Some, like the SpitFire, may actually help you enjoy fishing a little more. All are meant to satisfy our craving and curiosity. Following are some items in the lineup for 1995 that struck me as being especially worthy of attention.
No doubt many of the top-quality high-priced reels on the market will make your fishing easier, but they’re also expensive. ABU Garcia, Daiwa, Quantum, and Shimano all have made some changes or new introductions to their premium products, none of which are loaded down with bells and whistles, although Daiwa has a Z-1 spinning reel with ten ball bearings. Noting the increase in users of braided line, ABU Garcia and Mitchell are producing bait-casting and/or spinning reels with cross-laying line winding.
In spinning reels, the evolution to one-handed operation continues, with most manufacturers featuring products that incorporate a trigger device to flip the bail. Some, like Quantum’s Hypercast, include a line pickup system that permits fingerless casting. Mitchell has a triggerless system for automatic casting; with its two Auto bail spinning reels, you touch .the bail and cast. The bail pops up when you touch it and a pin catches the line.
Mitchell says the bail centers automatically, but the demo I tried required me to look at the reel and turn the handle. Also, if you have a large hand, it can be tough to reach the bail arm. Finger space is a problem with the Hypercast, too. There’s a future for the one-handed reel if products will truly allow you to cast without looking or feeling and without snarling line.
It isn’t true that the only thing to use these days is the high-strength low-diameter braided line (see “The New Breed,” March 1994) but there is a demand. Lighter strength braided lines have been introduced for ’95 by various manufacturers, including Berkley (whose new product is Gorilla Braid), Silver Thread, Spiderwire, and Stren. Stren has reclassified its Powerbraid lines according to breaking strength at the knot instead of in an unknotted form, which is sure to make comparisons confusing to fishermen and underscores the decades-long lack of standards within this segment of the fishing tackle industry. Meanwhile, Spiderwire is being made from a stronger and thinner Spectra fiber than was previously available, including 15-pound (unknotted) line with the diameter of conventional 4-pound mono.
In addition to these changes, a few line manufacturers have announced newer versions of existing products or additional colors. The only problem – you’ll find an ever-more confusing specialization, including so-called ice-fishing line, crankbait line, cold-weather line, river line, thin line, tough line, big-game line, and flipping line.
Lure colors have never been richer, sexier, or more reflective. Numerous manufacturers have baits with a sparkling, flashy, knock-’em-dead look that should be especially appealing to fish in clear and shallow waters. Some notable examples include Mann’s Crystalglow lures, Norman’s Gel Coat series, Lewis’ Spark-L-Trap series, Rapala’s Minnow Spoons, and Bomber’s G Fleck series.
Meanwhile, lure resurrection is going strong. Ironically, while Arbogast’s Hula Popper has spawned similar products, the company has brought out a highly touted lure, the A.C. Plug, which looks a bit like the old Creek Chub Pikie and a bit like a Luhr Jensen jointed J-Plug. This lure, which has been producing big stripers and largemouths, particularly in the West, is wooden, jointed, and sports a tough soft-plastic tail; it was made by a California angler until Arbogast recently purchased it, and is now available in 12-, 9.5-, and 7.5-inch sizes.
Another resurrection of sorts is the re-emergence of suspending plugs: lures that float at rest, dive, and stay at the level they’ve attained when the retrieve is stopped. Rebel used to manufacture a good suspending crankbait and anglers have been modifying lures to make them suspend for years. Last year, Smithwick, a Rebel sibling, came out with the Suspending Rogue, a minnow plug that became popular in some lakes. Another sibling, Bomber, has a dandy plug in its new Suspending Long A Minnow, which I’ve already had good results with, and which has a flashy high-quality finish, appropriate for a lure that will see a lot of shallow twitching.
Not a suspender but an extremely buoyant crankbait is the new Luhr Jensen Brush Baby. Around thin-walled plug, it has fin-like brush lobes, an up-tilted lip end, and a centered lip cam to allow the body to deflect obstructions. While skillful anglers have used other plugs in brush and timber before, this one was specifically designed for the job.
Attractive high-quality colors are jazzing up more spinnerbaits now that makers have started using printed silicone skirts and trailers (which don’t gum up after wetting and drying). Hart Tackle goes a step further with Sniper, sporting twin metal-flaked blades, and Culprit’s new Captivator spinnerbaits have gorgeous blades with great combination colors. Hildebrandt, one of the oldest lure manufacturers around, also has dazzling spinnerbaits, especially the durable tin-bodied Blade. Hildebrandt, which also has tin buzzbait blades, has a neat spinner-bait blade-changing system so you can readily swap styles or sizes. Lindy-Little Joe has a similarly advantageous system in its X Change series of spinners and crawler harnesses, featuring a clevis for quick-switching spinner blades.
Soft plastics are more enticing than ever, and perhaps the most attention-grabbing soft plastic for ’95 is the new Kalin Hologram series. Kalin has embedded colorless laser-cut hologram flakes in all types of soft plastics, producing random iridescent flashes in the water that are extremely attractive, mimicking the natural appearance of bait as light hits from all angles. This is more important in shallow-water fishing than deep, and I’ve already had success with hologram grubs and worms.
Another great-looking soft plastic, and one that has also been producing fish is the Sizzler series from Johnson Lures. These baits have a soft chrome-like reflective finish on one side of a twisted tail to produce a very visible and reflective image. Sizzler grubs are particularly useful, as are worms and trailers on spinnerbaits.
In other soft-plastic news, frogs never looked froggier and many versions of really lifelike crayfish are available, with various weighted hooks to provide a bottom-walking standup appearance. Berkley has combined its scent-and-flavor Power Baits with plugs in three combo lures, including the Power Rattle, a swimming lure with a rattling hard-plastic head, and a Power Bait cranking tail.
Trollers will find that there are more diving planers available than ever. A promising new one is the Kulis Kastaway’s Diver. This directional diver can be fished at any depth and below the boat as well as to the side; it differs from other planers because it can be reset without having to be retrieved, simply by giving slack to the fishing line. The tension on the tripping device is also adjustable.
Another noteworthy planer is the Big Jon Mini Otter side-planer. At 5×2 inches, this small in-line side-planer should be good for travelers, in small boats, for light-tackle use, and possibly for live-bait fishing.
Strange-looking, but innovative, is the Strike Line Downrigger, a large fish-shaped plastic device that attaches to a downrigger cable just above the weight. It sports a propeller that mechanically drives a system to change lure speed. The lure can be positioned any distance behind the device and is freed via release. The Downrigger constantly cycles to stop a lure, then speeds it up.
Fishing camp operators in the north have discovered a way to solve in-the-field aluminum boat problems with the Boat Patch from Evergreen Products. This is a nontoxic, heat-bonded, no-mix industrial-strength polymeric epoxy. You clean the surface, expose it to low heat from a propane torch, and apply stick-shaped patching material to the area.
Another good idea from the same company is the waterproof hand-dial Fish Weight Calculator, based on a common formula. Length and girth measurements are lined up on the calculator wheel to determine the weight of fish that have been released.
On the high-tech front, some of the LCD recorders available now are almost as good as the better paper chart recorders of the past, a welcome development for many big-water fishermen. Lowrance’s X-70A and Eagle’s Ultra III are prime examples; both have the wider viewing area that many people prefer. The former unit sports a 200-vertical-pixel screen for great displays, programmable info windows, and many advanced features, while the latter has FastTrack signal strength indication, Grayline, and optional side-scan capability.
Humminbird has been focusing on wider screens and wider viewing areas beneath the boat as well; the Wide View and Wide Vision models sport narrow- and wide-angle transducers, provide a reading of the width of the bottom coverage area, and offer many other features. Speaking of wide screens, Bottom Line’s Tournament Champion sonar unit has a 23-square-inch viewing area and offers transducers for both sides of the boat for below plus 45-and 90-degree-angle viewing.
Lastly, again for big-water anglers, Lowrance’s new Global Map 1000 is an extraordinary mapping/navigational device with differential-ready GPS technology, a built-in world reference map, and a host of other important features. Also available for interfacing with this is highly detailed Lowrance Inland Chart Modules that provide information on lakes and waterways, with specific landmark references.
With this device and sonar, you’ll always be able to return to the spot where you caught fish, with or without a Hula Popper.