While the boom in soft plastics shows no signs of slowing down, Aussie lure makers continue to refine and redesign their minnows, plugs and surface lures in the never ending quest for perfection…
While soft plastic lures continue to dominate the conversations in fishing circles, it doesn’t mean that traditional hard-bodied lures are dead in the water. Sure the developments may not be coming as thick and as fast as they did a decade ago but manufacturers continue to update and improve their offerings in the hope of keeping up their market share.
Truth be told, it’s very hard to improve on some of the designs that have been around for a few years now, simply because they work so well. Most changes are purely cosmetic: a new paint job here, a tweak of a bib there and so on. However, every so often a worthwhile new concept comes along but given the popularity of softies, even this doesn’t always receive the attention it deserves.
So what is the state of play with Australian made hard-bodied lures? Are there still lures out there that can hold their own or even outperform softies?
The answer is yes! Despite what you might have seen and read, hard-bodied minnows are still an essential part of many anglers’ arsenals and should never be overlooked. As trolling tools for natives like bass, goldens, cod, barra and sharp toothed species like mackerel, minnows are almost impossible to replace and remain cheaper to use in the long run. They are also great casting tools and should not be left sitting in the tackle box.
There is a lot of ground to cover for this topic so this will be the first part of a three part series. We’ll start by checking out the latest and greatest in surface lures.
Aussie anglers are finally starting to realise that surface lures are more than just a one trick pony. No longer is their use being confined to after dark or change of light sessions and what’s more, they are pulling some amazing fish as a result. This acceptance has prompted the development of a wider range of surface lures and the previously import dominated market now has a very substantial local component.
As a dedicated surface lure fisher, this has been an exciting time. There are now locally made and designed surface lures for most Aussie sportfish from GTs and mackerel to bass and bream. What’s more, most of these lures can also handle hard fighting finned foes.
Bream nuts might like to have a play with the small SMAK Skywalker. At 35mm and carrying a single treble, it dances beautifully over the top of the racks at high tide. Only slightly larger is the Spaddler from Predatek. The Spaddler has the same body as the MicroMin and the MinMin but sports a recurved paddling lip. I have caught everything from garfish to bass on Spaddlers. They are one of my favourite lures for sheltered waters where they work their subtle magic with just a wiggle of the rod tip.
If you move up the scale again, you will come to the Scallywag from Mac’s Lures. The Scallywag has a bit of everything in it, with a slightly cupped face, a protruding abdomen for a walk-the-dog type action and a small rear propeller. By adjusting your rod work, you can get a lot out of this versatile lure. The lure’s design makes it hard to catagorise but the Scallywag works well on bass, tarpon and even lagoon barra at a pinch.
If you’re after fun surface fishing, it’s hard to go past frog imitations and Joll’s Cane Toads are some of the best available. The Cane Toads have a gaping bucket mouth for plenty of surface disturbance and their trailing soft plastic back legs give them a very realistic profile when viewed from below. I get a real kick out of fishing for bass and saratoga amongst the weeds with this lure and it’s easy to see why predators see this artificial as a tasty looking morsel. Simply give the rod tip a flick to make it ‘bloop’ then let those wobbly back legs waft around and watch the fish go off!
Of course, frogs aren’t the only critters that accidentally find their way into the drink. During warm weather, plenty of cicadas end up fluttering around on the surface, at least until the fish find them. Some of the best cicada imitations are made by Rob Taylor at Taylor Made Lures. His Basscada and Fat Bangers have an unmistakable cicada profile and bits that spin or paddle to imitate the commotion made by the original. Rob also makes a smaller fizzer called the Fizz Banger and the much larger Surface Breaker which is a big, jointed surface lure that will attract cod and barra.
Another choice for that sort of caper is the Depth Charge from Mudeye lures. Despite the name, Depth Charges don’t dive but if you can picture a Jitterbug on steroids, you’d be close. However, they can be made to move plenty of water if that’s what you want to do.
For a slightly more refined approach, you can always use one of Eddy’s Surface Busters. These are one of the few Aussie produced surface lures that don’t have a cupped face or spinning blades. Instead, they are designed for a swaying side-to-side action that native species find hard to resist. They are the perfect size for bass and lagoon barra and if you like to walk-the-dog, then the surface Buster should be on the end of your leader.
Apart from the Skywalker most of the other lures have a freshwater heritage, but there are plenty of surface lures available if you prefer to fish salt.
As usual, Halco have come to the forefront with the development of the Roosta popper range. Covering everything from the pocket sized 80mm model to the arm wrenching 190mm Haymaker, Roostas can be used as either bloopers or as fast retrieve skipping poppers. This has been achieved by clever design features which let anglers dictate how much of the lure’s face is in the water during the retrieve. As with everything Halco make, Roostas are almost bullet proof and if you have the energy and gear required to toss a Haymaker, you can be assured it will stand up to anything even the biggest GT can dish out.
Tropic Angler also make a GT Popper and at 12cm and weighing 100g – it’s a serious lure. Unlike the Roostas, the GT Popper is made from hardwood but it features a one piece wire frame which means that even though it might acquire a few teeth marks, it won’t fall apart on that fish of a lifetime.
Classic Lures have also addressed the serious side of saltwater popper tossing with the release of their new Tidal Wave Popper. At 145mm, it’s a fair lump of a lure, which is sure to get the attention of anyone who tosses surface lures at tropical thugs like queenies and trevally.
For dedicated big barra nuts, there were few more interesting releases last year than Bushy’s new Stiffys. Stiffys are a single bladed fizzer that come with the toughest hardware in the business. They were originally designed to meet the needs of the booming impoundment barra scene, but I happen to know that top end anglers really love these lures too.
A small band of Darwin locals have done well with them at the locally famous Howard River rock bar, where after dark surface sessions are something of a tradition. Metre plus, saltwater barra are frequently encountered at the rock bar and the Stiffys are quickly becoming a must have item. A mate of mine has even used them to spin up some land-based Spanish mackerel, making them a very exciting lure indeed. I just wonder how he happened to come up with the name…
Next month we’ll look at mid-sized diving minnows and plugs.
Australian Made and Designed
For the sake of clarification, most of the lures covered in this series are made in Australia, however some have been designed here and then produced overseas for various reasons. Whether this means they should no longer be classified as Australian is a matter for another time but the important thing to remember is that they were designed specifically for our fish and environments, not just adapted from an already successful overseas lure.
Lures for this article kindly supplied by:
|Halco Tackle Company||(08) 9430 5080|
|Joll’s Bounty Hunter Lures||(02) 6655 2269|
|Mac’s Lures||(07) 5465 2891|
|Predatek||(02) 6581 4144|
|Tropic Angler Lures||1800 467 628|
Toothy critters like this barracuda love munching on surface lures like this Halco Roosta popper.
A Bounty Hunter Cane Toad looking very much at home amongst the lilies.
Cane Toad Heaven
This is exactly the sort of place to fish the Cane Toad.
Halco’s latest Roosta is this pocket sized 80mm model which is right at home in most estuary situations.
One of Halco’s new 80mm Roosta poppers sitting in front of a much chewed larger model.
The Scallywag is a versatile little popper.
A late afternoon bass with a taste for Scallywags.
A catfish which thought it was a bass when it rolled on this Scallywag.
Scallywag on tile
With a cupped face, a protruding abdomen and a small propeller on the rear, the Scallywag packs a lot into a little surface lure.
You never know what will pounce on a Predatek Spaddler.
Insect like in size and profile, Spaddlers are right at home in bass country.
Sunrise Popper session
For the dedicated surface lure angler, this is when the magic happens.
Bass like this will really get your heart pounding when they smash a surface lure.
The new 80mm Halco Roostas are tough and they need to be to stand up to toothy critters like this barracuda.