The Search for Perfection – big barra, cod and pelagic specials
  |  First Published: June 2007

While almost every possible design in lure bodies has been tried and tested over the years, there are still new lures coming onto the market that are different enough from their competitors to justify their introduction. Often these are from relatively new players in the lure-making game, but not always.

Take the new range of AussieJumpers for example, which are the brainchild of Cobram lure making legend John Ellis. There is no doubt that John is one of this country’s elder statesmen when it comes to lure design, having created the famous StumpJumpers, but even he is not been prepared to rest on his laurels. Instead, John set about creating a range of streamlined minnows that have retained the StumpJumper’s patented “snap in and out” interchangeable bib system but which have a tighter action that barra and other tropical species prefer.

In comparison, Steve Cheng and company from the Tropic Angler stable are relative newcomers to the market, but that hasn’t stopped the boy from Bundaberg from having a big impact. The 13cm Tropic Angler Large Floater is superficially similar to many of the proven shallow running barra lures, however some clever thought has obviously gone into its design. The Large Floater’s body allows it to go much deeper than most other lures of its type and has a pronounced tendency to roll over on its sides when worked correctly. There must be something to it, because the Large Floater has quickly found a place amongst the must-have lures for those heading to the big barra lakes like Monduran and Awoonga. It must also be said that they offer some of the most detailed finishes I have seen, easily rivalling the top end Japanese lures.

Another relatively new shallow running ‘barra’ type minnow to hit the market has been the Classic F18. Despite performing a similar role to established performers in its niche, it too has a distinctive profile, which readily identifies it as a member of the Classic range. Interestingly, the standard F18 also comes in a deep-diving version, which is fitted with the Manta Ray bib, held in place by a new ‘twin pin’ chin locking system. The Manta Ray bib claims to take the F18 down to 18ft, a running depth not many long skinny minnows can achieve.

Deeper and Deeper

Bibs are a fertile field for creative lure makers and few people have been as busy as Halco head honcho Ben Patrick. Ben has a penchant for driving lures deeper and with proven performers like the 150mm Crazy Deep Scorpion to his credit, he seems to have it pretty well worked out. The latest bib to come out of Halco’s Western Australian workshop is a super deep diver for the 125mm Scorpion. This bib drags the smaller Scorpion down to 8m without sacrificing the trademark shimmy.

On a slightly shallower note, Halco have also redesigned the 120mm Laser Pro with a stubby ‘twitching’ bib to suit the barra market. Then there is the oval shaped DD bib which makes the same lure troll down to 2.5m, yet hold in at almost planing speed.

But even Halco doesn’t have a mortgage on bib development. Rob Smith and the Predatek crew are working on a new bib for their ever-popular Viper which will also get it down to around 8m on the troll. When combined with the standard 4m Viper and the shallow running SandViper, they will have the full depth range covered.

Trolling tools

Big minnows make great trolling tools for pelagics and AussieJumpers have already established themselves as versatile lures that take everything from metre long barra to even longer mackerel. Another with similar credentials is Reidy’s Judge. Judges will hang in at surprisingly high trolling speeds and regularly get belted by mackerel and tuna. The same lures can be backed right off to a crawling barra pace and have already accounted for some of the Territory’s biggest salties.

Mac’s Lures Stimulator is another versatile minnow. While still yet to firmly establish itself in the marketplace, this no-nonsense minnow is designed for serious fishing, having been tried and tested on long range reef trips where huge fish were unable to hurt it. At a beefy 18cm (around the size of a Rapala CD18 or Halco’s 190 Laser Pro) Stimulators are probably as big a minnow as you would ever want to cast for barra, but as the fish in our impoundments keep on getting bigger, serious lures are required.

When talking serious lures, it’s hard to go past the original Bounty Hunters. With runs on the board for fish like New Guinea’s black bass, you have to be talking about one tough lure. Often overlooked as trolling tools, Bounty Hunters run much deeper than you might suspect and deserve the chance to show their stuff anywhere ambush predators can be found.

Bounty Hunters also have a new model called the GillRaker, which has an 8m capability and is specifically built with heaps of reinforcing to handle huge impoundment barra. Having already landed fish to 1.2m without trouble, they look set to become impoundment trolling must haves. The fact that they are finished like works of art won’t hurt their popularity either.

Another deep troller worth giving more thought to is the Prowler from Bandit Lures. I don’t think Dave Killalea ever designed a bad lure and while they are now in the Gillies stable, Prowlers are well worth using. Mine have taken barra off deep rock bars up rivers and have even been used to pull serious bottom dwellers out of the rocks and coral bommies around the local river mouth. At almost 12cm long, and with a 6m+ depth capacity, they are also very under-rated as impoundment lures.

There are definitely a few other lures in that category including Lively Lures’ Arafura Barra, which has slipped under the radar of many dedicated big barra chasers. The angled sides of the Arafura reflect light outwards and downwards alerting any fish in the area to a seemingly easy meal. In the generally clear waters of our big dams, that message can travel a long way.

Bigger is better

When it comes to our premier inland sportfish, the Murray cod, it’s often a case of bigger is better when it comes to lures. Certainly Anthony Curtis of Australian Crafted lures seems to think so with his massive 150mm Invader. This huge double handful of a lure has an incredible depth capacity of over 10m. Again, AC lures are meticulously finished and built tough for the sort of fish they are going to attract.

Swagman lures have also addressed the massive end of the market with their largest Jumbuck. While a little more compact than the Invader, its shovel-sized bib will get it down to 10m and it has already taken some massive Mulwala Murray cod.

One of the more interesting offshoots in cod lures has been the development of trolling lures that imitate bardi or wood grubs. While no grub I’ve ever seen was able to swim the way these lures do, they still catch a lot of fish. If it weren’t for the bib and swinging treble hooks, you could almost be forgiven for trying to put one of Huey’s Huon pine grubs on a hook.

Essential tools, not excess baggage

Unfortunately space prohibits me from going on, as there are a host of other local lure manufacturers out there quietly going about their business of refining their product and trying to produce the ‘perfect’ lure. With names like Custom Crafted, Oar-Gees, Codger, Mudeye Lures and so on, who are all hard at work, you and I are the ones who will benefit.

As you can see even from this brief list, there are a lot of minnow lures out there that still deserve a place in your fishing line-up. There are also a lot of situations where hard-bodied lures make a lot more sense than soft plastics. I guess what it boils down to is that there is a vast range of lure fishing options out there and throwing soft plastics on highly sophisticated tackle is only part of the story.

Time proven techniques like trolling shouldn’t be ignored or looked down on either. Trolling minnow lures for mackerel and other pelagic species is productive and can be a lot of fun. Similarly, towing a lure around your local impoundment or estuary still requires a certain degree of fishing nous if you are going to be successful. While that’s the case, there will always be a place for well-designed minnows and plugs.

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