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In the Game: Part 19
  |  First Published: July 2007



I suppose it goes without saying that there are a lot of aspects in fishing prone to debate due to differing opinions amongst anglers. For game fishermen trolling skirted lures, a lot of factors come into play in getting particular lures to troll at their optimum ability, giving them a heightened chance of exciting a predatory fish and soliciting a strike.

Experienced anglers will do anything they can to increase the chances of a positive hook-set once that elusive fish does strike. It is a disheartening experience to raise a large marlin or other gamefish but fail to set the hooks. While this can be a result of the relevant rig in the lure, sharpness of the hooks or something as simple as the angle that the fish hit the lure from, some anglers look a little deeper for an answer. One of the possible factors affecting the hook-set is the head of the lure and more importantly, its composition.

HARD OR SOFT?

While some anglers are happy just to chuck a lure in the water and troll around until a fish hooks up, many take a scientific approach to their sport. Every little facet is considered for its positive and negative aspects. One hotly debated topic relates to the composition of lure heads and whether hard or soft heads will give you the best chance of hooking up once a fish does strike the lure.

The composition of a skirted lure’s head may or may not have a lot to do with the hook-up rate when a fish strikes. However, there are many factors that can be considered in relation to this topic and it’s up to you to form your own opinions. I will just give you the thoughts of some of the world’s top game fishermen and lure makers to consider.

BRAND BANTER

The makers of both soft and hard heads have obviously made their decisions about which head type is best from many hours of ‘on-water research’ (read fishing) with prototypes of various kinds.

Soft head lures are widely marketed by manufacturers such as Pakula, Sekard, Moldcraft and Pro-Soft (Hawaii), who all produce world-renowned products. Other smaller manufacturers such as Fisheagle, Citer and Strike-Zone have previously produced small quantities of cheaper soft head lures. Strike-Zone used to make lure heads from duralon (the same black material that is used in rod grips).

Probably the most prominent manufacturer voicing the benefits of hard head lures is Captain Bart Miller who thoroughly believes them to be better after his lifetime of experience on the water. He promotes his product Black Bart Lures as being unbreakable.

Other top brands such as Joe Yee, Pakula, Meridian, Smithy’s, Bahama, Bob Schneider, Hollowpoint, Top Gun, Todds, Marlin Magic, Braid, Coggins, Bomboy, Predator and many others also promote the benefits of hard heads.

There are obviously a lot of other manufacturers not listed here, the majority of which are hard heads. With most manufacturers producing only hard head lures, you naturally wonder whether this is because they are easier to produce or are better than soft heads. Following are some of the reasons put forward by various manufacturers and anglers in the argument between soft and hard.

SOFT THOUGHTS

The duration for which a predatory fish will hold a lure is probably the most hotly debated topic. Some believe that soft head lures feel more life-like and therefore a fish is more likely to repeatedly strike a lure and more likely to hold onto it for longer once it does grab the lure.

Due to the soft surface, a fish is able to grip the lure in its mouth without the lure sliding free. Fish such as billfish will often strike a lure repeatedly with their hard bill in a bid to maim and disable their prey. They will usually not shy away from a soft head lure if their bill strikes it, as it feels relatively life-like.

Conversely, if the fish can easily grip the lure’s head without the lure being pulled from the fish’s mouth with the motion of the boat, there is less chance of the hooks being driven home. When the fish feels something is not right, it will open its mouth and spit the lure instead of having the lure slide from its mouth, forcing it to bite down on the hooks.

Some fishermen prefer soft lures as they can be less damaging to the boat (especially in the case of the larger models used for heavy tackle fishing).

Because soft head lures, especially the clear versions, are newer to the market, some anglers believe they must have a technological advantage over the older style hard head lures.

As soft head lures are lighter than hard heads of the same size, they often promote more aggressive actions out of the particular lure for its size and design.

HARD THEORIES

Hard heads make up the greater proportion of skirted lures on the market today. The first hard resin head lure was made by renowned Hawaiian angler and skipper Henry Chee, who walked into a garage in 1949 and saw some fibreglass resin setting in a jar. He recognized the potential of its clear, hard properties and envisaged putting a metal tube in the middle to pass a leader through and setting pieces of pearl shell inside to head to provide an attractive reflection. Due to its liquidity before setting, the resin had the ability to be made into any shape. Chee began making moulds and pouring resin into them to produce the first resin lure heads.

The hardness of resin heads is believed by many to promote more positive hooking. The theory is that when a fish grabs the lure, the hard shiny surface allows the lure to slip more easily from the fish’s mouth. This is believed to increase the chance of the fish biting down on the hooks as the lure is torn from its mouth due to the movement of the boat. If the fish were able to easily hold the head (as with soft heads) then it would feel the unnatural occurrence of the pull and spit the lure before the hook can be pulled into the mouth.

Hard heads are reputed to be more durable (especially in terms of scratching) and less prone to being cut by the teeth of wahoo, mackerel, dogtooth tuna and other fanged fishes. As a result the heads maintain their clear finish for longer.

Latest technology allows hard heads to be unbreakable, meaning a lure will last a lifetime if you can avoid losing it to predators.

Because they are heavier than soft heads of the same size, hard heads are more likely to stay in the water and swim well when conditions are not ideal. They are less likely to skip down the face of waves and basically hold in the water better.

CONCLUSION

Now you have some of the theories and beliefs voiced in the soft heads versus hard heads debate. Like a lot of things in life, it’s up to you to make up your own mind. In my opinion, if a lure swims well in the water and entices a fish to eat it, it deserves its place in your line-up regardless of whether the head is hard or soft. To me it is a small piece in the jigsaw puzzle, although to some it is a major factor in deciding which brands of lures they run.

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