Asian Invasion
  |  First Published: December 2007

A lot of things have changed in fishing gear over the last 30 or 40 years. I can remember back when I first started buying my own fishing gear as a teenager and the choice was very limited, especially when it came to lures. Nowadays, the shelves are flooded with the selection of lures on offer and the quality of equipment has expanded to all brands.

As a country lad my tackle box held only a handful of favourites with Flopies, Celtas, and Flatfish in T60 for cod and X4 for trout being the mainstays. In the salt, metal spoons or slices still had the lion’s share of the market and it was really only the more adventurous types up in the tropics that had taken to minnow lures in any real way. Of course, that quickly changed when southern anglers realised they could catch fish on them too.

First wave invasion

When minnows and plugs really did start to take off in this country, it was with a bang and not a whimper. Not surprisingly it didn’t take long for some cheap imported look-a-likes to appear on the shelves. Mostly they were Japanese in origin and while some appeared superficially similar to the established European and American brands, they were often structurally insufficient. Light wire eyelets, chewing gum strength hooks and light plastic bodies, which didn’t cope well with strong jaws and sharp teeth, were all too common. In fairness to the manufactures, the lures may have been cheap but a lot of the Asian imports weren’t made with our Aussie species in mind.

These days you can go out and buy Australian made lures that have been specifically designed for just about any species of sportfish you care to name. In terms of strength and durability the Aussie product represents the best option for Australian fishers. And most regional lure anglers will have a high percentage of locally made hard-bodied lures in their tackle boxes.

Second wave invasion

However, lately there has been quite an invasion going on that has seen a few new imports slip back into the top draw of tackle boxes. It is a second wave of Japanese and Asian lure imports that, unlike the first wave, is not just simply a budget copy of an established brand. Instead, they have been elevated to the top shelf and often are designed to be specifically used in a way that locally made lures are not.

The Japanese lures have gained a toehold amongst the local lure industry because they have been very successful in catching Aussie fish. This is because fisheries in heavily populated countries like Japan are under far greater pressure than our own to consistently fool fish on lures. This is no easy task and any lure that works well there, is usually going to be very successful in less heavily fished waterways like our own. These lures have proven pretty popular with Aussie anglers who have become involved with our emerging tournament scene.

I have recently purchased a couple of Japanese surface lures that I chase bass with. Both are very effective and a hell of a lot of fun to fish but they just aren’t the sort of thing most shops would sell a lot of. Due to the small market size and cost of manufacturing, the Australian lure industry has found it hard to compete. So these Asian lures fill a gap in our market.

What’s on offer

Several of these imported lures are now mainstays in many Aussie tackle boxes and are fast becoming a few of my favourites.

The Mazzy Popper that doesn’t actually look much like a popper at all, it has a stubby bib on the front. This lure is designed to be worked both on and in the surface and they have been killing the bass in Cania dam. They require a fine-tuned technique, and these unusual looking lures have a wide application.

Another surface lure I have had quite a bit of success with is the Wise Dog from the Yamaria Corporation (also from Japan). These are cigar shaped stickbaits that are used to ‘walk-the-dog’ and bass just love them. They are one of my favourite surface lures on our local bass lake and they provoke heart-stopping strikes. Like the Mazzy, Wise Dogs come equipped with razor sharp hooks and despite being in the upper end of the price bracket, they are the business.

There are still cheaper options out there amongst the Asian imports. River 2 Sea make a huge range of affordable hard- and soft-bodied lures and amongst their range are some very neat little lures. I love their little Bubble Pop 45s, which are tiny cup faced poppers with flow-through gills.

There is also the Bully Wa 65, which is a soft-bodied weedless frog lure. The body of the lure protects the hook points so you can fish them right through the thickest weed beds. Bass and barra anglers should use a lot more of these lures, particularly in places like Awoonga where barra love to hold up in the weedy shallows.

Finally, there is the Trollcraft lures, which are amongst the most affordable lures you can buy. They are made in China and Fizz Sticks and Fizz Tails are simply brilliant bass lures. The Trollcraft Pelagic #4 is a great small mackerel catcher and ultra-light lure tossers will love their tiny little yabbie imitation.

I catch a lot of bass and other mid weight fish on Trollcraft lures without any need to upgrade the hardware but barra anglers will no doubt find it reassuring to do so. Trollcraft lures may not be as well finished as some of the top of the range imports, but for around $7 or $8 each, they are great value for money.

As you can see, the latest wave of imports don’t have the drawbacks that came with the cheap Asian lures of the past. And while these imports will never replace our home grown product, local anglers are smart enough to realise that, just like with soft plastics, you need to have a range of hard-bodied lures to pick from. No matter what situation you find yourself in, you will always be able to reach into your tackle box and find exactly the right lure for the job.

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