Seriously good lures
  |  First Published: September 2008

Every time I sit to pen an article on soft plastic lure fishing, I can’t help but think about how far these lures have come. I bought a Mr Twister twin tailed lure around 25 years ago and if I recall it was bright orange and came ready rigged with a spare tail but resembled nothing that looked remotely eatable.

After working it through Coombabah Creek, I managed to land a couple of average-sized flathead but even though I was satisfied that they worked, it just confirmed my suspicions that flathead would eat anything.

After reading some magazine articles on the subject, I started to target flathead with plastics and by changing my technique, I started to catch a lot more fish with the odd big croc being landed as well.

Bream Champions Chris and Michael Metcalf got me hunting the internet for some very sophisticated plastics from the USA that had us catching everything from bream to mangrove jacks. Unlike the Mr Twister of old, these lures actually looked like a fish, swam like a fish and worked on just about everything. The more realistic the better and more expensive the lure was, and it was largely because of this that soft plastics started to boom in Australia and plastics that were once only available over the net, were now hanging on the walls of tackle stores all over the country.

Over the last couple of years, the trend has moved from realistic looking lures to realistic smelling lures that fish actually eat like bait. Berkley Gulps were dynamite on fussy fish as well as your more aggressive species and have no doubt set the benchmark for soft plastic lures. They do it with a lack of action and no detail at all but I have a tackle box full of them because they work by smelling like real food.

My first impression of the Bozo Lure range was that they actually looked like the lures we were buying from the States a few years back. They looked like real fish and the swimming action didn’t let me down either. The lures all have eyes, detail in the body and all but the jerk bait version have slim tail wrists that give the lures great action even on a slow drop.

After being asked to put the Bozo range through its paces, I put the Gulp away for a few months and have been hard at work with the Bozos. It’s important to note that I was asked by Phil Alder, who is the owner and designer of Bozo Lures, to give an accurate report on his lures (good and bad) for research and development reasons as well as giving readers of QFM feedback on his product.

Bozo has a huge range and due to the fishing that I do and how long that it would take to scrupulously test all of them, the first lure that I decided to pick on was the curly tailed Smelt. These are a single, curly tailed lure designed to target bream in the smaller sizes and everything from flathead to barramundi and the larger sizes. Smelt Bozos come in an unrigged 50 and 75mm lure as well as a pre-rigged 50mm/1.5g lure, pre-rigged 75mm/4g lure and a big pre-rigged 125mm/7g lure.

The scent is something that Bozo creator Phil Alder has been playing with and he tells me that this is still a work in progress.

“There are a few scents that I have been playing with that will make a big difference to the Smelts,” he said.

“The new scent is expensive, but I’m not worried if it improves the lure”.

The new scent that Phil is talking about will be coming out in the next batch of lures so it will be interesting to see if they improve the performance of the range.

The small pre-rigged lures are a little smaller than 50mm and swim and look very natural but I did have problems with the hooks in them.

These lures were ideal for bream and whiting fishing over the shallows. The whiting loved them but way too many bream bites were missed because the thick gauge hook was not getting into the bony mouth of the bream. I will admit to using extremely light line and therefore a light drag but fishing in clear shallow water for bream requires light tackle so a hook that can be set on light gear and minimal drag settings would be a must.

To fix this problem, I used the slightly larger 50mm unrigged version with a Nitro Tournament style head and the bites were converted into hook-ups. Phil from Bozo has taken note of the bream’s hard bony mouth and new stock of 50mm pre-rigged Bozos will support quality light gauge hooks to fix the problem. It was good to see Phil not only making the necessary changes to his lures but he also spent and lot of time on the water with me and a lot of other anglers both here and in NZ helped field test and improve his own product.

The pick of the colours that worked best for bream were dipstick, brown/gold and sanger, which worked well on ultra light line in clear water.

Rigging a 50mm dipstick on an un-weighted worm hook for working over the shallows during summer had plenty of interest from both whiting and bream that saw it as a little prawn dancing across the surface. Once again, my hook-up rate was poor but it was heaps of fun watching the bream kissing at the tail of the lure. I modified a Mustard Aberdeen hook in a size 2 and this did improve the hook-up but it was just as much fun watching bream sucking at the lure as it was hooking and landing one.

I had a morning session where trevally were ripping into a school of white bait, so rigging a 50mm Smelt sanger on a 1/16oz head resembled a little white bait perfectly and had me getting into the little big eyes all morning. I have no doubt that the Smelt in sanger colour was matching the hatch perfectly and has now become my preferred white bait imitation.

The cooler weather at the end of summer had the flathead biting in the shallows so I regularly loaded the boat with a mate and a few Bozos to play over the weed beds and drop-offs. Plenty of guys from my work are keen to learn about fishing with soft plastics and the Bozos Smelts proved to be ideal for beginners.

A simple rise and fall or even a few winds on the handle of the reel before a two or three second pause had plenty of flathead jumping all over the lures. The colours that worked best were brown and gold, bonza (chartreuse) and rainbow. I particularly liked the rainbow in slightly murky water and bonza in the clear stuff.

Rigging the Bozos for flathead can be a little tricky. Firstly, if using a jighead like the Bozo head or something else with eyes, I liked to cut to head off the plastic and give it a more natural look otherwise I end up with a two headed baitfish lure. I also found that the plastics are very tough and hard to rig in the conventional manner of starting at the head and keeping the plastic vertical while running the hook along the body. Instead, starting into the head before turning the lure on its side and then running the hook through the body before turning it vertically again to exit out of the plastic’s back was much easier and lot kinder on cold fingers.

The Bozo jigheads have a rounded hook that worked on just about everything but flathead hook-ups were down. Phil mentioned to me that he had been out testing them with other anglers for flathead and he is now working on having a new hook on his next batch of jigheads to fix this problem.

It sounds like the Bozos are a work in progress and to some extent they are what all lures should be. They have been working for me and I am looking forward to playing with these lures as Phil continues to make little changes to improve them. Gulps and many other plastics will still have a place in my tackle box, but its nice to have a single tail lure on the line that does not need replacing after every bite, doesn’t dry out and still catches fish. – Mark Ward

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