Got to admit, I’m rather ok with the fact that I frequently get to touch, test and take for a spin some of the fishing industry’s coolest equipment. Lures, lines, rods, reels, apparel, electronics and other slick stuff that works—one of the real joys of fishing lies in the discovery of great gear. And there’s a ton of truly sweet stuff out there, more and more all the time.
So, in what I envision as an ongoing experiment of sorts, let’s take a look at some currently cool, and in some cases obscure stuff that rocks fish or otherwise just plain makes our time on the water a little more sublime. To kick this off right, we’ll take a look at everyone’s favorite category—lures and baits. And by all means, if you’ve got something you’d like to share—a deadly unknown lure, or another cool tool—drop a note below. That’s what this is all about.
Jack’s Custom Baits – Perhaps not since the original Rapala Minnow have I seen such phenomenally realistic finishes on a dandy little crankbait. Each individual lure is hand tested in the field in Poland, and is accompanied by a written certificate of authenticity by the craftsman who made and tested it – bentleyfishing.com.
Sébile Vibrato – My friend and famed bass fishing writer Mike Pehanich put me onto these remarkable bladebaits last year during a smallmouth trip to Lake St. Clair, Michigan, where it produced bite after bite. Back home in Minnesota, the Vibrato has been equally impressive, be it for bass or walleyes during spring and fall coldwater phases – sebileusa.com.
Upton’s Custom Hand Poured Baits – Josh Upton lives near Diamond Valley Lake, California where he hand pours some of the most malleable, alluring softbaits on earth. Among a host of creations are his 4-1/2 and 6-inch Reapers and giant 8 to 13-inch Straight Tail Worms – uptonscustoms.com.
Maniac Custom Lures Micro Jigheads – I’ve looked for a tiny mushroom-style jighead forever, and Maniac’s 1/64 ouncer is a gem. Perfect for working 1 to 1-1/2 inch tubes, grubs and other trout-panfish softbaits – maniaccustomlures.com.
Rapala Ultra Light Shad – Destined for panfish glory, this diminutive shad bait is going to take a ton of big crappies, perch, white bass, trout and pretty much anything else you throw it for. Downsized cranks are hot on many fronts, and this one’s another winner – rapala.com.
Musky Armor Krave – Shame on you if haven’t trolled or cast this crankbait yet for muskies. Right along with the Jakes, Believers and Depth Raiders of the world, Krave and Krave Jr. are classic cranks in the waiting. With a flashy slab sided profile and side-to-side roll, these buoyant baits have tagged plenty of big fish for some of the sport’s top names – muskyarmor.com.
Rippin Lips Leakin Livers – From muskies to catfish, at In-Fisherman that’s how we roll. And I’d hate to let you go fishing for channel cats without a bag or two of Leakin Livers. The new wave catfish bait is made of 100% natural materials and is clean and easy to use. Pinching a bait “activates” the scent and flavor within, which continues dispersing underwater for over an hour – rippinlips.net.
Black Dog Baits Lunker Punker – Best big fish walk-the-dog bait I’ve ever thrown, end of story. Last year it produced many muskies up to and exceeding 50-inches for me, as well as several big largemouth bass. And guys who throw the lively Punker for stripers get whacked by 20s and 30s all the time – blackdogbaits.com.
Joe Balog’s Goby Replica – What I know for sure about gobies is that everything in freshwater seems to like to eat them. Actually, you don’t even need gobies in your lake in order to catch big smallmouths, largemouths, trout, pike and walleyes on this bait. It looks nearly identical to a mottled sculpin, which is more common across much of North America than most anglers realize. This soft, lifelike swimbait fishes best with a slow, bottom-dragging crawl. Or sweep the bait a few feet, then pause for several seconds. Fish will try to kill the Replica deadsticked, too – gobyreplica.com.
VMC Half Moon Jig series – Progressive designs built on the foundation put in place by the classic Gopher Tackle Mushroom head jig decades ago. VMC’s offerings feature forged shank Vanadium steel hooks, and flat head bases for snugging softbaits tight. Various head designs include the 60-degree Half Moon Jig, 90-degree Finesse, as well as Shaky and Darter heads to match a multitude of softbait approaches – vmchooks.com.