Leatherbaits of Aston, Pennsylvania, was conceived about five and a half years ago. It occurred when Rick Orlando of Aston and his son were making leather key chains.
Orlando is 58 years old. Until the advent of Leatherbait, Orlando's workday world revolved around the construction business. His hobbies were focused upon leather crafting and fishing.
On that day in 2012, when Orlando and his son were working together to make key chains, it occurred to him that the leather part of the key chain was somewhat similar to a skirted jig that is adorned with a pork-chunk trailer. After pondering that notion of a short spell, he concluded that it was a ridiculous observation. But shortly thereafter, this image continued to preoccupy many of his piscatorial thoughts and dreams, and ultimately, he handcrafted the first rendition of Leatherbaits' Spider and Trailer and field tested them.
Straightaway, he discovered that it was an effective rig. In fact, he inveigled a four-pound largemouth bass on his second cast with it and a significant number of them after that initial catch. After that first outing with the prototype of the Spider and Trailer, there was a 66-month gestation period as Orlando and his friend Tim Reyes of Upper Chichester, Pennsylvania, worked on creating the two-man bait company that they call Leatherbaits.
Reyes, by the way, is an information technologist and 38 years old. Until he began working with Orlando, he was not a leathercrafter.
On March 27 and 28, we exchanged several emails and telephone conversations with Orlando and Reyes about the business of manufacturing baits created from sheets of leather.
Reyes said that we "dedicate as much of our spare time as we can to working on the business."
The manufacturing portion of the business takes place in a shop that they created in Orlando's house, which is where Orlando and Reyes individually handcraft all of the baits that they sell. They also created and maintain a website, which entails a bit of outside assistance at times, and they do all of the customer service and public relations. Besides those chores, this two-man endeavor is currently designing a new bait that they hope to introduce to the angling world in the near future.
After working for 66 months to create Leatherbaits, Orlando and Reyes introduced their Spider, Trailer, Worm, and Leechworm to the angling world in October of 2017. And their three-inch Spider, 1 3/4-inch Trailer, three-inch Leechworm, and three-inch worm look to be baits that will charm scores of Midwest finesse anglers — especially those who have an affinity with the old-fashioned pork-rind bait of years gone by.
In a telephone conversation on March 27, Orlando said he used to be a devotee of Uncle Josh's Mini Frog Trailer. And for years on end, he searched for an effective replacement for that classic chunk of pork. And now, with a genuine air of humbleness, he says Leatherbaits' Trailer is vastly superior to that old-fashioned piece of pork that used to adorn his skirted jigs.
He noted that it is more durable and easier to care for than the traditional pork-rind baits. For instance, he field tested one of his Leatherbaits for 50 hours and caught an array of fish on it.
Another one of the manifold virtues of the Leatherbaits is that they never dry out, which was a perpetual problem that afflicted anglers who used Uncle Josh's pork-rind baits. Moreover, the leather readily absorbs and radiates the various kinds of scents that anglers will apply to these baits. (Orlando noted, however, that scents will darken the color of the Leatherbaits.)
They are made from premium soft leather. And that softness, as well as their thinness, allows them to undulate and gyrate differently than similar baits that are made of soft plastic or were made with pork rinds. Orlando describes them as possessing a "lifelike texture and action." According to Orlando, the thinness factor also makes it easier for the hook to penetrate the flesh inside a black bass' mouth when that bass engulfs a Leatherbaits' Trailer or Worm or Leechworm.
Most Midwest finesse anglers are inveterate customizers. And as we talked, Orlando commented about another one of the Leatherbaits' virtues, and that is they are easy to customize with either a pair of scissors or a stencil knife. Furthermore, anglers can use permanent-ink markers or finger-nail polishes to enhance the Leatherbaits with stripes or polka dots, which is a tactic that Shin Fukae of Osaka, Japan, and Palestine, Texas, taught us on April 1, 2006, at Beaver Lake, Arkansas. Fukae showed us how he used his wife's red finger nail polish to decorate some of his lures with red polka dots. In Fukae's eyes and from his many experiences, such customizations can pay some handsome piscatorial dividends.
Another unique feature, says Orlando, revolves around the buoyance of the baits, which allows it to descend slowly from the surface of the water to the bottom. The buoyance factor is also a feature that will accentuate the no-feel retrieve that lies at the heart of all six of the Midwest finesse retrieves.
Here are some details about Leatherbaits' three-inch Spider, 1 1/2-inch trailer, three-inch Leechworm, and three-inch worm:
(1) The three-inch Spider is a skirt that anglers affix to the collar of a jig. To keep the Spider affixed to the collar and flush to the head of the jig, each skirt has an O-ring that anglers affix to the jig's collar and behind the skirt. The skirt is endowed with four spear-like appendages and two claw-like appendages. Anglers can use a pair of scissors or a razor-sharp stencil knife to shorten or split the appendages.
The length of the spear-like appendage is 1 1/2 inches. The claw-like appendage is two inches long. These measurements are made from the center of the torso to the tip of the appendages. The center of the torso is embellished with a hole in which the hook is inserted. It is extremely thin, possessing the thickness of one-sixteenths of an inch.
They are available in the following colors: Black, Blue, Brown, and Green. And as noted above, the colors can be altered by using fingernail polish or permanent-ink markers.
A package of four costs $10.99.
(2) The configuration of the 1 3/4-inch Trailer is similar to the shape of the Uncle Josh Mini Pork Frog. But it is devoid of the chunk of the tissue and fat that used to adorn the belly of the torso portion of the Mini Pork Frog. In other words, it is thin; it is one-sixteenths of an inch thick. It possesses two appendages, which are triangular-shaped and about 1 1/8 inches long. Some anglers call these appendages tails. The torso is three-quarters of an inch wide and three-quarters of an inch long. The spot where the hook is inserted through the Trailer is a quarter of an inch from the tip of the torso; therefore, when it is affixed to the jig's hook, it extends 1 1/2 inches behind the hook.
They are available in the following colors: Black, Blue, Brown, Green, Pink, Purple, and Red.
A package of 10 costs $7.99, and Orlando proudly contends that it is the most durable trailer ever made. And if it is affixed to the hook properly, which he describes as executing a pop or snap when it slips over the point and barb, it will be affixed to the hook for a mind-bogglingly length of time and an unbelievable number of donnybrooks with black bass.
(3) The three-inch Leechworm was designed to be rigged on either a drop-shot rig or a wacky jig. Here is a link to a YouTube video that describes how to affix it to a wacky jig: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pgtPyc5HZ24&feature=youtu.be.
According to Orlando, it abstractly exhibits the profile of an earthworm and a leech. One end is considerably larger than the other end, and the bigger end possesses somewhat of an oval shape. The oval end is a half of an inch wide and a half of an inch long. The small end has a narrow dome-shape. From the tip of the bigger end to the tip of the small end it is 3 1/16 inches long. From the base of the bigger or oval end to the tip of the smaller end it is 2 9/16 inches long, and the shape of this section somewhat resembles the profile of a baseball bat, and it is three-sixteenths to a quarter of an inch wide. It is thin, possessing a thickness of one-sixteenths of an inch.
They are available in the following colors: Black, Blue, Brown, Green, Pink, Purple, and Red.
A package of 10 costs $8.99. It has the wherewithal to withstand an incredible number of mÃªlées with largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass.
(4) The three-inch Worm possesses the demeanor of a flat stickbait or Senko-style bait. It possesses the profile of a baseball bat. At its widest spots, it is a quarter of an inch wide. Like the Spider, Trailer, and Leechworm, it is thin, possessing a thickness of one-sixteenths of an inch.
Orlando says that it is very effective when it is affixed to a drop-shot rig or fitted wacky-style onto a jig.
It is available in the following colors: Black, Blue, Brown, Green, Pink, Purple, and Red.
A package of 10 costs $5.99.
(1) Here is a link to Leatherbaits' website: https://leatherbaits.fish/.
(2) Here is a link to a Midwest Finesse column about how to employ six no-feel retrieves while using Leatherbaits on a small mushroom-style jig: https://www.in-fisherman.com/midwest-finesse/six-midwest-finesse-retrieves/.