October 18, 2017
By Ned Kehde
We published the first gear guide in our series about soft-plastic hellgrammites that Midwest finesse anglers can use on a small mushroom-style jig on May 27. The second one was published on June 2. The third one was published on June 23.
Before we published those three gear guides about soft-plastic hellgrammites, and after we published them, we were and have been corresponding periodically with Scott Barrett of Manassas, Virginia, who is Nikko Baits' North American sales manager. The focus of many of those correspondences was about a soft-plastic hellgrammite that Nikko Baits was creating. In fact, it was Barrett who spawned our interest in publishing a series of gear guides about soft-plastic hellgrammites, which for some unknown reason have not been part of the repertoire of Midwest finesse anglers.
Cory Schmidt of Merrifield, Minnesota, who is a fellow In-Fisherman field editor and Finesse News Network member, introduced us to Barrett, and we began corresponding with him on Jan. 3. In short order, we published a 1,799-word Midwest Finesse column about Nikko Baits on Jan. 8.
In one of our early correspondences, Barrett noted that Nikko Baits had done extensive testing for several years on its endeavors to create a state-of-the-art three-inch hellgrammite. At that time, he was hoping that he would have some to introduce to the angling world at the International Conveention of Allied Sportfishing Trades at Orlando, Florida, on July 12. Those hopes materialized, and he delightfully exclaimed in a June 30 email: "The first batch of hellgrammites have been produced and will be with me at ICAST." After ICAST, he was hoping that he would have some to sell, but that did not pan out. Ultimately, it was announced in an Oct. 2 press release that the "Nikko Hellgrammites are finally coming," and U.S. anglers can pre-order them, and that press release spawned this gear guide.
Between Jan. 3 and Oct. 2, we learned a lot about Nikko Baits and its hellgrammite, which are manufactured in Japan.
They are made from an ultra-modern type of soft-plastic, which is a medical- and food-grade plastic, making them safe for fish, animals, and humans to swallow. They are extremely buoyant, which enhances the no-feel presentation that lies at the heart of all six of the standard Midwest finesse presentations. Their durability is astonishing, and Barrett addressed that remarkable feature in a letter on April 27, saying that he field-tested one hellgrammite that had the wherewithal to endure donnybrooks with 100 smallmouth bass. They are impregnated with what Barrett described as a natural scent, which can be recharged by stretching the bait. They are devoid of phthalates, plastisol, environmental hormones, and toxins. If they are left in the water, they will not swell, and they are biodisintegratable within a short frame of time. They will not harden and dry out if they are not kept in a package. They possess a higher melting point than ordinary soft-plastic baits, and they are softer in lower temperatures than ordinary soft-plastic baits. They -- especially the hellgrammite -- are endowed with highly detailed and realistic features, and Barrett noted that most of Nikko's soft-plastic baits were designed to exactly replicate live bait.
In another dispatch, Barrett heralded: "Each hellgrammite will last up to 100 catches, saving anglers money, time, space, and weight in their tackle box. They are super realistic, soft, and with a built-in scent. It can be fished like live baitâ€¦." He concluded that black bass everywhere devour it, and it also inveigled a sizable number of large rainbow trout and crappie. In his eyes, it looked to be an ideal creature bait for Midwest finesse applications.
A hellgrammite is the larvae of the eastern dobsonfly. Its head is equipped with a pair of large, sharp pincers that can deliver a painful bite, and Nikko does a good job of replicating the head and pincers. Its thorax has three pairs of legs, each tipped with a tiny pair of pincers, and the thorax of the Nikko hellgrammite has the three legs, but the legs are not graced with the tiny pincers. Its abdomen has eight segments, and each segment is endowed with two leg-like appendages that radiate from each side, and there is a hairy or frilly gill at the base of each appendage; the Nikko hellgrammite's abdomen has eight segments and 16 leg-like appendages, but the appendages are devoid of the hairy or frilly gill. Its hind tip is endowed with a pair of hooked, leg-like appendages, and the Nikko hellgrammite's hind appendages are abstract replications of those two appendages. Even though Nikko's replica is not adorned with a hellgrammite's minute anal tubules, frilly gills, and ventral tubules, it is the angling world's most realistic soft-plastic hellgrammite. And most anglers would agree that it would be a difficult and unnecessary task to duplicate all of the minuscule parts of a hellgrammite's anatomy.
When Barrett field tested it, he discovered that it was very effective when he fished it the way Midwest finesse anglers would employ it by affixing it to a small mushroom-style jig. As he field tested it, he also found that it is much easier to rig the Nikko hellgrammite onto a mushroom-style jig that does not have a wire bait-keeper affixed to the shank of the hook. In fact, he recommends removing the bait keeper with a pair of pliers. The material that Nikko uses to make the hellgrammite allows it to stay perfectly affixed to the shank of the hook and adjacent to the head of the jig.
During the past decade, a goodly number of Midwest finesse anglers have been in search of a soft-plastic creature bait to affix onto either a 1/20-ounce or 1/32-ounce mushroom-style jig. And Barrett thinks the Nikko hellgrammite might be the creature bait of these anglers' dreams.
They are available in these colors: Brown Gold Flake, Green Pumpkin, Natural, and Watermelon Red Flake. The Natural hue is a brownish color with various sizes of dark flakes. In the real world, the skin colors of hellgrammites range from black to brown to gray to tan.
A package of four, which has the potential and wherewithal to catch at least 400 black bass, can be purchased for $6.99.
When an angler acquires a package of Nikko's hellgrammites, Barrett recommends keeping them in their original packages, which have a zip-lock seal on them.
He also warns anglers that ordinary soft-plastic baits will destroy Nikko's soft-plastic baits. Therefore, Nikko's hellgrammite should never be mixed and stored with other kinds of soft-plastic baits.
(1) Here is a link to our Jan. 8 Midwest Finesse column about Nikko Baits: http://www.in-fisherman.com/bass/nikko-baits/#ixzz4vUlf6W5g.
(2) Here is a link about the hellgrammite at Nikko Baits' website: https://nikko-fishing.com/how-to-use/hellgrammites.
(3) Here are photographs of Niiko's brown-gold-flake hellgrammite, green-pumpkin hellgrammite, and watermelon-red hellgrammite.