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Bob Banfelder

Bob is an award-winning crime-thriller novelist and outdoors writer. "The Fishing Smart Anywhere Handbook for Salt Water & Fresh Water" is endorsed by Lefty Kreh and Angelo Peluso~online at Amazon.

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October 01, 2014

Wooden Lures & Fine Wine ~ By Way of Analogy

by Bob Banfelder

In my December 1st, 2013 monthly report for Nor'east Saltwater, I compared wooden lures to plastic classics. Nine months later, having field-tested several new cedar conquerors manufactured by Phase II Lures of Westport, Connecticut, I've come to a definitive conclusion that wood is indeed good and that five quintessential shapely configurations positively belong in your angling arsenal. Try the suggested quintet for openers then decide what you need in terms of size in order to "match the hatch." What is the key to selecting the proper pick from a plethora of wooden lures being offered, which can certainly be overwhelming? Where does one begin? Well, by way of analogy, I apply the same basic formula for selecting fine wine as I do to lure preference; neither of which (lure or libation) will put you in the poorhouse.

There are literally more than five thousand kinds of grapes used in making wine; likewise, there are literally thousands of lures out there of every conceivable size, shape, and color. Novice anglers—whether they be fly fishermen, spin fishermen, or anglers sporting conventional rods and reels— chucking lures in lieu of bait, generally grab whatever catches the eye from display racks hanging in box stores. Similarly, folks selecting wine in their neighborhood liquor stores often choose their vin via the graphic design depicted on the label, much as if they were selecting a greeting card, cost notwithstanding. Even if these customers were to ask the salesperson for his or her advice in deciding on a special wine for dinner, more often than not, that local shop isn't going to be carrying the really ‘good stuff' at the ‘right price.' Truly high-quality wine at a great price is a rarity to come by locally. Similarly, finding top-quality custom-made wooden lures in a big-box retailer such as Walmart is unlikely, too. You are not going to frequently find the best wine or the best wooden lures in your local retail outlets. There is a very good reason for this. Whether we're talking finely-crafted wine or custom-crafted wooden lures, the best of the best are made in limited quantities. Also, when a real deal does come along, it is usually scooped up by employees, collectors, and other insiders quicker than you can say "Fish On!" or "Cent'anni." Join a wine-of-the-month club whose company experts scour the world to bring its customers the finest vin that they wouldn't find elsewhere, at unbeatable prices (ranging between $10 and $15 dollars), and you're in like Flynn. No different than following the writers at Nor'east Saltwater who eat, sleep, and breathe fishing to bring you shared knowledge and money-saving advice; for example, top-quality lures averaging $10 to $15 that catch fish and not necessarily fishermen; also, high-end reels along with up-and-coming top-notch rods that will save you hundreds of dollars when weighed against what the competition is commanding.

So, be it wooden lures or fine wine, let's break down this overwhelming dilemma of endless selection into something quite simple and affordable from which to choose. For instance, out of the thousands of grapes used to make wine, only nine are heralded as truly exemplary. Four are red wines; five are whites. The four red vintage selections are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Syrah. The five whites are Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Semillin. Out of the many thousands of wooden and plastic lure configurations, there are only six that are truly classics of a kind: bottle-style poppers; traditional striper poppers (resembling the standard Creek Chub in design); needlefish imitations ~ single or jointed (mimicking sand eels and the American eel), which are positively deadly imitators for big bass and bluefish; both flat- and round-nosed, metal-lipped swimmers; pencil poppers, and bunker-shaped bass blaster lures (ranging from peanut to adult size).

Phase II Lures breaks the above high-quality crafted cedar timber travelers into four main categories, covering the entire water column: Darting/Dipping Swimmers, Floating Poppers, Jointed Needlefish Swimmers, and Top Water Needlefish. Of the five lures I selected from those four groups, the one ounce, 4-inch (8" overall length including trailing hook and bucktail), Bunky wooden wonder lure did it for Donna and me, having murdered many marauding blues along with a few respectable bass.

Under the Darting/Dipping Swimmer's grouping, you'll find seven lures from which to choose. Give Bunky (simulating bunker, of course) a try. This bunker lure comes in five different color combinations: black/silver, blue/white, green/white, white/red, and yellow/red. It was the black/silver pattern that massacred the bluefish. After the blues chomped the bucktail to shreds, it was a simple matter of tying on small amount of brown and white bucktail. Good to go, and the price is right at $11.25 each.

In addition to Bunky, there are six other cedar lure configurations in this grouping to consider, ranging from ½ ounce to 2 ounces. Under the Darting/Dipping Swimmer's category, you'll note such other names as Jayfin, Dipper, Bucky, Junior, Poppy, and Surf Dawg. The latter four lures may be fished as pencil poppers simply by reversing the hook(s). Consult Phase II Lures' website: www.phaseiilures.com for a complete description and pricing.

Under the Floating Popper's category, I selected a ½ ounce, 3-inch Skeeter in yellow/red. The lure also comes in black/red, chartreuse/red, silver/black, and white red; $8.75 each. Also available are the Scooter and Skipper poppers; 4-inch and 6-inch, ¾ and one ounce, respectively.

Covering the Jointed Needlefish Swimmers, I selected the Mongo 7½-inch, 2 ounce, yellow/red/white bucktail, evenly weighted torpedo; $18.35. No trouble slicing through a gusty wind with this missile. A 5½-inch, one-ounce Wiggler, and a serious four-section 13½-inch, 3-ounce Cedar-eel are also available.

Lastly, under the Topwater Needlefish group, I selected two of four styles from which to choose. One is a blue/white, 6-inch, 2-ounce Skimmer; $14.50. The other is a 6-inch, 1.5 ounce Dancer in green/red and trailing a white bucktail; $17.00. Other choices include a 10-inch, 2 ounce, BigT for $25.00, and a Stubby 4-inch, ¾-ounce for $11.75. Again, consult Phase II Lures' website for complete information.


Phase II Lures: Bunky, Skeeter, Mongo, Skimmer, Dancer

Of the five wooden lures that I selected, all caught fish and some very nice fish at that. However, for whatever reason, that bunker pattern was the constant winner. If you are to select but one new wooden lure to add to you arsenal, give Bunky (not to be confused with Bucky in the same lot) a shot. If you are short of these classic configurations in wood, especially bottle-style poppers, traditional striper poppers, needlefish imitations, and bunker replications, give them a try. Referencing my blog of December 1st, 2013, Wood vs. Plastic Lures, comparing wooden lures to plastic, will help explain the reasons why.

I went from purchasing lures constructed of kiln dried northern basswood to selecting lures by Phase II Lures fashioned from cedar. Coupled with carefully selected color combinations, the five lures that I elected to field-test proved themselves worthy. In truth, they are not as nicely finished as my basswood beauties, but in terms of fish-catching ability, they outperform them by a good margin. Is it the cedar construction? Is it purely the lures' design coupled with color? I don't rightly know. Some folks seemingly in the know say it's the distinctive and natural smell of cedar. Others insist that perception is flawed. I try to be fair and balanced in imparting such information. What I do know for certain is that five of Phase II Lures' cedar soldiers mentioned above are to be commemorated. If the company's other lures referenced above are an indication of my fabulous five, well, I think I'll soon have an army for all seasons. At that point, I believe only color and size will be the name of the game in order to "match the hatch." Does this mean that I'll retire my basswood beauties or plastic counterparts? Absolutely not. What it does mean is that I'll have several more seasons of field-testing under my belt to give you a solid overview. Wood is good, and Phase II (cedar) Lures definitely need to be added to your arsenal. Like a fine wine, a fine lure is a remarkable thing.


Robert Banfelder
Award-Winning Thriller/Mystery Author & Outdoors Writer
Senior Editor, Broadwater Books
Co-host, Cablevision TV, Special Interests with Bob & Donna
www.robertbanfelder.com





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