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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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December 01, 2013

Wooden vs. Plastic Lures

by Bob Banfelder

There exists a bit of controversy regarding wooden plugs versus their plastic counterparts. Some folks maintain that wooden lures, per se, offer a softened, toned-down, subdued sound that is more likely to attract rather than spook fish. These folks also hold to the belief that wooden lures present better action than plastic poppers and/or swimmers. I believe that lure design along with how and where you present the artificials are what dictates these conditions. For example, all things being equal, a wooden lure hitting the surface upon a calm body of water such as a tranquil bay may, indeed, produce more of a softened, toned-down, subdued sound than the plunk of a hunk of plastic. However, in the surf I wouldn't imagine it making much of a difference—that is, wood or plastic—as those lures relate to either sound or action. I believe this matter intrinsically boils down to the following.

Those who prefer wood lures over plastic, in general, are more than likely those who enjoy the quintessential essence of a time gone by, no different than the traditional fly-fisherman/flytier might find it difficult to break with the past and use synthetic fibers, epoxies and silicone compounds in lieu of time-honored thread and feathers. With this understanding in mind, the preference of wooden vs. plastic lures lies at the heart of the matter. What more needs to be said? You could simply take me at my word and shun either the traditionalist for the use of wood or the conventionalist for employing more modern-day materials. Or you can do what I did and discover for yourself the benefits of both wood and plastic lures. I began by purchasing a few wooden bottle-style poppers, traditional striper poppers, along with a couple of needlefish imitations. But please don't do that . . . yet. By way of segue, allow me to elaborate.

Dorothy Parker (short story writer, poet and satirist)—well-known for her wit and wisecracks—said: "I hate writing but love having written." I have several friends and acquaintances who confess that they hate reading but love having knowledge and know-how. Is this not a good analogy? You bet it is. Therefore, read on and feel confident in the knowledge and know-how that will up your ante throughout the water column in our backwaters, rivers and bays.

Generally speaking, handcrafted wooden lures are expensive. Lemier's Plugworks, manufacturers of fine wooden lures for salt and fresh water, will cost between $20 and $30 dollars for the aforementioned bottle-style, traditional striper poppers, and needlefish imitations. Salty's, another fine manufacturer of wooden lures, will run you about the same amount. However, I recently discovered a treasure trove of handcrafted wood lures ranging from 3 inches on up to 7½ inches, and for approximately half the cost. For example, the following lures (with added promotional store discounts) were heavily discounted 18½ per cent at Dick's Sporting Goods, one of their new stores that just opened on October 25th in Riverhead.

4½ inch Bottle-Style Popper weighing 1½ oz. MSRP $12.99–discounted $10.59
5½ inch Bottle-Style Popper weighing 2¼ oz. MSRP $12.99–discounted $10.59
7½ inch Needlefish weighing 1¾ oz. MSRP $12.99–discounted to $10.59
3 inch Striper Popper weighing ¾ oz. MSRP $12.99–discounted to $10.59

Additional store incentives resulted in the purchase of eight (8) fantastic custom-crafted lures in an assortment of colors—as pictured— for approximately $10 each. Now, that's a bargain for custom, handcrafted, high-quality timber travelers.

These wooden wonders are from the Tsunami Timber Lure Series, manufactured by Bimini Bay Outfitters LTD., Mahwah, New Jersey. The bodies are constructed of kiln dried, prime northern basswood, which is then finished with three coats of epoxy to ensure durability. The hooks are top-quality, VMC Cut Point 4X Strong Permasteel (carbon steel) O'Shaughnessy style treble hooks on the two types of poppers described below; a treble and single hook on the Needlefish. The split-ring components are made of heavy-duty stainless steel. All lures are comprised of extra heavy-duty stainless steel thru-wire construction.

Tsunami's Timber Lure Bottle-Style Poppers cast like guided missiles, fashioned very much like Don Musso's (founder of Super Strike Lures) LittleNeck Poppers. The Timber Popper's versatility lies in the fact that as a swimmer it is also an awesome surface-wake bait. A slow retrieve will cause the lure to wobble, so stay awake and focused. At rest, it will float at a 45-degree angle with its nose breaking the surface for feigned helplessness. Stop-and-start pulls, pops, and splashes promise to produce plenty of powerful strikes. Pop it, stop it, and swim it, then stand by for some serious action.

The Bottle-Style Poppers presently come in eight colors: White; White~Yellow Body; Blue~Pink Flash/White Belly; White~Pink Flash/White Belly; Blue Mackerel; Pink~White/Belly; Bunker; and Blue~White Belly. The lures are available in two lengths: 4½ inches and 5½ inches.

Tsunami's Timber Lures's 7½ inch Needlefish, weighing in at 1¾ oz., casts extremely well. Mimicking sand eels and the American eel, these lures are deadly imitators for big bass and bluefish. Although somewhat similar to Don Musso's Super ‘N' Fish lure of the 1980's, the Tsunami Timber Needlefish is not tapered at both ends, but rather narrows from back to front, noticeably so just forward of its eyes. Unlike other needlefish lures that I have used, Timber's Needlefish, on a slow retrieve, has a deadly side-to-side action. Allow it to rest, and it will slowly sink, tail down, imitating a wounded baitfish. Cast it, work it slowly through a water column, pause it for a few seconds, then retrieve in a laggardly fashion.

The Needlefish lures presently come in six colors: White; White~Olive/Black; Black~Black/Purple; Black~Silver Belly/Red Eye; Blue~White Belly; and Blue~Pink Flash/Blue Black. They are available in three lengths: 6½ inches, 7½ inches, and 9 inches.

Timber Lure's Tsunami's Striper Poppers, resembling the standard Creek Chub in design, cast remarkably well for a 3-inch, ¾-ounce popping plug. Contrary to the packaging description, the Striper Popper does not "float slightly nose-up," but rather lies perfectly flat while at rest; nor does it wobble on a slow retrieve. What it does do is pop its way quite nicely through the water column, creating enough of a wake and commotion to attract game fish. What I believe happened is that the company somewhat confused the ‘at rest' descriptions between their Bottle-Style Popper and Striper Popper, for it is the Bottle-Style Popper that floats with its nose breaking the surface. No big deal because they're both great lures. Just be aware of that age-old adage: Don't believe everything you read; unless, of course, you're reading it here in Nor'east Saltwater. :o) :o)

These Striper Poppers presently come in three colors: Chartreuse~Black/Silver; Dawn Herring; and Gold with Black Spot. The lures are available in three lengths: 3 inches; 5 inches; and 5½ inches.

Now, I'm not suggesting that you set aside or sell off your array of plastic plugs and opt for wood instead. Certainly not! Each has their place and time. What I am suggesting is that you pick up a traditional striper popper, a bottleneck-style popper, and a needlefish lure—all in wood. Try them out on stripers in calm waters, and I'll bet you'll wind up with fewer schoolies, hooking up instead with keeper bass. Save your plastics, for they can surely take a beating from those monster, chopper blues. Toss a wood to an ambushing behemoth lying behind that boulder on your Fish-Finder screen and score big. You'll cull the keepers from the schoolies more often than not. That's been my experience.

Additionally, Bimini Bay Outfitters has a wide selection of other wooden models from which to choose, and in many colors, lengths and weights: flat nosed, metal-lipped swimmers; round nosed, metal-lipped swimmers; pencil poppers; jointed eels; and the ever-popular Danny-style lures.

Also, Bimini Bay Outfitters has a vast selection of both hard and soft plastics and tins. These lures, too, come in a myriad of shapes, sizes, weights and colors: Top-Water, Walk-the-Dog ( K-9) lures; Floating-Talkin' (rattling) poppers; jigs; skirted trolling lures; Ballyhoo Rigs with Chugger heads; Sabiki rigs; teasers and float rigs to name but a few. The company's website, [], will indicate the many other items, apart from tackle, that Bimini Bay Outfitters offer. The kick is that they do not sell directly to the consumer, but only to the retailer such as Dick's Sporting Goods stores. The Tsunami Timber Line Series wooden lures that I grabbed were the only ones on display. Therefore, if you see a particular item(s) that you would like, either from their website or mentioned in this report, but not carried by the store, ask to speak to the manager, Mike in Sporting Goods in the Riverhead store, and have him order for you. Next time I'm in Dick's Sporting Goods, I'm going to see if they have the Tsunami's jointed eels, along with those proven Danny lures—all in wood—for our backwaters, rivers and bays.

Wood is good and definitely has its niche.

Robert Banfelder
Award-Winning Thriller Novelist, Outdoors Writer, "Gifted" College Instructor & Creator of a Unique Writing Course Guide
Senior Editor, Broadwater Books
Cablevision TV Show Host, Special Interests with Bob & Donna

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