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Pattern Index

Suspending Baitfish
by Mike Sfakianos

Most saltwater patterns work near the surface or near the bottom, but gamefish can be feeding in the middle of the water column as well. This is where the Suspended Baitfish works its magic.

It's a relatively easy pattern to create, but you will need a drying motor, and the patience to wait for epoxy to dry thoroughly before proceeding through all of the steps. However, you can pre-tie a batch of the epoxy bodies, and add a variety of different colored topwings at your leisure or when a hot color emerges during the season. Don't overlook tying all-black versions. They can be deadly during a night tide.

I fished this pattern successfully for stripers during the 1997 season, and I expect it will be just as successful during 1998. It imitates a variety of small- to medium-size baitfish, such as baby bunker, shiners, small mullet, and small snappers. The epoxy body and synthetic fibers also make it an extremely durable pattern, and the hook up design makes it easier to slide over obstacles without snagging.

Use it with either an Intermediate or Floating line. The weight and size of the pattern will displace enough water for it to suspend during the retrieve. You can tie the pattern on just about any hook size, including small #2 or #4 hooks to imitate bay anchovies, but if you go with a 2/0 or 3/0, you'll be better off using it with a 10-weight outfit.

Materials:

  • Mustad 34011
    Long Shank Hook
  • Clear Mono Tying Thread
  • Large Orvis Braid
  • Silver/Pearl Glimmer
  • Enrico's Sea Fibers
  • Red Prism Tape (for gills)
  • Prism Stick-On Eyes

 

Step 1: Cut a length of the braided tubing slightly long than the length of the hook shank. I like to Orvis' version because it's a flattened tubing, but you may also use Corsair or EZ-Body for a more rounded shape.

Step 2: Slip the tubing onto the hook, tie it onto the hook bend, and whip finish. Hint: Tying any tubing material up onto the hook bend will cause it to create a belly profile. Whip finish the tie at the hook bend, then move to directly behind the hook eye to tie and whip finish the forward edge of the tubing. Make sure that the hook gap is clear.

Step 3: Mix a batch of epoxy, either 5-Minute or a slower cure, and give a light coat to the tube body, making sure not to coat the thread wraps. Rotate the pattern until the epoxy sets, and leave it alone to cure for awhile.

Step 4: Bring the dried epoxy body back to the vice, and tie in approximately six strands of both Pearl and Silver Glimmer at the hook eye. Now you know why we omitted coating the wraps with epoxy. An epoxied head would make it more difficult to get an even wrap when we add these topwing fibers. Extend the shimmering fibers about the length of the hook shank behind the bend, and add a stack of Enrico's Sea Fibers, extending for the same length on both sides of the hook bend. I've used gray in the photographed pattern, but you may substitute any color.
Whip finish the head, and add a drop of Zap-A-Gap to secure the thread.

Step 5: To keep the Sea Fibers from fouling, I coat the topwing with silicone caulk. Silicone is flexible, so I can create a higher topwing profile. When a gamefish hits, the silicone will give, exposing more of the gap for a solid hook-set.
To apply the silicone, first lift the topwing materials off the body and apply a small amount along the shank. Pull the fibers back into position, shaping and securing them in place. Now hold the fibers at the rear of the pattern, and coat the top and sides of the topwing. Extend a little bit of the silicone onto to the hook bend, but no farther. We want those tail fibers to move in the water. The silicone will take about 30 minutes to set.

Note: Silicone and fresh-mixed epoxy do not get along well. Even the slight fumes emitting from the silicone caulk as it dries can be enough to prevent your epoxy from setting properly. If you're tying several Suspended Baitfish patterns, it's best to work in batches.

Step 6: All that's left is to add the Stick-On Eyes, and if you like, gills. To make the gills, cut a pair of arches out of a piece of Red Prismatic Tape, stick them behind the eyes, and secure both the eyes and gills with a light coat of silicone.




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