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NY, NJ, CT, RI Edition
July 26, 2011
Volume 22 � Number 5


Offshore Oddity: Lucanus Lures
by Bob Banfelder
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We've entered a new era with regard to offshore fishing. In particular, there is a relatively new jigging system that was introduced in the United States in 2008; that is, Shimano's Lucanus Jigging System. But what is a Lucanus lure exactly? It is the main component of this unique system, taking on a profile that resembles a cross between a big bug and the mantle of a squid or baby octopus. The lure is named after the Lucanus, a well-known species of stag or New World scarab beetle. It is, indeed, a strange looking bugger. Being the skeptical person that I am, I wondered if this was marketing hype or the hallmark of a truly new system. The overall concept is one of going ultralight in terms of our gear: rods, reels, lures—even our line. Shimano's Lucanus Jigging System made a believer out of me.

The Lucanus Jig System:

Working a water column in 25 to 50 fathoms? Put aside those 10- to 16-ounce sinkers, including all that fussing with live, fresh, and/or fresh-frozen cut-baits. As we've entered a new era in jig fishing, you'll be doing a lively dance in short order upon the deck of a vessel while those who are unfamiliar with the Lucanus Jig System stand wide-eyed in absolute awe. Targeting deep dwellers such as cod, tilefish, ling, blackfish and black sea bass along our coastal waters? Good to go. How about fluke, bluefish and stripers in somewhat shallower suds? Stand by to take fish over the rail without half the work or weight to which you're accustomed.

Depending on wind and current, you could be easily employing 6 to 16 ounces of lead in order to keep your line perpendicular to bottom structure. In depths of around 80 to 150 feet, 6- to 10-ounce bank sinkers are usually needed just south of the Shinnecock Inlet where Donna and I ply those waters. However, when heading further south toward that 300-foot range, it is not uncommon to play with a pound of lead or better, which I find utterly unwieldy. But there is a sensible way around that weighty problem. It incorporates Shimano's Lucanus jig method of fishing. It is a system tailor-made for offshore aficionados. Just imagine a 3½-ounce jig tackling what it would take 12 ounces of lead to do in 120 feet, or a 7-ounce jig descending to the depth of 300 feet where it might require a pound of lead or better. With a Lucanus jig, an angler could go even deeper by drop-shot rigging; that is, attaching a 7-foot leader to a second eyelet located on the bottom of the aero-hydrodynamic head-design, then attaching either another Lucanus jig or a sinker. Two #1/0 Owner Dancing Stinger hooks are concealed within the silicon skirt and trailers of the larger lures; two #3 Owner Dancing Stinger hooks for the smaller jigs. Lucanus glow-eyed jigs with elongated appendages for better visibility in deep water are available in five weights: 2, 3, 3½, 5¼ and 7 ounces. Also, within each of those weight categories, the lures come in eight color combinations: blue/silver, chartreuse/white, green/gold, black/gold, orange/white, purple/red, pink/white, and brown/chartreuse (new for 2011). Preferences of jig colors will vary geographically and from season to season. For example, bottom fish feed on crabs in the middle of winter, and then start feeding on baitfish in early spring.

Generally speaking, in local waters, a good many recreational fishermen catch black sea bass as a by-product of the fish they are actually targeting—particularly fluke, blackfish and porgies—no different than landing lingcod when fishing for halibut in North Pacific waters. Of course, there are recreational anglers like myself who specifically target black sea bass, and with good reason. They are one of the best tasting fish taken from our waters. Some would argue that they are the absolute best. On a score of one to ten, I rank black sea bass a 10. Regardless of the bottom feeder(s) you are specifically targeting, or catching-as-catch-can, you are in for fabulous fun if you'll open your mind and put away those broomsticks, prodigious reels, pound-plus leads, heavy diameter lines and leaders, not to mention an array of bait.

First off, let's think light equipment for large deepwater dwellers. I know that this sounds rather paradoxical, but bear with me. For example, if one were targeting black sea bass in our bays, one might select a light- to medium-action rod and matching reel, be it a spinning or bait casting outfit. Generally considered a small species for our inshore waters, most black sea bass will range between a pound and three pounds; therefore, a light- to medium-action setup would be a decent choice. However, as you venture offshore, you will often find yourself hauling up their heftier brothers and sisters from rocky mussel beds, outcroppings, artificial reefs and ocean wrecks. Along our Atlantic coastline, black sea bass extend from Cape Cod to Cape Canaveral. Whether we're targeting large black sea bass or even bigger bottom feeders found in depths measured in fathoms rather than feet, we need an outfit that can stand up to the rigors of rough bottom structure and strong currents. Automatically, your instinct would be to grab for a rod and reel that could handle Jaws.

But what would you say or do if you were handed a 6-foot 3-inch pencil-thin bait casting rod along with a matching 13.3-ounce reel? On top of that, you're asked to put aside your hefty lead sinkers and messy bait, fishing instead with a queer-looking beetle-like lure of either 5¼, or 7 ounces. What would be your response? Drop that Lucanus lure down to Davy Jones' Locker, retrieve the jig slowly by way of seven cranks, drop it anew, repeat the procedure, and feel that seemingly inanimate watery world come alive. You will see every tap, bump and take, visible at the top of the wand because the fish is telegraphing you via a fast/soft rod tip. With 20- to 50-pound test PowerPro braided line spooled on Shimano's Calcutta TE 400LJV Lucanus Jig Version reel, you just might be able to reach Davy Jones' Locker and wake the dead! PowerPro braid is positively a winner for unparalleled line/rod sensitivity and an important component to this jigging system. Put aside high-speed reels; the name of the game is a lower-speed retrieve as offered in the Calcutta TE 400LJV Lucanus Jig Version jigging reel, featuring a 5.0:1 gear ratio.

Shimano also offers the Lucanus Jig System in spinning reels and rods. However, for deepwater jigging, I far prefer their conventional bait casting setup over their spinning outfits.

Depending on the weight of the Lucanus jigs employed, those pairs of Owner Dancing Stinger hooks are fastened with 80-pound braided rope-strength, line-to-ring connections in sizes #3 or #1/0 and are concealed within the lure's skirts and trailers. Specifically, a duo of #3 Owner hooks accompany Lucanus jigs in 2 oz., 3 oz., and 3½ oz. sizes. A pair of #1/0 Owner hooks accompany jigs in the 5¼ oz. and 7 oz. sizes. Too, those rubber skirts, trailers and hooks are all replaceable. A pair of #3 hooks would prove fine for those pound- to three-pound black sea bass that a good many inshore anglers are accustomed to catching. But #1/0 is the ticket for huskies to be had in deeper bodies of water. Donna's and my hunting grounds are three miles out of Shinnecock Inlet in 14 fathoms.

Married to Shimano's Calcutta TE 400LJV reel is your choice of three matching Tescata rods for 2011, available in medium-light—6-foot 6-inches; medium—6-foot 3-inches; medium-heavy—also, 6-foot 3-inches. These rods are expressly designed with specific tapers to accommodate the range of jig weights covered.

It is practically a guarantee that if you board a boat with a party of offshore anglers unacquainted with the Lucanus Jig System, you are sure to be ridiculed for bringing what would first appear to be a poor excuse of a rod that couldn't possibly tax a feisty catfish in fresh water, not to mention the weird-looking lures that would ostensibly stand a better chance of holding bottom in a flushed toilet! The wimpy-looking noodle-like wand is coupled to a deceivingly lightweight but gutsy reel. Some of its features include Non-Disengaging Level Wind, 6 AR-B (Anti-Rust Bearings) ball bearings, 1 AR-B roller bearing, Super Stopper Anti- Reverse, Rubber Handle Grip, Drilled Top Crossbar, Cold Forged Aluminum Frame, Dartainium Drag with a maximum braking power of 16 pounds. These are but a few of the particulars you get when you purchase this quality Shimano reel. Of course, you'll pay a premium for high-caliber Calcutta TE perfection: $449.99 for reel; $149.99 for each of the aforementioned Tescata jigging rods. You will want to spool with 20- to 50-pound test braid for added line capacity when compared to monofilament. Again, your choice should be PowerPro braided line.

"What do you mean, you don't need bait?" one skeptic in the group will surely ask. "No squid? No spearing? What do you expect to catch with that beetle-like bug? Ya kiddin' us or what?"

Yet, lo and behold, you will probably out-fish your buddies—and with considerably less effort. For both Donna and me, reeling up 16-plus ounces of lead from 50 fathoms is a lot less like fishing fun and more like work.

The Tescata jigging rods' TC4 construction is cutting-edge technology. Double inner layers of advanced dynamic T Glass wrapped with an inner and outer spiral of high modulus graphite comprise these rod blanks. Only renowned Fuji Hardloy guides and tips (9 guides plus tip for the medium-light; 8 guides plus tip for both the medium and medium-heavy rods) are used. These wands are powerful tools.

As mentioned, Lucanus jigs are offered in eight color combinations and come in five weight categories. Experimenting with different patterns and weights for different species is always fun and exciting. I may pick pink/white or purple/red come late fall and into winter, then switch to blue/silver or green/gold come springtime. I nailed a half-dozen cocktail blues in half an hour on a 2 oz. orange/white pattern in our bay toward the end of summer. Donna pulled up three double-digit doormats and many shorts from the ocean floor in a matter of a couple of hours using a 3½ oz. chartreuse/white pattern.

Donna and I have all three Tescata jigging rods. With the medium-light wand, we work with 2- and 3-oz. patterns. On the medium rod, Donna jigs with 3½- and 5¼-oz. lures. On the medium-heavy rod, I drop those 5¼- and 7-oz. heads and tails to considerable depths. The jigging procedure consists of a five-step technique: 1) Freespool the jig to the bottom. 2) Start winding very slowly. 3) Work the jig through the appropriate water column. 4) Drop the jig anew. 5) Repeat the process. The initial taps are the fish biting on the lure's skirt and trailers. Allow the fish to work its way up to the stinger hooks. Keep reeling until the fish hooks itself. Then lift the rod smartly to set the hook(s) firmly, reeling steadily. Voilà! If you haven't owned or handled Owner stinger hooks, there is only one way to do so—most carefully. They are extremely sharp. Upon examination of Lucanus' Multiple Hook System, you will quickly understand why there is no need for larger hooks; the set will do the job quite nicely. Trust me on this. The #3 is perfect for the three smaller jigs. The #1/0 is ideal for the two larger jigs.

Having an assortment of Lucanus jigs on hand will keep you in the proper holding pattern. At profound depths, measured in fathoms in lieu of feet, you are sure to hook up with black sea bass, blackfish, cod, ling and tilefish. In shallower waters, I have taken fluke, stripers and bluefish. The lures are pure dynamite. They work like a charm.

In order to possibly save you a few dollars, I'll explain how I set up additional Lucanus Jigging Systems. But first, let me say that I do listen very carefully to professional advice. I also weigh the art of merchandising against practicality. With that being said, I'll strongly suggest that you take no shortcuts in the selection of your "first and complete" Lucanus Jigging System. By that I mean Shimano's Tescata medium-heavy action jigging rod, Calcutta TE 400LJV reel, Lucanus jigs in 5¼ oz. and 7 oz., and PowerPro braided line. The exception might be Shimano's Loop-to-Loop Wind-On Leader System. This component is the connection between the main line and lure, serving as your shock leader. For 2011, Shimano discontinued their monofilament/braid Loop-to-Loop Wind-On Leader as part of the Lucanus Jigging System. As of this writing, the leaders are offered as part of Shimano's Butterfly Jigging System, fashioned from PowerPro hollow braid and fluorocarbon in lieu of monofilament. Buy one, then perhaps you can fashion your own afterward. Log on to PowerPro Hollow Ace at for the braid. Too, I would definitely purchase replacement hooks along with replacement skirts and trailers.

You do not need Shimano's Lucanus Jig Storage bag/boxes with custom-cut dividers that separate the jig heads from their hooks and trailers. You do not need Jig Keepers that securely wrap those weighty items to your rod(s) for transport . . . although, admittedly, they are nice to have and do protect your wands.

Now, to try and save you a few bucks as mentioned a moment ago: If you do decide on an additional jigging rod and reel, say for a partner such as your spouse, son or daughter, I'd select Shimano's Calcutta TE CTE400 or 401 [left-hand model], weighing in at 12.8 ounces (a half ounce less than the Calcutta TE 400LJV reel). They both have the same gear ratio (5.0:1), the same stopping power (maximum16.0 pound drag), and the same line retrieve per crank (25 inches). Basically, you'd be sacrificing a couple of ball bearings (4 stainless steel anti-rust A-RB bearings instead of 6), and an adjustable handle grip. However, the Calcutta TE series, which stands for Total Efficiency, are truly quality reels. As that second setup, consider the Calcutta TE CTE400 or 401 model carefully for $369.99; that is, $80 less than the LJV. I purchased one for Donna's medium-action Tescata jig rod, another for the light-medium action jig rod that we'll share in shallower suds. I see no good reason not to employ these fine reels for lighter jigging duty. The beefier LJV model, coupled to the medium-heavy rod, is my workhorse for fishing in fathoms. Will I share it with Donna from time to time? Well, perhaps.

Just don't make the mistake of carrying aboard your current stick in lieu of a tried-and-true Tescata jigging wand. If you do, you will simply take the fun out of fighting fish. Your Tescata jigging rod can handle virtually anything you pull off the bottom. However, you will have your hands full, initially, with a disbelieving party of party poopers. Then watch their mood suddenly change as you bring fish-after-fish over the rail, and with considerably less work—and with no bait, to boot. Feel that lure wobble and vibrate during retrieve. Experience each and every touch, tap and take. The fish actually hang themselves. That's the Lucanus Jigging System at work for you.

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