Reel Time – Shimano Sustain Review

For a while now I have felt  that it’s worth sharing with the readers of my blog what tackle I use, but most importantly the tackle what works well for me and I trust.

I’ve discussed previously my thoughts on braids, (See here) but there is so much more that I use for my Bass fishing that I simply love to fish with and has done me proud over seasons of hard use (with a pinch of abuse) and I can wholeheartedly recommend.

One of the most essential pieces of equipment, but for various reasons I have struggled with for my Bass fishing over the last few years is reels. I remember during my 3rd season of Bass fishing, when I was starting to take it very seriously I went through 3 reels in the space of 4 months, one of which was sent back 3 times in a month and half. It simply could not stand saltwater use. It is well worth mentioning that I have not yet found a reel (that I can afford anyway) that is completely robust to saltwater abuse and if you’re using them regularly all will require a bit of TLC and regular care.

I am a big fan of Shimano reels, they are of the upmost quality, well designed, lightweight, smooth and a big plus is that there is a service station locally. I’ve used a wide range of Shimano reels from small spinning reels to chunky multipliers for boat fishing and I’ve been impressed and satisfied with nearly all of them.

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Last year I decided that I would take the plunge on a Shimano Sustain for my 2016 season and having used it exclusively for over a year now, fishing A LOT. I feel I am in a good position to give it a proper review.

Simply put, the Shimano Sustain 4000FG is about the most perfect reel I have used for my Bass Lure Fishing to date. It is light, smooth and perfectly balances on the 9-9’6 lure rods I use for my Bass fishing. Pair this with its sleek metallic midnight blue body along with gloss black and silver cosmetics, you’re on to a winner that really does look great strapped to any rod.

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The reel pairs up and looks great with the HTO 9’6 ShoreGame. Especially next to a slab of Irish Bass.

Yes anyone could tell you this within 2 minutes of handling the reel, however what is it like to fish with and how does it perform over time?

Simply awesome. I’ve fished with it all through 2016, all over my beloved Welsh coastline and 2 fishing packed trips to Ireland. Never once have I held back and on the regular the reel has been pushed to the extreme in rough conditions with plenty of salty soakings thanks to rough seas. I would often compare Bass fishing to having someone continuously throw buckets of salt water at you and the reel has to be able to withstand this.

The bail arm is positive, never do I get the annoying snap back over mid cast that I have had with other reels, that can be a tad embarrassing and even worse end up in an expensive crack off, as you watch your lure sail out towards the horizon with your line no longer attached. The roller bearing hasn’t seized up, something I would expect to see after a year of use for me, I would recommend keeping an eye on it though. The drag has remained smooth on both spools, although I did have an issue with the spare spool supplied that I will come on to later.

One thing that I must admit I really fell in love with about the Sustain from the off and over time using it have grown to love more and more is the soft EVA foam handle. It fits perfectly in the hand, feels great and grippy even with damp cold hands. Its just a joy to hold. Yes its the simple things that make a difference. Foam handles on spinning reels really do it for me.

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This is how well the handle fits in the hand. A dream to turn all day long…

This brings me on to the negatives, or not so much negatives but things I have noticed with the reel that I would advice others to take care of and keep an eye on. Firstly the spare spool that came supplied with the reel seemed to have a silent drag…I’ve since heard of 3 other people with the same problem with their Sustains, its quite easy to sort out and according to the Shimano Service Team its a case of the factory drills over tightening the screw on the drag clicker…strange its only the spare spool with this problem never the main one. Quick unscrew and re-screw to hand tight and a drop of oil to loosen the grease fixed this. The body and spool is not bullet proof…yes I would love it if it was but I will admit to a few chips in the spool and scratches to the main body from a lack of attention when putting the rod down unhooking fish, the chips were easily smoothed out though. I guess this is a sacrifice for having a lightweight reel.

The main issue I did have and it seems an issue with all Shimano’s in saltwater, is the handle bearing. This seized up on me back in October and really made the reel harsh to use. A clean and re-grease of the bearing thanks for my mate Jer sorted this, although it does need replacing due to heavy corrosion.

So as it stands with the reel resting out of action until Spring, the reel has survived a hard year of abuse. It is due a service where I expect a few bearings, probably the roller bearing and possibly one or two in the main shaft of the reel will need a clean and re-grease along with the complete replacement of the handle bearing. I may try to smooth out perfectly any chips that I have caused to the spool but on the whole, the reel has done well and I feel a bit of off season TLC is perfectly acceptable, especially for a reel that Shimano sell claiming for only “light saltwater use”.

I am very confident that the Sustain I have here will go on to serve another season of abuse, as long as I take care of it and give it a little attention after each session. I can throughly recommend it to other Bass anglers out there. I fish a lot and I would hazard a guess that a seasons use for me is the equivalent to 2 maybe even 3 seasons to some other anglers who may not be as lucky to live as close to the sea or get out fishing as much as me. Put simply it’s a reel I feel confident in, has done me proud and a real joy to use.

Braid…the good, the bad and the ugly

Everyone’s opinions on what braid they like is different. Some want silk others want rope. Me…I like somewhere inbetween. As nice as some of these silky smooth 8 strand braids are, there is a part of me that doesn’t quite feel confident in them with a Bass of a lifetime on the end that’s diving towards and across shallow, jagged, barnacle ridden ground…but there is always the argument that any braided line thats tight against a rock is going to snap regardless, but there are undoubtably some that are going to take it alot better than others.

Personally I like a braid that’s friendly to use and enjoyable to cast all day. Hence this I pretty much only use 8 strands for all my lure fishing. Going back to a 4 strand braid since just feels thick, rope like and I can’t help but feel let down casting it and not getting the distance I am used to…(yes Bass aren’t always at distance, often below your feet…but it’s only beneficial to cover as much ground as possible and lets face it, it’s pretty satisfying to see your lure fly out towards the horizon).

Over the last few years I’ve gone through quite a few spools of braid trying different types and brands to see what works for me and how they will do for my various types of fishing.

Daiwa Tournament 8

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A very nice braid that I’ve only used in the ridiculously thin but strong 25lb…to use it’s absolute joy! Casts lovely, silent through the guides and I trust the breaking strain of it. It’s pretty strong stuff. Where I found it let me down though is wind knots…I did suffer from wind knots with this braid, it did tend to struggle to bed down nicely even when keeping an eye. Abrasion resistance is also another factor where I wasn’t fused on this braid. Just touching something remotely rough left it chaffed and after a long day fishing and rough dry hand syndrome sets in I was worried handling the braid and found that the area round my trigger grip was left lacking colour and fluffed out fibbers were pretty visible. Never the less though, over clean ground it is a nice braid to use, but for me it doesn’t stand up to the wear and tear or rough ground I fish so personally it’s not the braid for me.

Sunline Castaway

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This is my sweet spot. It’s to me a great point between a 4 and 8 strand. Just feeling it you can tell it is a pretty tough braid. Not stupidly thin but just right. I’d call it my goldilocks braid, yes it may miss out on a few yards that other super slick 8 strands can give but it isn’t far off.

What I do like though is how tough it feels, infact I’ve had a fish pull the line across some nasty ground where I really felt it was going to be “goodbye” but the castaway held in there and although chaffed it didn’t straight away give as I feel a lot of other braids would. Pair this with the fact it has a specific saltwater resistant coating it inspires a lot of confidence in me and without that whatever fish you hook into is always going to be at an advantage.

This is the line I’m using at home on the rough, nasty barnacle ridden reefs of Gower this year and after last seasons performance I’m hopeful it will do me proud again. Currently seeing how the lighter 20lb (1.2pe) stuff will do for me since the 25lb has had 2 flawless seasons.

 

Daiwa J-Braid

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This is a pretty new braid that only came out in the UK this year but wow is it impressive for the money, first impressions were that it feels a marginally thicker, tougher version of the Daiwa Tournament that I really wish suited my fishing better. I first started using it for my UL/LRF fishing, especially the lure fishing I do for Trout and I’ve got to say I’ve been nothing but impressed with it. For £15 a spool, its far cheaper than 90% of other 8 strand braids out there and it has stood up to alot of abuse. Especially the amount of abrasion its got from lures cast into bushes and trees that have been yanked out while the line is wrapped round branches or leaves.

I then went on to load up the spare spool of my Shimano Sustain with it for my trip to Ireland back in April…a week solid fishing I felt would show me if there was any immediate faults in the line, and nope. I could find any, it didn’t let me down. Knot strength was great and it is really nice to use in terms of feel and casting. Yes I cannot be 100% on it from that trip but after 8 months using it for my UL fishing and plenty of hours using it for Bass I got to say it’s up there with one of my favourites so far, especially when it’s half the price of many of it’s competitors (In my opinion) cutting a few yards away doesn’t feel so bad. I feel this could be my go to braid for cleaner or less sharp nasty ground where boulders and kelp is more of a sight as opposed to angry barnacle ledges.

So to round it up…for me personally my go to braid has to be the Sunline Castaway. It’s reliable, nice colour, I trust it 100% and I know that if fish over the rough ground I tend to fish decide to take the upper hand against me then I’m going to feeling rubbing (that the braid will resist to a point) that I can react to before I feel a ping as opposed to other 8 strands where I feel a ping is going to be the first you know of contact with rough ground…for me it’s a practical braid for real fishing purposes.

 

 

 

 

Major Craft Skyroad 902 ML Review

Major Craft are a Japanese brand famed with making some of the finest yet value for money lure rods on the Japanese Market. They are widely available in the UK from most tackle shops that specialise in Lure fishing.

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Modern lure rods are a world away from the original british spinning rods and japan has lead the way for the slimmest, lightest blanks and a true inspiration for the UK market that is dominated by supremely light fast action spinning rods, the majority of which are Japanese.

My first taste of these light Japanese rods was with a Major Craft Solpara. A stunning rod for under £100, a bit of a steal if you ask me…

In the back of my head though I had always fancied a skyroad, but I had the Solpara and it suited me well. It was light, the action suited my casting and the butt handle felt the right kind of length. The temptation was avoided even with most the guys I fish with back home using and praising them. 

All that changed though when I headed to Kerry, Ireland last year on a co-guided trip with Henry Gilbey and John Quinlan. Henry had bought with him 2 Major Craft Skyroads, the 8’6 and the 9’ for us, the clients to use if we wished. As you’d expect I couldn’t resist getting my hands on them to give a thrashing it’s great that Henry can provide rods of such quality high quality for customers on the trip to use! (and you can see yourself putting a nice bend in them once the camera comes out) 

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Putting the 902ML Skyroad through it’s paces punching a lure into a strong headwind © Henry Gilbey

The first I tried was the 8’6, this length has always been my sweet spot. Not too long, not too short. A fairly fast action that loads up very quickly but there’s no sweet spot to have to find, it just wants to be cast and it’s easy. First session out with it was some topwater fishing for Bass in a shallow rocky bay, this rod just suits topwater lures down to a tee, the lure responded to every little twitch “walking the dog” instantly due to the tips fast recovery, it’s a wand that makes animating your lures truly magical. I then used it the following day on a morning Bass fishing where once again Bass were happy to take lure off the top resulting in 3 fish landed on the infamous IMA Salt Skimmer, this 8’6 really is a joy for surface fishing, it feels great in the hand very light, quality fittings, comfortable handle and a fast action that really punches lure out with ease.

The rod also makes a very very good boat lure rod as I found out later on that afternoon when John took us out on his boat to fish some inshore reefs for Pollock in less than 50 feet of water…

What an afternoon we had with easily over hundred Pollock caught. In the shallow water (for pollocking at least) the fish didn’t blow their swim bladders as is often the case when fishing for pollock over wrecks and offshore reefs, and all fish were easily returned especially with the barbless hooks and the sport they provided was far superior to that of standard “Boat Fishing for Pollock” with the fish not giving up the ghost easily and following up to take the lures within sight just under the surface.

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No mercy was shown to the Skyroads on the boat this day. Double hook up!                                © – Henry Gilbey 

It was the 9ft that I really connected with though and although I originally thought the 8’6 would be the rod for me, the 9ft was just that little bit more perfect (to me). It has a slightly softer feeling tip that gives that extra feel with soft plastics, both weightless and jig heads, with it being extremely nice for the touch and feel of bouncing soft plastics. To me casting felt that bit better with this 9ft and the handle length everything felt right. After 2 days fishing with it I had one on order from Cian at Absolute Fishing ready for fishing with back home.

As with all carbon rods though there is every possibility of getting a flaw in the carbon and it snapping. Unfortunately this is what happened to me first session out with the new rod. I was casting a 4” TT Shad rigged on a 3g weedless hook (total of 18g i believe) and the rod snapped clean above the second eye from the tip. This was replaced free of charge with zero hassle, and it must’ve just been a dodgy blank that slipped quality control. I have before snapped rods due to my own error, tip tangles, over loading and through transport but they have all spliced as such, whereas this was a clean snap and only a few casts into the session.

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Since this replacement though, I have had no issues at all with the rod and it is still an absolute joy to fish with. It’s had plenty of use and landed enough fish for any faults since to have been found, so feel confident saying there is no fault in the model itself, just that I got unlucky, but there could well be a few going round that were from this same dodgy batch I had. Luckily it was replaced so smoothly and no issues have come since. It can happen with all carbon rods and no grudges held.

If you want to get a taste of the modern lure rods and are looking for upmost quality in terms of fittings, blank and weight then you really won’t go wrong with the Skyroad with the length depending on your personal preference. There’s even a 9’6 which is pretty tempting! 

Tackle Box Treasure – Savage Sandeels

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In the world of soft plastics, there is an ever growing list of paddle tail lures available, but I would hazard a guess that there are very few seasoned anglers that haven’t come across the humble Savage Gear Sandeel!

There isn’t much to it, its a slim bodied soft plastic with a elongated paddle tail. Heck as far as soft plastics go they’re hardly the most supple softest plastic lures, but plain and simple they work!

Pearl and Lemonback have been the top colours for me…Pearl in clear water or bright sun and Lemonback in murkier water or low light situations, but it seems all colours do well in all truth.

There is a mind blowing amount of soft plastics available but the Savage Sandeels just seem to continually prove themselves, why? I don’t know, when I first picked them up yes they looked good but they’ve got no extra features like say a Black Minnow, no hollow “rippling” belly, it comes on a fixed jig head, no articulated rolling inducing head, and as I said personally I’d love to see them in an even softer plastic to enhance the action at lower speeds, but they do something right and for all species Bass, Wrasse, Cod and Pollock… On the boat they’re one of my top lures, often in my opinion sorting out some of the better Bass when schoolies dominate the shoals and from the shore they’re very consistent and simple to use.

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This Bass couldn’t resist a Savage Sandeel in Lemonback on a weedless head – just check out the stunning blue tinge to its fins!

The introduction of the weedless heads for them this year got me very excited, I really like the weedless set up and I don’t feel like it results in any less hook ups and also I find fish always to be nicely lip hooked with weedless hooks. Savage’s weedless heads have seen me be able to fish the Savage Eel in a lot more situations than I once would have but I do have a few dislikes to them, they are far from the most “Wide Gape” hooks available and I think that a wide gape is essential for exposing the hook once a fish takes. They come in at 16g which I personally like in fast currents but would prefer something lighter for fishing shallow ground, this is added to by the actual shape of the jig heads, (still an issue with the standard open jig head)…the pointed face I find often digs into any snags and I think a fair few losses are down to its pointy face becoming wedged into a rock.

I have come across these Xorus Texas Power 3/0 Weedless Jig Heads which Mr Fish claim fit perfectly on the 10cm bodies…these are something I really like the sound of and they really float my boat, they look like they will swim shallower than the savage designed heads (look at the location of the heads eye) and they are available in both 7g and 10g options suiting shallow ground and faster currents. I look forward to trying these this season to see if they suit me even better than the already “sufficing” SG heads, another combo that I must give more water time this year is the 10cm bodies rigged on a 3/0 belly weighted weedless hook, know anglers that have had great success with this set up and it adds another dimension to the humble Savage Sandeel! 

A simple, easy to use lure that works very well despite no thrills and I think could easily be improved on, for me it will always be over shadowed by the ever superb Black Minnow but well worth having and I’m a big fan of its slim profile, and that very nice lemonback colour!

Mepps…a timeless classic

As much as I love my flashy, technical almost say laboratory designed lures ask me my favourite Trout lure and you may be surprised almost even a little disappointed as you aren’t going to be hearing some Japanese kom-a-chink-uke-oko like name but rather..Size 0 Copper Mepps Aglia!

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Mepps have been around for years, since 1938 to be exact! Since starting small stream Trout fishing I am yet to come across a lure that consistently produces fish like this little spinner. 

I am utterly convinced that it is purely out of aggression that a majority of Trout take a lure, but that’s for a different time and discussion! These Mepps seem capable of triggering this perfectly and their slow flashing, rotations really do something to turn Trout on! Yes I think they mimic a small fish but a majority of the time I think you’re getting a reaction strike from them out of pure aggression.

It really is a guilty pleasure for me to fish a small stream in the woods where you’re crouched down among the bracken and branches underarm flicking a lure upstream over an indent or pool where the Trout may be laying in wait.

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A fine Brownie that couldn’t resist a #0 copper Mepps

The design of Mepps hasn’t changed very much since the originals, created by French  engineer Andre Meulnart. They are a very fool proof lure, cast out, let sink to desired depth and then a steady retrieve, and although I love shiny fancy lures…Mepps just work, and with them you can let success boil down to finding the fish most the time. It’s so satisfying using an age-old-classic like this and I get a strange kick out of using them, feeling somewhat retro casting out a metal spinner that hasn’t really changed since before the second Word War. 

These little Mepps are a timeless classic that I can’t help but love and the fact they consistently catch me fish is the icing on the cake. The amount of times I’ve swapped and changed lures while covering a variety of fish holding spots only to go back to a Size 0 Copper Mepps and next things there’s an energetic tail walking Brownie on the end of my line is more than I have fingers and toes and for that reason I’ve nearly bought my local tackle store completely out of them…that and I’m pretty good at wrapping them round branches!

These little Mepps won’t be going out of my small stream lure box any time soon!

Should we be embarrassed about becoming obsessed with a white stick of plastic…

Over the last two years one of the most difficult to get hold of lures has been nothing less than a salty stick of white plastic…yes that’s right, a straight white actionless stick of plastic…the white Senko.

If you’ve been keeping an eye on the whole Bass lure fishing scene you’ll have seen great results on these white sticks, with plenty of very good bass caught on them in a whole manor of conditions; day, night, murky water, clear water, calm or rough they’ve proved very versatile.

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It’s pretty mad that anglers who are often obsessed with action packed, highly technical lures that did this that and the other have become equally obsessed with a simple straight white piece of plastic that does nothing!

They catch fish though and the hype is only down to this, I think the expression “less is more” is what best applies to these lures and their mere presence is enough to be appealing. From what I’ve seen from those that have had success with these lures is they seem to excel at night as you can read here and have achieved a very high status for this. But like wise in murky water these white sticks have proven very effective again, in my mind they’re a great lure to turn to when you think it conditions could be better suited to bait.

We call them “Senkos” but that’s just the brand name for one of the originals, the correct term would be soft plastic stickbaits. The majority of the success I’ve heard of though in the UK has been with the “Wave Worm Bamboo Sticks” and these are the ones that really have seemed to got UK anglers excited.

Casting these weightless on a weedless hook you’ll be amazed at how far they fly for size and weight. They like all similar white stickbaits have become pretty much extinct in the UK and the only place online with them in stock is Fish-On-Lures who have just had a fresh stock of them(how long they’ll last I don’t know)!

But back to the obsession with them…The best case of obsession I’ve seen is by my mate who will remain anonymous…who hunted the internet for some of the original White “Yamamotto Senkos” ordering multiple packs from Jamaica of all places. First thing I did when he showed me them was go to open the packet to smell the sweet scent they coat them in, but before I could even get two hands on pull the pack open they were ripped out my hands. “They’re not to be opened till they’re needed!!” something to do with ensuring optimum freshness I was told…lure obsession at it’s finest and I love it!

I couldn’t help quoting this, and for me it’s equally part of the fun of lure fishing, hunting for that lure, imagining how you’re going to fish it and then (hopefully) succeeding exactly as you imagined all winter! I may even keep a pack unopened myself…actually no…I’ve only gone and bought the scent for them to (oops)!

Now that someone in the UK finally has the Wave Worms back in stock I’ve managed to get nicely stocked up with them and although I got them too late last year to reap any rewards. After plenty of success stories and the very different conditions they have proven themselves in, confidence is high and I’m very excited to give them a go this year, especially when the going get tough!

 

 

Lure Love Affair – Patchinko 100

IMG_3695There’s something very odd for lure anglers about the way that one single lure can become so beloved, it becomes so special that whenever you look at it your vision become rose tinted as you see it on a pedestal above all the other (perfectly good) lures in your box.

I would even hazard a guess that many of us lure anglers out there have picked up that special lure and just grinned at it in a very weird way while turning it at various angles in your hand…well I’m ashamed to admit it but I have a few of these lures and I am guilty as charged of all of the above!

What for me is the lure I am most guilty of having a very odd overly obsessive intimacy with? – That may have even seen me sitting in a room in the night smirking at under a lamp while I replace it’s hooks and coat in clear varnish to protect it’s stunning paintwork
It could very well be the Black Minnow, I’ve done very well on it, I’m never without it, and it’s caught a majority of my best fish. But as you can guess you can’t quite have the same relationship with a soft lure as a hard lure, when you can sit down and give it some sweet TLC of changing its hooks, split rings and giving it a coat of clear varnish so that the paint doesn’t chip leaving it bare.

My guilty lure affair for the last year has been with the Patchinko 100…

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Coming from the French lure extraordinaires “Ultimate Fishing” it is a topwater lure that falls into the small lure category coming in at 10cm/11g.
That is no discredit to the lure though and it performs superbly both on the water and in the air. It has a face that just begs to slap the water and an arse that has somewhat of a hidden rocket launcher as for its size it flies. The sound it gives off is “one knocker” but scaled down much quieter thanks to the tiny little ball bearing in its rear. I’m not clued up personally on how much the difference the different “rattling” sounds from a lure can make but this quiet low pitch sound of the Patch 100 certainly has done well over the last year.

I would put my neck out there and say that at least 80% of my fish off the top last year came to the Patch 100. It really did that well for me and judging by conversations, reading through forum posts and results I saw first hand, I’m far from the only one that did well on this lure in 2015.

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Colour wise though…I must admit I’ve not really had to experiment with different colours of this baby Patch, the first colour I got was the renowned 500g based on recommendations and since it’s continually done so well I’ve stuck with it. This is the only lure I always make sure I have at least 2 of…yes the obsession is strong. I have since invested in the “Baitfish” colour as it’s very similar to the 500G but with an internal flashing plate that I imagine would do well in lower light situations or overcast days when the “ghost like” colour of the 500g isn’t quite giving off the right silhouette. I have also heard good things on the Nacre pattern but 500g has been the one for me.

Personally there is only one way I like to fish the Patch 100 and although trying a few different ways of working it, one is a clear stand out. You want to get it face slapping in a tight walk the dog action, to do this get the rod tip up high and imagine you’re shaking the finger of shame at someone. That’s exactly what you want the rod tip to be doing, up and down tapping action that gets it face slapping in a slalom action, match this with a steady wind of the reel and the lure should be splashing and walking in that tight WTD action perfectly.

Working the lure like this there’s definitely a feel to when you get it right and for me personally when i get into that rhythm of taps that has caught me fish my confidence goes through the roof and I can’t help but feel that any Bass in the vicinity is going to soon have a go at attacking the lure.

I do however have a few issues with the lure, but what successful relationship doesn’t right? Well something that does niggle me a little is that the finish, especially on the 500g doesn’t match its price tag and pretty soon you’re going to see paint chips, i’ve still caught fine with this and it’s clear that the action, size and shape of the lure is far more important, but it would be nice to see it less prone to paint chips, although clear coating with varnish isn’t much bother and a sunday evening task I kind of enjoy…it’s the lure anglers version of an evening fly tying.

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The hooks I’m still slightly unsure on, they are the Size 6 Decoy Y-77’s, all the Bass I’ve landed on this lure have all been lip hooked but I have pulled the hooks on a few fish that have slashed at the lure and probably been hooked just outside of the mouth and on one session one of these felt a very good fish that took the lure with a bow wake, in the fight made 2 very powerful dives, one close to my feet resulting in the lure flying past my face after the hooks pulled.

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So the verdict is still out there on the hooks for me, I’ve had lots of fish on them up to 6lb but for me the moment the hooks pulled so easily on what was a very good fish close to my feet still stays in the back of my mind along with those slashed and missed attacks I couldn’t believe didn’t hook up.

These minor problems aside the fish catching abilities of this little lure far out weigh these and a superb lure it is, one that I really have got a thing for and serves me proud, it has a very well deserved place in the team and long may it continue for myself and other anglers throughout the 2016 season!