By Steve Chaconas
Moving hundreds of pounds of the soft plastic lures I’ve collected over the past 40 years around to get better organized – the worms were put into buckets, 4, 5, 6 & 7-inch. Straight tail curl tail, cut tail and odd combinations of every tail combination. There were creatures, grubs, centipedes, craws, stick worms, and technique specific baits, like Ned rig, Neko rig and drop shot baits.
While sorting through these, many were scented, my tackle storage room had the aroma of a department store perfume counter. Garlic, licorice, and coffee scents at first were distinct, then they combined to smell like the dessert section in an Italian restaurant. I recognized an old bait from the days of finesse fishing made famous in California by legendary pro angler, the Godfather of Finesse, Don Iovino. He introduced the bass fishing world to brass and glass doodling. For 50 years, the California pro pioneered innovative fishing techniques around the country. His peers recognized his trail blazing and innovative deep water fishing methods and inducted Iovino as a charter member into the International Fishing Hall of Fame (IFHF). His soft plastics cover the finesse fishing spectrum across the country. Sifting through soft plastics, new and old, a handful of some original Iovino baits, in several sizes and colors, were uncovered. Giving them a try, these 50 year old baits worked very well! I wondered out loud whether different sizes, color pattern variations and floating plastic could revive a lost bait from the tackle box of days gone by.
When I began to bass fish in the 60s, there were only a few companies making worms. Mann’s and Crème lures were the most popular and they were hand poured. That is, the heated plastic was poured into open cavity molds. They were very good, but time consuming to make. Injection baits from Larew and Zoom took over and anglers believed round worms were better than the ones with a flat side. Injected baits could be made much faster, to keep up with demand. This industrial advantage nearly wiped out hand pours. Fast forward to the 90s. Finesse fishing was taking hold. Shaky head and drop shot presentations were mainstays on the decks of serious bass anglers. These techniques allowed baits to stay in one location for long periods of time, giving fish a longer, and better look. The demand for realistic custom poured baits increased and garage hand pouring businesses sprung up. While injected baits could be laminated, two tone baits were very easily poured with subtle differences to make each one unique to fool even the most discerning largemouth bass. Anglers ate these baits up and more small companies emerged, and more anglers began to confidently pour their own color combinations. Several suppliers stocked up on pouring tools and raw materials.
I tinker with bait designs and have poured baits for 30 years. I’ve created unique and effective color patterns in centipedes and stickworms with Lure Craft molds and even had them make a mold of a bait I designed. But I would never take the leap to sell my baits as pro fishing friend John Crews has successfully done with Missile Baits. Searching for the 50 year old Iovino bait, I couldn’t find them anywhere. Besides, I wanted to make slight modifications. Using scissors and some super glue, I assembled my design/knockoff. Lure Craft has everything for commercial and personal bait makers, good to know. But they also have silicone material for unique molding creations. It was as simple as building a small cardboard box lined with old vinyl bumper stickers to provide a smooth surface that wouldn’t absorb the silicone. Using super glue, my bait masters were glued to the bottom of the box. Mixing in a solo cup, the two-part solution poured over the baits and filled to just about 1/4 inch over the original baits. Tapping a bit to free air bubbles, the mold was allowed to sit overnight. The framing box was cut away to leave the mold. Baits were peeled out of the cavities and the mold was ready to use. The baits were a perfect duplicate of the original. Let the pouring begin.
In short order, effective color patterns were coming to life in several sizes. What a great way to pay homage to the originators of the sport by revitalizing their tried and true bass-catchers. At this point, finesse fishing garage baits can come your kitchen allowing you to cook up your own creations in your color patterns or copies of those that have come before. Lurecraft has all supplies. For a few bucks, anyone can get started, either using existing molds or creating your own molds. When it comes to bait making, imitation is the sincerest form of fishing.
Potomac River Bassing in March
With water temperatures 40-45 degrees, Silver Buddy lures are still effective to cover water. Look for out of the current areas with steep drops. Cast slightly ahead of the boat and work down drops with short burps of the bait. Tie Silver Buddys to 10 pound test Gamma Edge fluorocarbon line on medium action rods.
When water gets closer to 45 and above, fish move to shallow banks close to deeper water. The food chain is coming to life. Slow rolling spinnerbaits on 10 pound Gamma Edge fluorocarbon line and using clown colored jerkbaits are great ways to cover water. It’s also time to slowly drag red lipless crankbaits along the bottom. Carolina rigs cover depths and a lot of water.
Slow down to drop shot the same areas with leaders about 6-8 inches. Use Water Gremlin 1/8 to 3/16 BullShots on spinning gear. Try 4 inch soft plastics doused in fish attractant tied to main line of 10 pound Gamma Torque braid with 8 pound test Edge leaders.
Author Capt. Steve Chaconas is Potomac River bass fishing guide. Potomac fishing reports: nationalbass.com. Book trips/purchase gift certificates: info@NationalBass.com.