The Magic is a Mys­tery

Anglers Journal - - FIRST LIGHT - — Wil­liam Sis­son

The Magic Plug is a close replica of the Re­verse Atom, which dates from the late 1940s or early ’50s. It was designed to imi­tate the color and swim­ming pat­tern of squid flee­ing ma­raud­ing stripers. About 20 years ago, when squid and big bass con­verged each spring on the reefs off Watch Hill, Rhode Island, Andy Ga­garin fished a poor im­i­ta­tion: a hol­low, orange plug he’d bought at a tag sale. The lure knocked the snot out of the fish for two days be­fore a blue­fish swam away with it.

That started Andy, who owned a cou­ple of the orig­i­nals, on a quest to mold his own Re­verse Atom repli­cas. The trial-and-er­ror process took a cou­ple of sea­sons and in­volved mak­ing molds; get­ting the proper resin, wall thick­ness and color; wa­ter­proof­ing the halves and so forth (that last bit could be a story unto it­self).

“The hol­low­ness was the key,” says Andy, a self-de­scribed do-it-your­selfer. “They were a bitch to make.”

Af­ter sev­eral sea­sons, serendip­ity struck.

Andy be­came friends with a Prov­i­dence, Rhode Island, tool-and-die maker and avid fish­er­man named John An­terni. An ex­pert in mold mak­ing, An­terni had also started a lure com­pany called Anco Lures, which, Andy says, pro­duced slightly smaller copies of the orig­i­nal Re­verse Atom, along with other lures.

An­terni died five years ago at age 90. A few years be­fore he passed, Andy cal­cu­lated how many Magic Plugs he and his friends would need to fish the rest of their days and bought out most of the stock — about 150 fin­ished plugs and more than 400 halves, with the weights in­cluded.

“I have the mak­ings of maybe 400 plugs,” Andy says. “I have the last re­main­ing stock. I bought enough to last me the rest of my life. I needed that many to be happy.”

Why the plug out­fishes oth­ers in spring when the squid are in is not en­tirely clear, but it has some­thing to do with color and ac­tion. “It’s still a mys­tery why that plug drives those fish nuts,” he says. “The key thing about the plug is the fact that it’s hol­low and the way it re­flects the light.”

Now all he and the rest of us who fish those reefs need is for the squid to re­turn in greater num­ber, and the big bass along with them.

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