THE BIG FIN

Boating - - MAKING WAVES - —Tom Sch­lichter

Have you ever wanted to de­sign a fish­ing lure? As a child, I of­ten carved small plugs, fished with home­made Creepy Crawlers, and even fash­ioned ar­ti­fi­cials out of bub­ble-gum shapes and al­lowed them to har­den around a hook.

Still, I ached to one day have a lure sold as part of a pro­fes­sional lineup. Fifty some years later, I fi­nally got the chance when Pan­ther Martin Pres­i­dent Ce­cil Hoge told me, “Let’s see what you’ve got.”

My first idea was a new take on spin­ner­baits, but Hoge wasn’t overly im­pressed. My sec­ond pitch, how­ever, was a hit. I sug­gested elon­gat­ing the thin body of an old Pan­ther Martin soft-plas­tic min­now called the Vivif to look more like a sand eel than a bunker. Next, I added a large dor­sal fin, hop­ing the lure would still re­tain some ap­peal around full-bod­ied bait­fish. The fin was po­si­tioned far enough back to cover the barb of the hook, mak­ing the lure weed­less. High­light­ing the fin to act as a strike tar­get was the fi­nal touch. It proved to be a re­ally good idea be­cause it helped preda­tor species smack the lure at dead cen­ter. With this ar­range­ment, most fish get hooked in the top or cor­ner of the mouth. Since we use a strong, sin­gle hook, re­leas­ing fish is easy.

We tested the lure from spring through late fall last year, and it worked well for striped bass, false al­ba­core, snook, red­fish and seatrout. Re­leased this spring in 1- and 2-ounce sizes, in both pad­dle-tail and eel-tail ver­sions, the new lures are called Pan­ther Martin Big Fin 3 in 1 Weed­less Swim­baits.

Each lure pack comes with one body/jig head out­fit­ted for fish­ing, plus two re­place­ment tails with built-in hook chan­nels for easy rig­ging, and costs be­tween $8.99 and $10.99 at pan­ther­martin.com. While there, check out an­other new lure de­signed by “Out­door Tom” Sch­lichter — the Fluke Train.

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