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Jim Porter fishing articles


THE BEST CRANK PLUG EVER?!?

By Jim Porter

A lot of new lures come on the scene every year. And, a lot fade away into oblivion at the same time.

There are the flash-in-the pan lures that have some gimmick, or big 'infomercial' hype campaigns. Each promises to be THE fabled 'magic' lure we have all been looking for. "Gonna fill the livewells with leaping lunkers for sure," they proclaim.

Yeah, right. As soon as the gullible have spent their hard-earned bucks on the product, 'magic lures' rightly disappear back where they came from. It is a shame their huckster marketers don't disappear with them. But, they usually come back with yet another 'catch 'em quick' concoction designed to catch fishermen first and fish a far distance sixth or seventh.

There are those lures, though, that have stood the test of time and fish. They are a part of the legacy of this sport we call bass fishing. The original Arbogast Jitterbug and Hula Popper are still big fish-catchers and they have been with us a LONG time. The first lure I ever bought with my paper route money was a frog-finish Hula Popper. That was so many years ago, it is scary to think about it.

The original Bomber diving plug was unique, in that it appeared to run backwards. With the metal lip at the tail and the head to the rear, it was supposed to imitate a crayfish. The original Hellbender was a similar design, just longer and slimmer. Both still catch a lot of bass today.

There was another Bomber lure that I was introduced to in Virginia in the mid-70's. It had been around for a good while, but seemed to be known and used only in certain regions of the country. Southern Virginia was one of those. And, probably the center of its use environment was Buggs Island Lake (Kerr Reservoir).

The lure was called the 'Speed Shad' and, in my opinion, it is probably the finest crank plug ever made. I once had a one-day tournament catch of five bass limit weighing in at 30 pounds using the Speed Shad. (Unfortunately, I came in second; some days it doesn't pay to get up.)

The Speed Shad has some terrible characteristics. It is flat-sided and has no real body mass. It body balance is just about non-existent. Both make it cast about as poorly as any hard-bodied lure you'll ever use. With the flat-sided body and no weight to the rear of the lure, it simply sails when you cast it. Two primary rules apply when casting a Speed Shad on baitcasting gear: NEVER cast hard and NEVER cast anywhere into, or at much of an angle to, the wind. That darn lure has cause more backlashes to have to be cut out than any other reason known to Man. On spinning tackle, things are a bit better. But, the sailing is still there and you play heck trying to accurately cast it to a spot or target.

Sounds like a fishing nightmare, doesn't it? You are probably wondering why some idiot writer calls it 'the finest crank plug ever made' in the first place, right?

Well, let me tell you that it has the most REALISTIC swimming action of any lure you will ever find and it DOES catch a LOT of bass. In fact, the Speed Shad actually seems to do what most lure hype advertise, but rarely achieve - it seems to drive bass absolutely wild.

First, the Speed Shad is actually shaped like a real threadfin shad. I am not sure that is so germane to its success, in that all but two of its color patterns (gray and chrome) do not resemble anything shad-like. But, that thin, flat body shape, when coupled with the small diving lip and its lack of body mass, does make the lure run with a slightly unpredictable and erratic wobbling motion. Water resistance is simply too much for the Speed Shad to establish a continuous running pattern, like a heavier diving lure might do.

The lure's action does have a side-to-side wobble pattern. But, it is erratic enough that the angler doesn't get that steady pulsating feedback that, say, a Fat Free Shad lure provides. And, the line is not going to track directly back at the angler as the lure is retrieved. What happens is that the small, spade-shaped lip provides enough resistance and planing capability to drive the Speed Shad down to around 4-5 feet, or so. But the lack of body weight (mass) and the resistance of the wobbling flat sides of the lure to the water flowing past them makes the Speed Shad run a bit off to one side and then back to the other, in no predictable pattern. It just sort of darts this way and that, while maintaining enough side-to-side wobble action to keep it within a general direction of the retrieve and down at its general operating depth.

Normally, a medium retrieve speed is the optimum way to present the Speed Shad. Being some erratic in its running pattern, a fast retrieve can sometimes cause it to go completely haywire and start to roll. A stop-and-go retrieve is also ideal, especially after a cold front when the fish are tight to cover and somewhat lethargic. It can also be fished in a jerk bait manner to some degree. But, the light body weight and the buoyancy of the lure generally make it hard to keep down at the proper depth.

I have observed the Speed Shad's erratic behavior underwater in a viewing tank. The closest living thing I can describe that has the same motion is a crippled baitfish trying frantically to just get away to somewhere. It looks for all the World exactly like a small injured fish.

Now the bad part.

Because the Speed Shad never had wide-spread national use, its manufacture was discontinued for awhile. But, due to the Virginia-area demand, the PRADCO company (who now owns the Bomber lure line) has started to make a few hundred a year under special order for two tackle shops in the Richmond and Clarksville areas. Other than those locations, a friend with an old tackle box in the closet may be the best way to find them.

I did come by a dozen brand new ones a few years back and now keep them hidden away in a dark and secret place. Two have been taken away from me by monster Farm 13/Stick Marsh fish and another had the front hook hanger ripped completely out, rendering in non-repairable.

The remaining nine are sometimes carefully laid out on a velvet pillow and gazed at when the moon is full and the night creatures roam.



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