Old and battered or right out of the box, some lures work just like magic
by Gord Pyzer
photo by Robert Biron
The perfect lure doesn’t exist, but a few come mighty close. I know because I’ve owned two in my lifetime, and both shared a mysterious ability to consistently catch a lot of fish. Find lures with this magic ingredient, which some pros are on the constant lookout for, and you’ll know what I mean.
My first magic lure, an airplane jig with a white bucktail skirt, was made by a Wisconsin game warden, and I acquired it through a friend. This trout lure proved to be nothing short of amazing. While I’m sure I must have experienced some fishless days using it, I honestly can’t remember any.
I do recall, however, the many times I caught and released trout after trout with it, and often when no one else was even getting a bite. Regrettably, I lost that remarkable bait when a humongous laker walloped it, yanked my rod tip down the ice hole and snapped the freshly spooled 20-pound mono like it was thread. Like I said, it was some lure.
I still have my second supernatural lure, though. It’s a foot-long muskie bait (pictured here) that I’ve treasured ever since a friend found it washed up on shore and gave it to me more than 15 years ago. It’s now scraped, scarred, battered and bruised, but I’d never give it up—not even for $10,000—having caught more than 150 toothy critters with it to date.
Silver bullet: Pyzer’s mystical muskie lure
What makes lures like these so exceptional (and so irreplaceable), especially when you can buy seemingly identical-looking models in any tackle shop? It’s because these lures “hunt for centre.”
Legendary bass angler Rick Clunn coined that phrase, and it perfectly describes what happens when you troll or retrieve one of these unique treasures. For the most part, they’ll perform normally, wobbling from side to side as they track straight ahead. But every once in a while they’ll veer off to one side for only a second or two, then “hunt for centre” to track straight ahead again. Then they’ll do the same thing on the other side.
This action is totally unlike an out-of-tune crankbait that simply runs unnaturally to one side or the other. For some unknown reason, these gifted lures seem to have minds of their own—if only for an instant.
As a general rule, lures that hunt for centre are made of wood. Some anglers suspect the unique action is caused by a slight imperfection—a hidden knot, a change in the direction of the wood’s grain or the density of the cellulose.
My muskie plug is made of plastic, though, so don’t discount the ability of synthetics to hunt for centre, especially if the bait is weighted inside with lead splitshot. It’s suspected that if one of the splitshot is dented, causing it to temporarily jam inside the bait during the retrieve, it sends the lure off course. Then when the splitshot frees itself, the bait corrects itself and hunts for centre.
Many of the world’s best anglers who fish primarily with crankbaits—tournament pros such as Clunn, David Fritts, Zell Roland and Guido Hibdon—spend hours testing dozens of identical-looking lures, painstakingly studying their actions to find the ones that hunt for centre. And even if they find just one magic lure, they say, the search will have been well worth the effort.
SAVING THE BEST FOR LAST
How much do pros covet their lures that “hunt for centre”? One year during pre-fishing for Ontario’s Kenora Bass International tournament, I noticed that Guido Hibdon had left several tackleboxes of lures in his hotel room. It wasn’t until the competition actually began that he started using them, putting aside the lures he’d been using during practice. They looked identical to his practice lures—the same models, colours and sizes—but according to Hibdon they were far too valuable to risk losing during practice. Why? Because of their uncanny ability to hunt for centre.