SECRET TO MAKING THE BEST SOFT PLASTIC BAITS
There are few absolutes in fishing, but one you can take to the bank is that the day you think you know everything, is the day you start slipping and falling behind.It is what makes the sport soexciting. You just never know what is coming around the new corner.
Although at the Toronto Spring Fishing Show, a week ago, I knew exactly what was around the corner. It was the Bass Magnet Lure booth //www.bassmagnetlures.com/and a chance to meet up with buddies Mike and Mary Nabulsi.
Truth of the matter is, I had some time to kill between seminars and was just browsing the isles, renewing old acquaintances.The last thing I thought I was going to get was a lesson in soft plasticlure making. But let me tell you, that is what Mike and Mary gave me.
Before I let you in on the secrets, however, let me say this. There is a small cadre of lure makers in southern Ontario right now, that is putting the place on the world fishing stage. It used to be that California was the place where new soft plastic lures were born, but southern Ontario is giving California a run for its money.
Off the top of my head, in addition to Mike and Mary's Bass Magnet and Water Wolf lure businesses, I can think of Mark Kulik's X-Zone Tackle, www.xzonelures.com/ (you can't imagine the number of top name BASS and FLW tour pros who are calling Mark, night and day, to get their hands on his soft plastic baits), Bernard Yong-Set's amazing Stringease stuff www.stringease.com/and Bobby Guan's Ultra-Tungsten company www.ultratungsten.com/.And that is only scratching the surface!
Mike with a giant Lake Ontario smallmouth caught using one of his Bass Magnet tube jigs
"So, what is new in the Bass Magnet lineup of soft plastic baits?" I asked Mike.
"Here take a look at these," he said, handing me several new of the new soft plastic baits in the 2012 line up.
"Wow, they are gorgeous," I said, adding, "It is just so amazing what you can do with hand pours these day."
That is when Mike smiled and floored me, saying, "But they're not hand pours. They're injection molded."
"Really?" I said. "They feel every bit as good as a hand pour."
And that is when my lesson began.
"There are actually many different ways to make soft plastic lures," Mike said. "It really kicked into high gear about five years back when the Basstrix swimbait craze hit. They were hand dipped and that is the way we made our Eye Catcher series as well.But few people realize that injection molding makes a more uniform soft plastic bait because the process distributes the glitter and salt much more evenly. What you really have to worry about when you pour baits by hand is the salt and glitter settling to the bottom of the bait."
Mike also told me that another problem soft plastic lure makers encounter when they pour baits by hand, as he has done for years, is heating the plastisol mixture to the hotter temperature that is required.There is an exceedingly fine line apparently, between cooking the plastisol and burning it.
"What can happen," Mike explained, "depending on the temperature of the plastisol, is that it can quickly become too hot and viscous. Then, the salt doesn't suspend properly inside the lure. Also, when you pour , the hot plastic hits the mould, the inner part of the bait stays fairly liquid while the salt and glitter drops to the bottom.
"Youdon't encounter those issues when you use the injection process," Mike continued. "An injection molded soft plastic bait is much more uniform.With injection molding you can turn down the heat at least 35 C, so you don't burn the plastisol and the salt and glitter solidifies uniformly inside the bait."
"Something else," added Mary, who along with Mike captured Team of the Year honours fishing the Quinte Bass Series, "a lot of anglers have the mistaken impression that a hand poured soft plastic bait is always softer than one made by injection molding, but it is simply not the case. The fact of the matter is you can change the plastisol mixture to make just about any degree of softness or hardness. That is why a soft plastic bait used for punching mats, even if its hand poured, will be much harder than one used for drop-shotting in clear, deep water.Our Shifter Shads, for example, are made by injection molding, yet they're softer than any hand poured bait you can find.It is not the method you use to make the bait that makes it hard or soft, but rather the grade and mixture of the plastisol."
"Here a funny story," Mike added. "We know several folks in the soft plastic bait making industry that use injection molding but they pour into open faced molds so the baits look like they arehand poured. It is a retro look using new technology. But as Mary says, it is not the method you use to pour the baits that determines their softness or hardness, but rather the grade of the plastisol. That is why we stick with the best. With injection molding you can get the glitter right to the outside of the mold and suspended throughout the bait."
But how do you get the amazing soft plastic colours, I wondered. By using two or more injectors at the same time?"That is certainly one way to do it," Mike explained. "And it is the way most of the big companies do it. They have two or more injectors shooting two or more different streams of colours into the molds at the same time. But to be honest, Mary and I airbrush the second colour on each and every one of our multi-coloured soft plastic baits. We just love the way they look and so do the anglers who use our baits.Believe it or not, after we airbrush them, we even sprinkle glitter, by hand, on top of every lure before airbrushing on a final clear coat to finish off the baits."
With attention to detail like this, it is not surprising that the Nabulsi's Bass Magnet line of soft plastic bass baits and their Water Wolf series www.waterwolflures.com/musky/of soft plastic muskie, pike and lake trout lures are hot commodities these days throughout the fishing world.
Hot enough they're nudging the boys and girls from California over to the sidelines.