Dress it up
In the heart of winter, while all of Hollywood’s brightest stars make their way down the red carpet in an endless array of award shows, dressed in the latest fashions from the world’s top designers, it’s not unusual to find a die-hard lure maker deep into the night dressing up his or her creations. But instead of designing offerings in silk and sequins, it’s bucktail or flashabou, because now is the time to prepare those lures, which in spring and summer will land a variety of fish across the region.
No canvas is more inviting this time of year than the treble hook. Employed on a variety of lures, from in-line spinners to crankbaits, a dressed treble is by far the best way to provide that last little bit of flash and realism when a fish closes in for a strike. Creating such a lure, or tweaking an old favorite, seems to breathe just a bit of warmth into mid-winter as well with thoughts of warm openwater days to come. What follows is a review of some popular materials and the lures they’re most frequently seen on, and how to make them part of a seamless presentation.
For pike and muskie spinners, a bucktail-dressed business end is a popular and classic choice. Supple and full in the water, the hollow hairs bend and pulse with each spin of a large blade at the front of the lure. When tied, the fibers can be easily fanned by tightening the thread and limiting how far down the shank or coil the wraps go, increasing the apparent bulk of the lure’s business end, and giving fish a larger-looking target to key in on. By utilizing heavy-duty threads, and applying ample cement or lacquer, a lure maker can be assured that everything stays in place in a well-proportioned offering. Try tying bucktail over a small layer of flashabou or red hackles for added contrast and variation.
Many big in-line spinners for muskies and large pike are tied with skirts made solely of flashabou, a sliced strip of tinsel-like material, which is moved easily by the oversized blades at the front of the lure and shimmers in the water. Typically tied on a small coil which is threaded onto the spinner shaft, these strands of flashy material are easily measured, stacked and secured with tight, adjacent thread wraps and a treatment of cement after every section is set into place.
Flashabou’s baby brother of sorts, krystal flash material is designed for accenting smaller treble hooks like those found on in-line spinners for smallmouth bass and trout, or those at the back end of jerkbaits and other elongated crankbaits for bass, walleyes and pike. Typically seen as a combination material tied in over colored hackles or under hair, krystal flash also does well solo, making a dynamite treble hook when tied in alone. The material can be pulled tight and then snipped to create a bulkier-looking dressing that moves freely and flashes frequently. Take a night this winter to pull a few rear hooks from stick baits as well and give them a little extra flash with this easily added material.
A few years ago while walking my dog, I came across a road killed fox squirrel on the shady lane near my house. Every inch of its poor body had been mashed flat, yet its large, bushy blonde-and-rust tail somehow escaped being turned into a pancake. Following the walk, I returned with my game shears (and a gardening glove) and snipped the free-waving tail from the recently departed rodent and set to work on a season’s worth of spinners for trout. A pinch of squirrel tail will quickly fill out a trout-sized treble, and is bulky and buggy in coloration, finishing out gold or brass-colored lures perfectly with an edible contrast. Smallmouth in-lines will also benefit from the bulky hair, just increase blade size and spinner body length and connect a slightly larger treble dressed in squirrel.
Finally, for free-form flow, no fiber under the sun moves like marabou. These soft feathers pulse with the slightest twitch or jerk, and ripple and wiggle with the continued disruption of a blade leading the way. Like a massive undulating leech or a ball of wriggling baitfish, marabou can provide a unique offering in place of bucktail or flashabou on muskie and pike lures, and should be allowed to flow freely, with nothing heavier tied in over it. Whether in natural whites, browns and grays, or died offerings in green, red or pink, marabou has a place on many lures.
These are just a few popular materials this time of year for dressing up treble hooks on the end of many lures to give that added glitz that gets fish as excited as an E! entertainment reporter at the Emmy Awards. Experiment with each one to find out what works best for nearby fish, and pause with what you catch on them for the paparazzi this coming season… in our outdoors.