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Volume 15, Issue 11 ~ March 15 - March 21, 2007

Secrets of Attraction

The best lures walk the walk and talk the talk

I had some great luck with rockfish over the last few years casting three particular lures on light tackle. These original creations — shamelessly copied and recopied, over the years — remain among the best fish getters you can buy.

If you don’t have the Zara Spook, the Rat-L-Trap and the Bass Assassin in your tackle box, you should consider adding them.

Zara Spook

The Spook is a torpedo-shaped, rear-weighted, floating plug that gets its effectiveness from the erratic dance it does when manipulated by short, sharp jerks on the rod as the lure is retrieved across the top of the water.

Created 82 years ago in Florida by the Heddon Lure Company, the lure was first named the Zaragossa because of the similarly suggestive hip action of ladies of a certain profession on Zaragossa Street in nearby Pensacola.

The name has since been changed by Heddon to the Zara Spook, and references to its action chastely modified to walking the dog. But if you keep in mind the original’s inspiration, you will be closer to the intended movement of the lure — and perhaps the secret of its attraction.

Many species of fish — particularly freshwater largemouth bass and salt-water striped bass — simply cannot resist it. This top-water bait is especially effective early in the morning and late in the afternoon in the shallower waters. Be sure not to strike until you feel the weight of the fish on the line.


The Rat-L-Trap was developed in the late 1960s by a decorated World War II bomber pilot, Bill Lewis, in his custom lure shop in Alexandria, Louisiana. He discovered the secret to this effective bait almost by accident.

Experimenting with a number of hollow-bodied, shad-shaped, lipless swimming baits, he tried weighting some with steel BB shot. They made a distinctive rattling sound as they were retrieved, and they immediately caught an incredible number of enormous large-mouth bass.

Named after the old rattletrap car he drove home on the day he first tested the lure, it has since been recognized by Field & Stream Magazine as one of the five best lures of all time. You’ll find it just as effective on rockfish in the Chesapeake as it was on those big freshwater bass almost 40 years ago in Louisiana.

The Bass Assassin

The Bass Assassin soft-bodied lure is another story of angler ingenuity and resourcefulness. Robin Shiver Sr. (pronounced Chaver) and his family started up a lure-making business in April of 1988 with the purchase of a small operation in Mayo, Florida, called Bass Assassin. They had only one product, a six-inch plastic worm.

Within two years, Robin senior and junior had developed and refined a five-inch shad-shaped, soft plastic bait imitating the local potgut minnow. Area fishermen found it an incredibly effective lure for largemouth bass.

They soon used it in saltwater as well, where it was equally deadly for sea trout and redfish. Whether rigged Texas style or on a jig head, it has a particularly irregular darting action that triggers strikes from virtually every predatory fish.

In six- and seven-inch versions and additional colors, the new lure migrated quickly, as only a hot lure can, becoming a favorite for just about every species of fish.

Today, used on various weight jig heads, it is one of the best lures for stripers anywhere in the Tidewater. Fish it deep, retrieving it with an irregular flick of the wrist.

That’s Not All

You can buy an incredible number of fishing lures for striped bass in Chesapeake Country. Charlie and Mike Ebersberger at Angler’s Sport Center estimate that they stock close to 1,000 models of various rockfish jigs, plugs, spoons, soft baits and spinners.

However, with just these three baits in my tackle box, on any given day I can reliably catch about 90 percent of the fish that I would get on any of the trade’s many artificial baits. Each of these lures has a secret of attraction.

Fish Are Biting

Yellow perch continue an extended spawning run, and chain pickerel remain on their awesome bite. (You can’t keep pickerel from tidal waters from March 15 to April 30). Bay water temps linger in the mid 30s, thwarting any early season action. The first rockfish has yet to be caught on the Susquehanna Flats. But stay ready. It can’t stay cold much longer.

© COPYRIGHT 2007 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.