Rubber eels and lures

If you’ve lost valuable fishing time gathering baits or losing them in shreds over rough ground, you already appreciate the difference that artificial lures have made to sea fishing For more than a hundred years, rod and line fishermen have used artificial lures to catch sea fish. Long before the start of this century, ingenious minds dreamed up many different types of baits that twisted, wobbled or travelled through the water with an undulating motion. The earliest lure was made from a length of wide rubberband, one end whipped to the hook shank. It bore a remarkable resemblance to a worm and few refinements have bettered it.

Sophisticated lures appear

From this primitive beginning, more sophisticated lures soon evolved. Two types in particular, known as Brook’s Double Twist Spinning Eel, and Captain Tom’s Spinning Eel, were the first to be made from lengths of india-rubber pipe. This was pushed on to a large hook to form an ‘elbow’ at the bend, which caused it to spin when worked through the water at speed. Small brass swivels attached to the hook eye prevented the line from twisting to any great extent, and the top end of the pipe was securely fastened to the shank with stout thread.

In 1948, rubber gave way to plastic and the first modern eels appeared. The ‘Mevagissey’, produced by Alex Ingram, was made by a dip-coating process. Early models featured a long, soft, curved tail, which plugged into a hollow body. When viewed from above, the lure had a natural-looking action, but it tended to spin, which caused the reel line to twist. One day, watching a jet landing with its braking parachute extended, Alex noted that this chute oscillated, and he realized that if the action could be incorporated into a sandeel, its movement would be much improved. Over a period of time, various prototypes were tried out in the rugged conditions of wreck and reef fishing at many sites in Britain, until the 172mm Red Gill lure finally emerged that was to revolutionize sea fishing.

Durable, colour-fast PVC

In the late 1960s dip-coating gave way to injection moulding, and improved plastics produced a much better eel. Modern PVC resists ultra-violet radiation and the effects of saltwater, so that lures now have tremendous durability. A boat angler fishing off Falmouth, who kept careful records of each fish he caught, noted that 199 pollack fell to the same Red Gill lure. Gradually the range has grown, and the latest is the 210mm Thresher, designed for wreck fishing.

Eddystone artificials have certainly made their mark on the sea angling scene since their introduction in 1974. Less sophisticated, but with a devastating tail action, they are now in wide use, and account for large numbers of big fish. Some models designed for spinning have a metal head plugged into the conventional plastic tail. This enables the lure to be cast a considerable distance, without the need for a spiral lead on the trace. Eddystone trolling lures with exceptionally long and very thin tails are also used with great success by anglers seeking bass and pollack in a variety of settings.

Movement—the secret of success

No matter how good the design of an artificial sandeel, its success is totally dependent on one thing—movement. All have a negligible action of their own, and only movement imparted by an angler gives a lure ‘life’. Unfortunately, this is not always realized, and one sees artificial sandeels being used gar-nished with a strip of mackerel, squid or—incredibly—a natural sandeel. Anything on the lure’s hook will completely ruin the action its manufacturers have laboured to achieve.

Soft plastic can easily become deformed, too, if not handled with a reasonable amount of care and it is therefore important not to crush eels into a tackle box.

Plastic lures are available in a wide range of colours, but divers tell us that below 30ft, even in clear water conditions, colour begins to disappear. At 100ft it has gone altogether. So what is the point in painting artificials so attractively when most are used in depths of 40 fathoms (240ft) to which no light penetrates? The clue is surely in the phrase ‘colour as we know it’. The human eye may perceive quite differently from the fish’s eye.

During 1972, a year when many outstanding pollack and coalfish were caught in deep water, red lures accounted for the greatest number, including the present British record pollack of 25lb. Lures of other colours were being offered in an identical manner, but got a very poor response. Consequently, red lures were so much in demand that sup- plies ran out in the tackle shops, and stocks finished in green, yellow and blue were given a coat of red paint. Recent studies have shown that lures coloured deep purple with a blue head, and dark red with a gold belly catch extremely well.