Basstrix Fat Minnow Paddle Tail
Author: Rob Belloni
The Basstrix Fat Minnow Paddle Tail, also known simply as the "Paddletail Tube" was released somewhere in the 2005 time frame, I don't have the exact date. This was a bait that crept very quietly on to the scene, with little or no buzz in the first few years. In the spring of 2007 however, the Paddletail Tube simply blew up with the publicity around Steve Kennedy's BASS Elite Series win at Clear Lake, CA and a rise in popularity in regional California Pro/Ams. There are now five sizes available (2.5", 3.5", 4", 5", and 6") and at least 13 colors. The color lineup focuses on baitfish with shad, hitch, bluegill, perch, herring, ayu and trout all represented nicely. The baits come unrigged in clamshell packs with 3-5 baits per pack.
There are a number of factors that combine to make the Paddletail Tube a highly effective bait for tournament anglers: weedlessness, customization options, hook hiding capability, hookup ratio, and realism. Before the Paddletail Tube came along, your only real weedless swimbait options were the 3:16 Lure Company Mission Fish and the SR Plastics SR7 Swimbait (which was never widely available). When properly rigged, the Paddletail Tube can be cast in to heavy cover and teased through without hanging up. Combine this weedlessness with the fact that you can weight the lure as much or as little as you like, and you open up some unique possibilities.
Rigged with just enough weight to keel the bait and keep it running straight, you can flutter the Paddletail Tube just under the surface, teasing it over the tops of grass mats and through shallow cover. Rigged with a large belly weight or a bullet sinker in front of the lure, you can bump the Paddletail Tube through deeper structure like brush or pond weed. If snagging up is not a problem, you can cut a small slit in the back of the bait and feed a darter head inside the hollow body, poking the line tie out just between the eyes of the lure. You can see that the Paddletail Tube is truly a versatile bait when it comes to covering all depths and cover / structure situations.
A big positive with the Paddletail Tube is the fact that the hook is well hidden when the lure is rigged weedless. I'm of the opinion that the less hook you show the bass, the more likely the bass is to bite the lure. If you take the time to rig your bait carefully, hiding your knot up inside the nose of the lure, and lightly texposing the hook point in the back of the lure you will only be showing the fish the shank of the hook. Compared to many of our favorite swimbaits that are festooned with treble hooks, this is a real advantage.
My first experience with the Paddletail Tube was in a draw tournament where my partner was fishing the bait for most of the day. He had somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 bites on the lure during the day and boated 15 of them. What few bites he missed he felt were small fish that were just nipping the tail. This kind of bite to land ratio is stellar for a weedless bait and I've had similar results in my own fishing with this lure. You will occasionally lose a fish because the EWG style hooks have a tendency to skin hook bass inside the roof of the mouth, but by in large this is a strong bait when it comes to hookup percentages.
From a realism perspective, the Paddletail Tube offers a unique and lifelike presentation. It appears that the process for making these baits involves molding the initial lure, painting the soft plastic with a stencil and adding the eyeballs, then dipping the painted lure in clear plastic. The clear plastic overcoat ensures that the painted finish keeps it's fresh, reflective look. These baits throw flash in the same way a spinnerbait throws flash, and I think that is a big part of their appeal to the bass. The clear plastic overcoat also ensures that your eyeballs do not fall off and helps preserve the longevity of the lure even after a few fish take a nibble. You can realistically expect to get 6-15 fish per bait with the Paddletail Tube!
The action of this little guy is definitely worth noting as a positive. The tail is so thin that the water really flows around it and gives a strong, almost vibrating slow speed action. If you add about 1/4 of weight to the nose of the 5 or 6 inch model you can get the tail to flutter on a pendulum, which can be a terrific way to elicit strikes from fish with small strike zones. Because the body is narrow and soft, you also get terrific body wobble, which contributes to the already mentioned flashy-ness. Simply put, the Paddletail Tube has 'fishy' action.
There's been a lot of discussion online about what hook to use with this bait, so I'll take a minute to give a run down... The simplest option is to use a Falcon Bait-Jerk Superline hook. This is a Gamakatsu Superline EWG hook with a piece of lead molded to the shank. You rig the bait just like you would rig any other soft plastic lure and go fish. Another popular option is the Mustad Power Lock EWG hook. This hook uses a pigtail to affix the hook to the nose of the bait. If you use this hook you will definitely want to super glue the pigtail in to the nose! Another option is to use a standard EWG hook of your choosing and weight it with a Lunker City Belly Weight, or simply slide a bullet sinker on the line in front of the bait. The Tru-Tungsten bullet sinkers are nice in this application because of their small profile. I haven't experimented with darter heads enough to name the ones that work best with the Paddletail Tube, but you should look for something with a flat sided leadhead to help keel the lure and keep it from spinning.
One thing you may notice about the Paddletail Tube is that during the production process, a piece of plastic is cut off the nose of the lure, leaving a small nub right at the spot where the hook is typically inserted. I've found that this small nub is not always cut straight and needs trimming or shaping in order to get the eye of the hook dead center on the nose of the bait. If you don't rig the nose of the bait correctly, it may not swim straight.
Another thing I've noticed after pawing through a few clamshells is that sometimes the tails of the lures get kinked in the package, especially with the 6" models. Most of my kinked baits swam straight anyway, but I did have one that I just couldn't get going in a straight line. I don't think this is a big issue, but worth noting that you might get an occasional blem.
A final con, if you want to call it that, is that the Paddletail Tube seems to draw a lot of small fish. I don't know if this is specific to the places I've fished with the lure, but I've been amazed by how many 10" bass have hit my 5 and 6" Paddletail Tubes. For tournament guys who want to put a lot of fish in the boat fast, this will undoubtedly not be an issue, but it's somewhat irritating if you are looking for a bigger bite and have to fight the micro bass off the hooks.
Overall this is a bait that will be popular for many years to come. It's versatile, realistic, and most importantly it draws a lot of strikes. I expect that the folks at Basstrix will be filling back orders in to 2008.