The Castaic SBS Sardine aka the Castaic Sardine has been around for quite some time now. My first recollection of seeing them for sale was somewhere around 1999. There are two sizes available these days, a 4” model and a 7” model. The 7” is available in 14 colors and the 4” is available in 12 colors. Both baits come stock with a single black nickel hook.
I first became aware of the Castaic Sardine not in relation to freshwater bass fishing but in relation to saltwater fishing. My old fishing buddy Brian #1 used to use the 7” sardine for inshore white seabass fishing and he did really well on it. I always felt like the bait was priced kind of high for saltwater use but the baits really do work on the ocean critters and seabass especially seem like the the 7” sardine patterns.
Years later I started to hear more about the Castaic Sardine but this time it was in relation to freshwater bass. What people figured out was that the 7” bait was a great minnow / hitch imitator, especially up at Clear Lake, CA. Even more recently I’ve been hearing good things about the Castaic Sardine as an imitator of blueback herring which are apparently becoming more prevalent in some of the East Coast lakes. So when you pick up a Castaic Sardine you really have some options in regards to what you can imitate with it, it’s just a fishy shape and size that predator fish anywhere are going to respond to whether it’s fresh water or salt.
When the Sardine first came out there were just a few colors available and they were basically saltwater colors. The green shad was a good bet for bass but there just weren’t many options. Recently though, there have been some additions to the color line up and there’s a decent trout color now along with an ayu and a ghost shiner color. I like these new color options, they look good!
Let’s talk price and durability for a moment. The 7” Sardine retails for around $8 and the 4” goes for $5. Even though these baits aren’t very big the pricing isn’t unreasonable for a 3-D injected bait with hand paint. You aren’t going to catch a ton of fish per bait but on freshwater bass you’ll get 5-8 fish per bait on average. If you use a treble hook on the belly of the bait it will tear up the belly quickly, but the main body and top hook are pretty solid.
Which brings me to a discussion of hookup ratio. On any bait I always consider… what percentage of bites are going to find their way to the boat? With the Castaic Sardine, that percentage should be pretty high. The baits are thin all around and they are soft enough that when a fish sucks one in, the lure will fold up in the fish’s mouth. If you don’t use a treble on the belly you might get some fish jumping off the hook but with a small treble like a #2 or #4 Gamakatsu 2x strong you’ll get some solid hookups on the Sardine.
As far as depth and retrieve go, the Castaic Sardine naturally runs down in the 5-10 foot range if you make a cast and then immediately start a medium retrieve. You can easily sink it out deeper or you can burn it up close to the surface. My baits have tracked straight out of the package although they do get a little squirrelly at high speeds. It’s a solid swimmer all around though.
I’m not going to slam the Castaic Sardine too hard since it’s an $8 lure but some of the baits you get really are not molded very well. I’ve looked through packs of baits on the shelf before and seen nearly every one of them with one half the nose longer than the other half. You’ll also see baits with a lot of paint overspray on them and with plastic “frills” around the edges of the mold. The defects are pretty much cosmetic and don’t seem to affect the lure’s swimming action but it can make the baits look kind of junky.
The only other thing I don’t really like about the Castaic Sardine is the top hook. It would be so nice to see a Mustad Ultrapoint hook on this bait but instead it’s a matte black fairly dull hook of indeterminate brand. It’s a reasonably sharp hook but I’d always check it before fishing and run a file over it if it’s not feeling sharp enough.