Black Dog Baits - Lunker Punker
Author: Rob Belloni
The Lunker Punker was a bait a long time in the making. I saw a prototype some time in 2005 if I recall correctly - hand made by Jeremy Anderson. Jeremy, if you do not know him, is well known in Northern California for his phenomenal custom paint jobs. After several years, the bait was released by Black Dog Baits in early 2007. There are two sizes, a 6" and a 9". Colors are not "locked down" - which is to say that there are a few basic patterns available, and a wide range of custom paint jobs done by Jeremy himself that are out there floating around. The 9" bait reviewed here weighs 4oz and comes stock withDaiichi hooks including the feathered treble. Retail on the 6" is around $50. The 9" will run you around $55.
First of all I love the name. Lunker Punker is a fun name that rolls off the tongue and lends itself to many humorous variations. I find myself calling it the "Lunker Plunker" most of the time, for no particular reason. Kidding aside, this is one damn fishy looking topwater lure. With a little practice, it walks the dog with ease, and more importantly it begs to be eaten.
You can hit the Punker fast and make it toss spray left and right. Go even faster and the lure walks the dog under water which presents a radical look to the fish. It's a look I have not seen in any other bait. If you want to go slow, you can sweep the rod while reeling and make the lure carve long S turns. Short pop makes the Punker jump, and if you work it just right you can force the lure to nearly jump out of the water. It's as versatile a walk-the-dog bait as I have ever seen.
The next thing I love about the Punker is the lack of rattles. There is a time for rattles and a time for silence. This bait doesn't need them because the presence and the wake alone are enough to draw fish from serious distances. When you hear the natural sound of this wood bait, you will understand right away. There is something about the sound and motion of a wood lure that can't be duplicated with plastic.
Casting the Punker is a dream. The lure is weighted right, and when you lay it out on a long cast, you can suck line off a big reel so fast it's hard to follow the path of the levelwind with your eye. Most people will opt for braid with this bait, but I found that it was not difficult to work it on 25 mono. You will get tremendous casting distance with 50lb braid though, and 80 is not a bad idea when it comes down to it. An interesting option with this bait is to use braid with a mono or fluoro leader. Trickier to rig, but you get the benefits of each line type. 80 braid with 30 mono is not unreasonable for a big topwater. I'm thinking more and more about doing a 10-15' leader on this bait to braid to give stretch during the fight, but allow for very long casts.
The paint jobs on the Punker are solid, with a small honeycomb scale pattern, and a nice top-coat of epoxy. If you can get a hold of a custom bait painted by Jeremy himself you are in for a treat because the work he does is truly superior. Check eBay or the shows for these baits. Under the paint is a primer layer of silver/gray. The eyes are taxidermy style eyes, with gold backing, and each eye is set in a round cut out - then epoxied over. It's nice not to have to worry about the eyes of your lure falling out.
The screw eyes are big on this lure with a long shank inside the wood, and that's a good thing. In talking with Jeremy about the lure, he recommends using a split ring on the line tie to get the best action from the bait. When the guy who makes the lure offers you advice like this - it's best to follow it.
As is often the case, my cons section here will consist of a few pieces of advice meant to make your lure purchase all that it should be.
Step one is to remove the stock split rings, throw them in the trash and replace them with #6 or #7 Owner Hyperwire split rings. My stock rings showed rust 2 days after fishing the baits for the first time. This was in spite of the fact that the baits were stored on the top of my box indoors. Just take the stock rings off and spend the $2.99 for a pack of Owners. If you are fishing braid and you don't do this, you will remember this review when the first fish steals your hook.
Step two is to watch your lure mid-air during the cast. If you see it heading for rocks or docks what you'll want to do is go ahead and engage the reel and pull the bait back to prevent the collision. To get the epic topwater action the Punker generates, the wood used is light and does not get along well with rocks. I made this mistake right away with a beautiful custom painted Punker, and it now sports some ugly cracks in it to remind my of my stupidity. That cast also broke the prong off a 2/0 Gammie treble, which is a testament to the force generated by a compact 4oz lure. Don't hit stuff with the Punker when you cast.
Step three is to either swap hooks, or run a file lightly over the tips of the Daiichi hooks to get the black paint coating off the ends. I went with a 2/0 Gamakatsu on the front eye, a 1/0 in the middle, and the stock hook with the feather in the rear. For you braided line guys, I'd look seriously at some 4x strong models.
Overall, I believe the Punker will be one of those rare baits that stands the test of time and becomes a staple in many big bait angler's arsenal. There have been a slew of double digits caught on this bait since it came out, and there will continue to be whether you hear about it or not. The lures are not indestructible, but with a little care you can expect to catch many fish per lure. I would expect those fish to be big.