Castaic Hard Bait Trout
Author: Rob Belloni
The Castaic Hardbait Trout was the first commercially available super-realistic trout bait, and to this day you could argue that it is still the most realistic hardbait trout there is. Ken Huddleston and Chomp Josephite first started making these baits in the Spring of 1993, mainly for striper fisherman who were interested in using them at Pyramid Lake. A year later the baits were sold at the Fred Hall Show in Long Beach.
These original baits (first row above) were made from wood and have a fat overall profile. Most of the wood baits that I have seen are a light trout pattern with white or pink sides, although like any hand crafted bait, they probably had quite a few color variations.
The second generation of these baits (second row above) came out around the Spring of 1997 and were made from polyestrene by Chomp and Ray Diaz. These baits have a narrower overall profile and were available in four colors (Rainbow Trout, Brook Trout, Silver, and Gold). The silver and gold patterns were less common and are highly desirable now as collector items.
Both baits are floaters however the polyestrene baits are not super buoyant and naturally dive down to 6 or 8 feet on the retrieve. I have not seen the wood bait in the water, but the composite has a very subtle narrow kick to it.
Note: All Pros/Cons are in regards to the 2nd generation (polyestrene) baits
This is a super realistic / attention to detail type bait that breathes quality from the minute you pick it up. The paint jobs are attractive, consistent and durable. I got a few vertical cracks in the paint on my bait, but that was only after 4 years of sitting baking in my tackle box. This is one of the few hardbaits out there that don't really require any additional coating to maintain the paint job.
The screw eyes appear to be brass and the hinges are rock solid. The bills are thick and securely mounted. I've bounced my bait off the rocks a few times (cringe!) and it's come back ok every time. I've been fishing my bait for 7 years now and it is every bit as fishable as the day I bought it. For some reason the smaller fish seem to stay away from this bait but the big ones will woof it every so often. Of the 4 or 5 bites I've had on the Castaic Hardbait, my best two fish went 13.8 and 15.4lbs and that frankly is all the evidence I need to tell me this lure is the real deal.
From a collector's standpoint, this is a highly desireable lure. The original wooden Castaics routinely go for over $300 on Ebay and the Polyesterne versions are not far behind. Whether you're looking for a bait to fish with or to put on the mantle piece, this is a great lure.
The main problem I had with this bait was that the fins dried out and cracked over time. It wouldn't be a problem except that you can't get replacement Castaic Hardbait fins any more since the baits are no longer in production. What I did with mine was shave down a 12" MS Slammer tail and glued it in as a replacement. With the 12" Slammer tail at it's full length, you get a very subtle but lively action out of the tail. It's not a perfect solution because shaving the tails down like that makes them weak and flimpsy but I actually think it's better than the stock tail because of the additional action. It's something to try if you have one and want to stick pigs on it rather than leave it on the mantle piece!
The Castaic Hardbait Trout is no longer in production The best place to look for one would be on eBay.
Special thanks to Henry Shorr for providing the pictures of the original wooden bait