The Castaic T-29 is basically the remodeled version of the original Castaic Hardbait Trout. The T-29 was made available in quantity toward the end of 2004. This bait is a real wood hardbait, hand made from European Mahogany. The T-29 is approximately 9" long and the bait is extremely light for it's size at 3.5oz. It is one of the lightest 9" hardbait on the market right now. These guys retail for $129 in the US and like most hardbaits these days, production is limited.
When you pay over $100 for a hardbait, you expect attention to detail and this bait pays excellent attention to the little details. Each of the fins is glued to the bait with no additional hardware that would make it look unnatural. The fins are soft and transparent which give them the right look under water, like a real fish would look. There aren't any other finned hardbaits where the fins have such a natural look to them under water. As mentioned in the overview, this is a real wood hardbait, and there's certainly something to be said for real wood hardbaits. They just have a certain natural action because of the lightness and buoyancy of the wood.
The dilemma with wood is painting it to last and so far my Castaic T-29's have stood up well. I haven't observed any cracking or chipping in the paint at all. A sharp hook will leave some little tick marks where the hook rubs, but this is true no matter how much you coat a bait with clear finish. I like the joint on the bait for it's subtlety. It's cut and recessed far enough back to really decrease the visibility of the joint. And I like the clarity of the bill. Some baits have sort of a pasty looking bill, but this one is extremely clear and hard to see in the water.
The real discussion point on this lure is the action. The baits are mostly floaters, but I have heard that there are some baits out there that are almost neutrally buoyant and float up very slowly. Variations in the wood and what hooks are used will determine how much your individual baits floats. The original Castaic Baby bass was like this also even though it was made from polystyrene. Some of them really floated and other ones were basically suspending. The action on the baits that I received was not exactly what you would expect. The head of the baits kicked back and forth very aggressively and the tail barely moved at all. They really struggle on the surface which looks pretty good, but subsurface they don't look that great. Seeing this, I asked around about the baits to get more info. What I'm hearing is that the baits are supposed to run 8 to 10 feet deep and kick at a very slow speed. One guy who's opinion I trust has a bait that swims like this and he thinks the action is phenomenal. The word from Castaic is that this is how the baits are supposed to swim so it sounds like due to some variation in the wood, my baits just don't swim that way.
What you find about lures over time is that everyone has their opinion on what is good. I have no doubt that there is a guy out there somewhere who has a T-29 just like mine that is all head kick and no tail movement and he kills them on that bait on top and thinks that it is great. There are undoubtedly other guys who have baits that run down 8 to 10 feet and swim super slow and they think love those baits too. The variation among wood baits is part of the fun but can also be a source of agony when you want one action and get another one. There is variation in the Castaic T-29 and if you buy one you should be ready for that up front.
For me, the jury is still out on which action is better, but if I had to pick one I'd take the bait that dives 8 to 10' and kicks slowly. A few things that I did not like on the bait. The hooks quite frankly are junk. You can sharpen them yes, but replacing with owner or gammie would be a really good idea. Do not go and fish these hooks out of the box because they are simply not sharp. For the price of the bait, I'd expect a premium hook and that is a let down.
The split rings do not appear to be heavy duty models so you may consider replacing those also. While the fins are very trick and subtle, they are glued straight to the bait. For the regular fins that is no big deal because if they fell off you could just fish the bait without them until you got home to glue on another fin. If you lose the tail while fishing, you're going to be sitting in the bottom of the boat with a knife and some glue for a while trying to put on a new tail. If it's raining that day you'll probably be putting the bait back in your box to use something else.
Many of you reading this review are probably considering the bait as a collectors item. The original Castaic's are very popular on Ebay and typically go for $300+ for like new baits. The Castaic T-29 comes in big red box, very nicely presented. The baits look good and the details are awesome. The question for a collector is whether a bait that is made in Mexico will become a collectors item. My feeling is that even though the baits look really nice, that fact will keep them from ever being as valuable as previous Castaic's made in the USA. Only time will tell there.