The Optimum T's Refrex became somewhat available around late 2002 if memory serves. After a few baits showed up initially, they then became very hard to find for a year or so. Now (Jan, 2005) they are fairly available in the States although the number that are imported annually is reported to be very small. These baits are real wood hardbaits, 7" long (not including the rear hook) and weigh in at 2 and 1/4oz. There are three colors that I'm aware of, rainbow trout, bass, and shad - although it's possible that more colors may be out there.
When you crack open the box and pull the protective plastic tubing off the tips of the hooks, you're going to immediately notice the quality and attention to detail on these handcrafted baits. Whoever is making these baits is truly a master painter and you have to hold it up close to really appreciate it. On the bass color bait, there are two separate scale patterns, one for the dark on the back and another that appears to be etched into silver foil for the side. All of the colors are blended to fade from dark to light and vice-versa and there is a detailed pectoral fin airbrushed on. The inside of the joints is painted a dark green or black to take attention away from this area and the fact that someone took the time to press tiny dots into the foil to make the lateral line is really something.
The hardware on the bait is top quality. The bait comes stock with Owner Stinger trebles and heavy duty split rings so you don't have to change anything out before you fish with it. The bill is crystal clear and cut precisely. Each bait is tank tested before it goes so you don't have to tune it and my bait certainly swam perfect on the first cast.
Now, about the action... When I first held this bait I have to admit that I was disappointed that it didn't have a tail on it. I feel like a tail is an important attribute for any large fish imitating lure. However, in the water the action is very nice. I was actually surprised at how fishy it looked based on my expectations. The last tail piece moves passably how a tail would and the blur of movement is probably enough to fool most bass. The baits fish well at slow speeds and at very fast speeds, and that is something that I definitely like in a bait! The action overall isn't incredible, but it's certainly fishable and that counts for a lot.
One detail I did not like on this lure is the eye. The eye is very small and the backing on the eye is silver. That goes ok on a minnow imitating bait, but for a trout or baby bass imitation I'd like if the eye were larger and more of a dull gold in color. I also felt like the eye should be located more on the side of the head. My other peeve was that the OPTIMUM BAITS logo was printed on the back of the lure in gold. That's nice for a collectors item, but I don't want anything weird looking on my lure. Things like that are more appropriate on Bill Dance crankbaits and it does a disservice to the amazing paint job.
The split ring on the nose is debatable. Because it's a X-heavy ring, it's very thick which I don't like to tie to on any bait. I'd opt for a snap on this bait, but that is easily fixed and a pretty nit picky thing.
Overall these baits show the craftsmanship and longevity that justifies the $90 US price tag. This is the type of bait that could put many many dozens of bass in the boat for you on a single bait.