Author: Rob Belloni
Overview/History: The Rago Raptor hardbait was released to the public in the fall of 2005. This three piece hardbait comes in 6”, 8”, and 10” versions which retail for $65, $75, and $80 respectively. Each Raptor is outfitted with black Owner Stinger trebles and heavy duty split rings. There are 8 readily available Raptor hardbait colors most of which are trout imitating. For this review I will be covering the 8” lure. I’ll update the review in the future for the other sizes as needed. Pros: When you get your Raptor hardbait out of the package, the first thing you’re likely to do is turn the bait over and over a few times to check out the tail from all angles. The hard lexan type tail is a departure from your standard soft plastic hard bait tail and it’s definitely different than any of the other hard baits on the market today. I like this tail from the standpoint that it’s realistically proportioned (thin!) and painted to match the body of the bait. I was curious though to see what type of action it would generate in the water and when I gave the Raptor the once over I wasn’t disappointed with what I saw. The Raptor hardbait has an S curve type action generated by the shape of the bait and the weighting of the body. The tail is attached to two screw eyes and has a good amount of play to it so even though the tail is hard it doesn’t create any of its own action. Instead, the tail simply follows along behind the first three sections of the bait. The result is a natural flowing motion through the water. This bait is not jerky or rigid looking in the water and I like that. The natural speed of the Raptor hardbait to me is a slow methodical retrieve. When you work this bait slow it just looks right. Everything moves in unison and it creates a fairly realistic trout movement. As you reel the bait faster the action gets tighter and tighter to the point where the lure starts to look ‘wriggly’. I can’t think of a better adjective to describe the high speed action, it just begins to move more like a tadpole or a small catfish than a trout. The good news is that even at very high speeds this bait tracks straight as an arrow. I think fish may go for the Raptor hardbait at high speeds but I feel strongly that your big bite is going to come on a nice slow retrieve which looks more realistic in my opinion. The paint jobs on the Rago hardbaits including the Raptor have definitely gotten more interesting in the past year or so. I especially like the fact that the majority of the colors available are trout colors! Instead of just having one or two trout patterns to pick from, now you have a variety of shades, tones, and spot patterns to choose from. For the serious swimbait guy this can be important when matching baits to water color and local trout color. The small dot trout patterns are my favorites color wise and I think that the kokanee pattern looks great as well. Rago baits have always tended toward natural shades and colors and the Raptor hardbait does not disappoint when it comes to realistic finishes. Let’s talk hardware for a moment. Owner stingers and heavy duty split rings, case closed! When you’re paying $65 plus for a bait, it should come with premium hardware and the Raptor hardbaits need no modification out of the box. The joints in the Raptor are tight and well secured. This isn’t a bait that is going to fail you on a big fish. The fins are molded into the bait and are thicker and stubbier than the original Generic Trout series baits which means they are more durable and less likely to break. From a longevity standpoint, this should be a 50 fish plus bait. Cons: When the Raptor hardbait came out, a definite issue arose with the tail of the bait. Anglers fishing the baits reported that when the bait hit the water hard, or was mis-cast into a rock, dock, or the shoreline, the tails were snapping or cracking. I’ve been told that this was a problem with some of the initial batches of tails and has since been corrected. Rago baits also replaced any tails that came back to them that were broken from what I understand. Regardless, you should use care when casting the Raptor hardbait around hard objects. Even strong materials can break when contacting a dock at high speed, and the way the tail is attached it’s very possible that if you score a direct hit, your bait will be damaged.So to summarize, the Raptor has a great finish, a strong slow speed action with high speed possibilities, excellent hardware and should last a long time. Take care of the tail and try not to bash it into anything and you should be set to get bit.