Hard Bait-Maker Goes Soft

Courtesy of Vance McCullough


Some of the best lures are crafted by hand in garage shops across the country. North Florida angler Daniel Winkles turns out plugs made of basswood. Sold at Fishbites Trading Post in St Augustine, FL, his lures are used mainly in saltwater though I discovered that they slay bass as well.

We met at the Wolfson Children’s Hospital Bass Tournament and hit it off so when Winkles asked if I’d like to fish nearby Rodman Reservoir just for fun over the Labor Day Weekend I was on board.

I scored our first small but spirited fish of the morning on a DW Lures twitch bait. Winkles soon followed with a similar fun sized fish from open water. As the climbed the trees it became apparent that the bass had tucked beneath plentiful mats of floating water lettuce.

Time to pull out the big guns!

“This is the first time I’ve flipped a 1-ounce weight in heavy cover,” shared Winkles who mostly fishes inshore saltwater and brackish rivers in our region. A talented angler, he picked up the punching technique in no time.

He caught our first flipping fish, a fat 2-pounder at the end of a 20-foot pitch. I added one that pushed digital scales to nearly 5 pounds. I also caught an 8-ounce warmouth. Overachiever.

Winkles punched up a 4-and-a-half before finishing out a solid limit of his own. “Hey, if we were fishing the Wolfson tournament today, we would be in the money!”, he mused. Indeed, we had a combined weight around 17 pounds and he carried most of the load.

I had been stubborn early on and stuck with heavy braid. Winkles started waxing my behind with his braid-to-fluorocarbon set up featuring the prettiest, and toughest, FG Knot you ever saw – danged saltwater guys! He later sent me a link to a video on what he believes is the best way to splice braid to fluoro. It’s a lot easier than most methods.

For the time being I rigged a big weight and straight shank hook on straight 30-lb fluoro. It produced bites when I got none on straight braid.

For a while, we were both getting bites as our lures broke through the mats. Fish weren’t letting the fast-falling lures find bottom in 4 feet of water. Winkles noted that we were coming up on a new moon and the midday bite should be strong. He called it right. For over an hour as the sun peaked, we could do no wrong. Then, after going on a roll and catching 3 solid fish to my none, Winkles mentioned that he had started slowly working the lure in place. The bite had slowed as the major feed period passed. Soon after, it was as if it had all been a dream. Not a bite. Nothing stirring.

But it had been a perfect day to explore the punching technique and Winkles took full advantage. The maker of premium hand-crafted hard baits had put soft plastics to good use.

Two days later he texted me with pictures. He was at it again in the heavy mats. I believe he’s hooked on flippin’ now.

On a related equipment note, I have had been having fun all summer with my new Lew’s Team Pro SP Speed Spool reel. Specifically designed for skipping and pitching, it features an anodized duralumin 32mm shallow spool and a 6-pin 27-position QuietCast Adjustable Centrifugal Braking System with a specific orange skipping zone, which reduces spool inertia to eliminate backlash and make skipping lures incredibly easy.

However, it’s the guts and the shallow spool that make it my favorite new flipping and punching reel. It boasts high strength solid brass speed gears, one-piece aluminum frame, and a rugged 20lb carbon fiber drag system. All good stuff in a flippin’ reel. Plus, with a shallow spool, and less line on the reel, I get fewer backlashes when I try to imitate Andy Montgomery skipping lures around docks.