Nothing makes an offshore angler's blood boil more than a disparaging comment attacking the lures he's pulling. I got set up like a bowling pin during the Miami International Boat Show this past year when I joined a table full of lure manufactures at the Clevelander bar. Capt. Jeremiah Nachtigal asked me what my favorite lures were while sitting across from the famous Hawaiian lure makers Bomboy Llanes and Marlin Parker. The Jack Daniels told me that the best course of action would be to piss the whole table off, so I blurted out, "They're all the same, and I could whip anybody's butt with four black Wide Ranges."
The ensuing silence seemed to last for an hour, but I'm sure it was only seconds before Nachtigal waded in and saved my sorry butt with the quip, "He's been hanging around Peter Wright too much, eh, fellas?" The resulting laughter told me I was forgiven for my East Coast ignorance, and the night proceeded without a pummeling.
After a few discussions that night, I decided to do another top 10 lure article. Instead of asking just the top captains, we turned to the general population of offshore anglers and asked them their favorites. We posted the question on our website, in our newsletter and through several e-mail blasts, encouraging anglers to pass it on and reply. And while a lot of the same pro captains I talked to on the first weighed in for this list, the large majority of responses for this one came from regular fellows pulling lures in their home waters.
Several fishing websites got news of the list, and the forums were pretty entertaining for me to read as the list took shape. One of the fellows immediately posted three lures he didn't want to see on the list, starting with the big overall winner, the Mold Craft Wide Range. Perfect. I love to get you boys talking.
Like I said before, no accounting firms tabulated these results, and they aren't listed in any particular order, although I do have to say that the Wide Range pretty much shows up in nearly everyone's spread - and it ain't because it's the prettiest on the block either!
1. Mold Craft Wide Range
One of the original Mold Craft lures, the Wide Range (pictured above) came to Frank Johnson through the suggestions of Capt. Peter Wright in 1977. Wright and Hawaiian Capt. Jeff Fay were experimenting with lures made out of rolls of sheet rubber while working together on the Humdinger in the mid-'70s. Wright showed his prototypes to Johnson during a charter, and they struck a deal on the spot to make the lures.
The lure gets its name from the "wide range" of speeds and conditions through which the lure can be pulled. "It's definitely the lure of choice for rough water," says Johnson. "With its squared-off nose and center hole, the Wide Range stays stable in almost any conditions."
This lure showed up in a vast majority of the responses, and all the big names seem to pull at least one Wide Range in the spread. On almost every boat I board, no matter where I am in the world, I'll usually find a Mold Craft Wide Range. One of my favorite testimonials came from a Richard McAdams, who fishes the Gulf of Mexico: "If I could pick only one marlin lure to fish with anywhere in the world, it would be a purple/silver/black Mold Craft Senior Wide Range. This lure gets the most vicious strikes I have ever seen. I can put it on the flat line or short 'rigger, and it runs like a champ in all seas. I fish the northern Gulf of Mexico where the seas can jump from 3 feet to 6 feet in a matter of minutes, but this lure catches fish no matter how rough it gets. It runs well with either a single- or double-hook rig and is pretty much idiot-proof ? which makes it the perfect lure for me!"
2. Mold Craft Super Chugger
Traveling angler and freelance writer Tony Pena, whose work you often see here in Marlin, can't say enough about the Mold Craft Super Chugger - and he has plenty of company. "My vote goes to the Mold Craft Super Chugger (8 1/4 inches in blue/white/yellow combo). I've caught blue, black and striped marlin, Pacific sailfish and numerous other species, such as 300-pound yellowfin tuna, on this lure. It works bigger than its size and is truly a universal lure, producing great results from Thailand to Panama."
The concave face of the Super Chugger allows the lure to come and grab a gulp of air and let it out in a thick bubble stream with a short side-to-side wiggle of its head. It rises and falls with a surprising regularity that seems to drive blue marlin crazy. The lure's face causes it to pull hard through the water, but it still remains stable in rough water. "It works well at a wide range of speeds as well," says Frank Johnson Jr. "You can pull anywhere from 5 to 12 knots, but it works best at the lower end of that range."
Paulo Amorim's 1,402-pound, all-tackle Atlantic blue marlin ate a pink-and-white Super Chugger off Vitoria, Brazil, in 1992, sealing the lure's status in big-game-fishing history.
3. Pakula Lumo Sprocket
While fishing in the USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament on the Poli-Sea, I saw first mate Jody Wentworth jump overboard to retrieve a lure that had just caught a 500-pound blue and fallen into the water. As usual, there were big sharks in the area attracted to the struggles of the marlin, but Wentworth, determined not to lose his last Pakula with two days of fishing left in the tournament, swam down around 20 feet to retrieve the sinking lure.
"Peter Pakula's cup-nosed creations are relatively unknown in California, but they have been a well-kept secret of many crews for the past 15 years," says Greg Stotesbury of AFTCO. "I have several vintage Pakulas aboard the Kawakawa that look like they were trolled over asphalt from all the bill and teeth marks in the resin heads!"
Peter Pakula started making his lures in his native Australia in 1976, but his first lures went to Hawaii, and he didn't start to sell them in Australia until 1980. Designed as a straight runner with very tight swimming action, the Lumo Sprocket works well in any position but runs best in the long outrigger slot.