4. Tournament Tackle's Ilander Lure or Hawaiian Eye
The legendary Ilander, or "Hawaiian Eye" as some of you still know it, has probably caught twice as many blue marlin on the Atlantic Coast as its nearest competitor. The Ilander is another one of those lures that you're apt to find on board in even the most remote fishing holes on earth.
Developed by Jim Kress in 1976, the lure was initially named the Hawaiian Eye and was designed to troll at high speeds on the way out to the fishing grounds. The Ilander accounted for several innovations that can be found on many lures today: It was the first true high-speed trolling lure, the first to have permanent nylon skirts and the first to use realistic eyes.
Versatility (along with tremendous productivity) probably accounts for most of the Ilander's success. Anglers like John Lavelle of Cape May, New Jersey, reach for the Ilander no matter what species of marlin they're chasing. "I know you're going to hear from a lot of captains on the East Coast who never leave the dock without a trusty supply of blue/white Ilanders with some meat behind them," says Lavelle. "Besides a naked ballyhoo, the blue/white islanders are the bait of choice for white marlin on the East Coast."
The lure is so popular on the East Coast that its use played a large part in the recent retraction of the National Marine Fisheries Service's call for the use of all circle hooks in billfish tournaments when using live or dead bait. The huge number of dead-bait trollers didn't want to put circle hooks in front of the beloved Ilanders.
5. Copa Fishing Lures' Tado
Not only did Steve Coggin's Tado get a lot of votes, but the pleas for recognition usually came with a picture of a huge blue marlin with a Tado hanging out of its face! (It was also the only lure that got a vote from the maker's wife - but don't worry, fellas, I didn't count it!)
I first became aware of Coggin's lures while interviewing him for a story written by Jim Rizzuto called "Jewels in the Spread" (June/July 2003) for some filler material. His beautiful, big lures looked more like works of art than something you'd fish. He makes all of his lures by hand and still uses real shell inserts.
"Tado is a big lure, and it runs great on the short corner," says Coggin. "I first started making it during the late '70s and early '80s at a time when most guys were making smaller lures. I gave one to Chip Vanmols on the Jen Ken Po, and he caught a 700-pounder on it. He promptly named the lure Tado, which is short for the Hawaiian name (Kona slang actually) for skipjack over 10 pounds, 'otado.'"
The big Tado bait secured its reputation in Kona by catching a 1,197-pound blue during the 1993 Lahaina Jackpot for the boys on the Cormorant, which held the spot for the largest tournament fish ever caught for several years running.
6. Joe Yee Super Plunger
Although Bart Miller and Gene Vander Hoek are widely credited with coming up with the first plunger, they weren't the ones to bring popularity to the shape. "Joe Yee's Super Plunger is probably the most famous and widely used plunger," says Tracy Melton of Melton International Tackle. "We've been selling them since 1994, and in my opinion, there's only one super plunger, and it's handmade by Joe Yee. I think he's got 12 or 13 granders on that lure, including the current 50-pound record Pacific blue marlin weighing 1,166-pounds caught off Kona."
But the Joe Yee Super Plunger also performs well in the Atlantic. "It's a great big fish lure, and a lot of guys pull them in Bermuda. Some Bermudian fellow came over to Kona and caught a grander on one and took a boatload back home with him. The Pink Pearl Super Plunger is the one everybody wants," says Melton.
Joe Yee still makes every Super Plunger in his basement in Kona. "Capt. Peter Hoogs on the Pamela asked me to make a plunger for him," says Yee. "Capt. Gene Vander Hoek was making them and doing real good. But I didn't know what a plunger was. So I made up a big lure for Hoogs, and he went out and caught a 500-pounder on it. And since Gene's was a 12-inch lure, and mine was more like 14, Hoogs called it a Super Plunger, and the name stuck.
"A lot of people have caught big fish on that lure," Yee continues. "One day I was eating dinner with a group that was going charter fishing the next day, and I ended up telling the lady that she was going to catch a grander - just kidding, you know? I went to my room and brought her back a Super Plunger and told her to catch a big one. The next day, I was having lunch near the docks and heard that the Jen Ken Po had a big one on. Sure enough, it was that same lady, and she ended up catching a 1,183-pound blue."
7. Marlin Magic Ruckus
Another overwhelming favorite, the Marlin Magic Ruckus, worked its way into the spread of a large number of big-fish captains, falling just behind the Wide Range in overall popularity. Capt. Marlin Parker has been making lures for more than 20 years, and the Marlin Magic Ruckus was one of his first designs.
"I came up with Ruckus after chopping down a much larger head and shaving down the nose," says Parker. "The resulting shape carries a lot of air down on the dive, and it looks like a white explosion as it releases the air underwater. That's why we named it Ruckus.
"The Ruckus has a softer slant, so its one of the easier of my lures to rig and run," he continues. "It's highly productive and one of my best tournament lures. I've won more tournaments on the ruckus than any other lure, including the Bisbee Black and Blue in 2004 and the World Cup in 2002. The lure goes off in any position, and if you match the hatch, you should do well. If there's a lot of skipjack around, pull a purple/black; if there are more mackerel, pull one with some green and blue. Last year we even had a run where the pure black was just incredible."
8. Black Bart 1656
This one really surprised me. I was pretty sure at least one of Bart Miller's lures would make the list; however, I just figured it would be one of his ever-popular styles like the Breakfast or Grander Candy. Instead, the smaller-size 1656 Angle pulled ahead of its big brothers in the voting.
"That's the shape I used to catch the 1,656-pound blue marlin, only it was a much bigger head than the one we sell now," says Miller. "I sized it down a bit because most people don't pull 130-pound line. With the smaller head, you can use 50 or 80 and pull it fine."
Miller attributes the lure's success to its versatility. "It really takes a variety of good lure features and wraps them into one shape. It has an easy entry that allows it to run well in all conditions, it doesn't have a radical slant so it stays in the water, and its 12-inch size elicits a lot of strikes from different species," he says. "A slight reverse taper gives the lure a nice wiggle but doesn't make the lure change its course, so it has a really high hookup ratio. I make a whole line of them ranging in size from a 9-inch up to the Braziliano, which is actually closer to the size of the one that caught the 1,656. We also make the 1656 with a flat nose. I've gotten a lot of mileage out of that shape."