Testing and developing lures has been one of the most enjoyable angling experiences for me, greatly adding to the overall fun and excitement of going fishing. Over the last three years, I have been busy with my partner Wayne at Samson Fishing developing our range of long casting lures. Fishing the rough and rugged coastline of Portugal for the last 28 years, I had a good idea of what I needed from a bass lure. Durability, long casting properties and an erratic action were all essential requirements – not only for bass fishing but for many other species around the world.
With the Enticer Minnow Topwater and the Tweak Bait proving to be very effective lures (especially in rougher conditions), I was looking to develop a few new shapes that could be worked and retrieved at slower speeds, whilst maintaining the ability to cast a good distance.
The Bomb was developed with the Cape Cod Canal in mind, where a long casting lure is essential once the striped bass blitz is on. Bass, more often than not, can’t resist a strong side to side action and the nose of the Bomb was designed to do just that, with a fast zig zagging action imitating an injured baitfish. It looked good on the testing lake but would it work in the field?
Here the idea was to develop a lure that could be retrieved much slower and worked subtly on the surface (or just below) over shallow reefs. I also wanted to develop a lure for night time fishing that would sink down level slowly and could be twitched and tweaked through the water with good control. Testing on a lake is one thing but after trying many variations over the winter and spring, I was finally ready to test them in a real bass environment. Unfortunately, the coronavirus had other ideas and my spring trip was canceled.
There was one positive thing to come out of the Covid situation for Samson Fishing, however. Being locked down for so long we were able to use the time to continue with some research and development and add to the Tweak Bait range (formerly known as the Enticer Tweak) to develop a slow sinking and a fast sinking version to accompany our original medium sink Tweak.
Although the Tweak has been a real favourite of mine and accounted for many good catches, I often thought how handy it would be to have a slow sinking version for retrieving over shallow reefs and fishing at night. I had also found that sometimes in very strong swells or especially windy conditions, a heavier compact sub surface lure would be easier to control and to cast a good distance from beaches or ledges. I was very excited to be able to test these new Tweaks on my summer trip to Portugal, along with the other lures.
If all that research and development wasn’t enough, we had also been working on some special edition airbrushed designs. Although white is an effective all round colour, having a few different colour options would be a real advantage.
I arrived in Portugal with the swell dropping after some heavier conditions, which is always a great time to fish with everything stirred up. For my first session, with conditions looking good, I headed to a spot I had been particularly hoping to test the lures at, a great mark with some shallow reef to run surface lures over and plenty of features for bass to hunt around.
With the predominant north winds through the summer in Portugal, you never know how long the swell will stay small, so with the favourable conditions I spent the session swapping from one lure to another to try and get an idea of what was working. I ended up hooking four fish, with three of them coming to the new lure designs. The 30g Bomb, the 28g Stealth Glide and the new slow sink 22g Tweak were all ideal for the conditions and proved irresistible to the bass. It was so rewarding to catch on the new designs and confirm what I thought during the winter testing.
If I was fishing over shallow reefy marks the Bomb was ideal. It cast like a dart and could punch through the onshore winds. The side to side action of the nose was just asking for a bass to come up and smash it and after a few sessions, it had already claimed a good number of quality fish. The acid test of my confidence in this new design was the fact that I didn’t feel the need to turn to more proven topwater Samson lures like the Enticer Minnow. The profile of the Bomb together with the action makes this a lure I’m really looking forward to testing around the world for other species.
After checking out a few different spots, I was struck by how much of a problem the weed was this summer. Many of the marks were completely unfishable. I’m sure every lure angler knows that feeling when every cast results in the inevitable fouled lure and you soon realize you’re wasting your time. I was fortunate enough to find a few locations that remained fishable for the trip, it just meant I was a little limited at high tide as all the spots that fished well over high were a no go.
Finding a spot ideal for subsurface lures and one suited for topwater lure fishing made the job of testing quite simple. I’m certainly not used to swapping my lures around so often but I really wanted to get a good feel for what lure shapes or colours seemed to do best and in what situations. This meant that instead of sticking with a lure that was producing fish, I would need to change it to another colour or shape to get some more realistic results.
It had been quite a few years since I had used a mackerel-coloured design for bass fishing but as soon as I hooked up a few nice bass, including one just over 9lbs, I felt my confidence increasing in that pattern. Of course, another colour could have also done the job but you just never know and that’s the uncertainty you will always be left with.
After all the testing of different lure colours, it’s really hard to categorically say what colour works best and in what conditions. Of course, you could say the chartreuse for coloured or dirty water and natural colours for clearer conditions but for me it also comes down to confidence. It’s not clear exactly how fish see colours or perhaps if they see them in just shades of grey but we do know that most fishermen certainly have their favourites. Once you have caught a few fish on a particular lure in a certain colour, you naturally build up confidence and belief in it. If you then start to use that colour more and giving it far more water time, it makes sense that that’s the lure you will catch on and it will soon become a firm favourite.
The only situation I’ve ever truly had to test colours on before was during a fun session in the US when striped bass were present in numbers. What was interesting was the fact that many colours I tried with the Tweak Bait worked for a while but would then stop getting taken. I would change to another colour and more often than not get a hit again on the first or second cast. It almost seemed that the bass had got used to a certain colour and by changing it, the action would liven up again. It’s definitely a lesson that I’ve taken into account for my future fishing.
As I mentioned, Portugal can be very windy in summer time. During the first days of my trip, I had been fortunate to get some calmer days and have the opportunity to trial some slow sink Tweak Baits. I enjoyed hovering them over the shallow reef and tweaking them slowly through the gullies, with good success. I also enjoy fishing the lighter lures when I get a chance and had some nice fish on the 15g Tweak.
However, a summer trip to Portugal wouldn’t be complete without the extreme heavy wind days. So after experiencing the tranquility of a few peaceful fishing sessions over the first days, I soon had to brave the inevitable gnarly 30 knot winds that come with fishing this coastline. Waking up at 4.30am on these days, listening to the strong winds blowing through the trees outside my house and knowing what’s in store, doesn’t give you quite the same sense of anticipation as the nice days.
It was certainly worth making the effort though, as some of these sessions turned out to not only be very productive but an excellent opportunity to test the new fast sink Tweak. This lure was designed to be fished from beaches (where distance casting can be very important) or from ledges when you need a lure to get down quickly. I found it extremely effective in the really strong winds. A typical lure would just be blown out the water and on some days even the medium sink Tweak was struggling. This heavier, compact Tweak certainly made some otherwise unfishable conditions possible for me. Although the wind was blowing hard and I was fishing in heavy currents, I was able to get more control over the lure and get into some really nice bass.
The water remained crystal clear for most of the trip meaning some swell was essential in targeting the bass during the day. Although I did plan to do a night time session, either the conditions were too windy, waves too big or I had planned an early morning fish. Only on a few sessions when I fished a little into the dark did I have the chance to fish a slow sink lure like the Tweak or Glide. On each occasion, I was rewarded with a nice bass. I did have a couple of sessions where the surface action was really slow and most of the success came to the little subsurface 15g Tweak. However, I didn’t try a small surface lure of a similar profile so I couldn’t be sure whether the fish were favouring the Tweak because it was fishing below the surface or simply because it had the right silhouette.
My Last Session
With clear water and a small swell, the fishing started slowly. I decided to try the 7cm Tweak and see if it made a difference. Just a few casts in and I was into a big bass that didn’t seem to care how small the lure was. After a quick photo, I sent the little Tweak back out again, working the close in structure where the water was boiling up from the reef below. My heart was in my mouth as another huge bass smashed it just centimeters under the surface as I tweaked it over some shallow rocks – bass just love to sit in these spots ambushing bait fish! Unfortunately, this one slipped the hook but it wasn’t to be the last fish of the evening. I fished until after dark before making my way back over the rocks,having managed to land six nice bass: five on the 15g Tweak and the other on a slow sink 22g Tweak after dark.
It was an early start the next morning but this time I was homeward bound. It had turned out to be an awesome trip and I was very happy to have had the opportunity to finally test out some of the new additions to the Samson Lures range!