I'd consider myself a skeptical consumer by nature, and find constant amusement over the ceaseless innovations, gizmos, and technologies introduced into an industry that remained pretty much static since the prehistoric days when humanoids roamed the shorelines with spears. In fact, one of my all-time favorite fishing quotes goes something like this: "Lures are made to catch fishermen, not fish."
While most prospective advertisers may be driven away from that saying, I do believe there is quite a bit of truth to it. After all, it's no big secret that, for decades, anglers have been using homemade "lures" like shoelace clippings on jig heads, and slicing a fat rubber band rigged on weedless worm hook - and landing highly coveted game fish like snook and redfish here in Florida.
Every once in a blue moon a new product emerges that catches my cynical eye, and this one in particular, Castalia Outdoors' Bombshell Turtle, not only did that, but may have actually caused an ideological shift with regard to my understanding of the quote.
I remember my initial conversation vividly with Mike Richards, President of Castalia Outdoors. He called to tell me about this new soft "turtle" lure they were moving forward with. To be truthful, my initial reaction was a mild giggle, followed by the thought...what's next? After a good conversation, and a little research, I discovered that the concept of using turtle baits for bass fishing actually dates back to the 70s, but never really "took off" for one reason or the other. Then, Mike sent me a video of bass repeatedly slamming their faces into a glass jar - trying to attack the little turtle - and I was 100% sold on it for bass.
Obviously, this video was filmed in a controlled environment and according to the producer, BillLindner, "During a typical bass lure shoot, the fish need a few days, if not weeks, to get acclimated and start eating the newly introduced bait. However, with the Bombshell Turtle, it took only minutes before the bass were carelessly slamming against the glass jar to put an end to Mr. Turtle. I've never seen anything like it in the countless lures we've tested in our bass tank!"
According to bass fishing expert, Chad Hoover of Kayak Bassin TV, "A turtle, or baby turtle specifically, is one of the biggest natural enemies to bass when they're going through the spawn. I've witnessed on many occasions, little baby turtles sitting on the surface or swimming along, and a bass just absolutely annihilating it. When I got my Bombshell samples, I took them out and immediately started killing bass - rigged in a variety of methods."
While I enjoy a little bass fishing from time to time, my true obsession is shallow water fly/flats fishing, so when Mike sent me a picture of an over-slot redfish that choked on a turtle, I had to sit down and collect my thoughts. While the concept of adult fish protecting their offspring is a relatively elementary notion, the thought of this similar predator/prey relationship occurring in saltwater estuaries really caught me off guard!
After the initial shock subsided, I had to determine if this picture was just a happenstance fluke, or if redfish really did have the biological inclination to eat Leonardo, Donatello, Rafael, and Michelangelo - so I called up my good buddy, and redfish guru, Captain Peter "Splinter" Deeks of Native Sons Fishing to see if he was game to give them a test run in the Mosquito Lagoon region.
After a few minutes of laughter, and repeatedly explaining that this was NOT a joke, I got him to agree. Shortly after Peter got his samples, I got a call from him, and a comical conversation ensued about whether we had completely lost our minds to even assume turtle power might work in saltwater. In the end, the turtles shut us both up . . . quickly!
"The turtles have really surprised me - big time," Capt. Peter said, "At first, I thought that I'd have to force-feed some really hungry fish to get an eat. ... they proved me wrong the first time out, with a nice trout and 31-inch redfish. Some of the larger and more finicky redfish are eating these turtles when dragged along the bottom - even in the middle of the day, in summer."
During a round two of testing, a 40+ redfish was caught from a school of about 50 fish, and the newfound power of the Bombshell Turtle became completely apparent. I was poling after a school, and had a friend on the bow casting a scented jerk bait the entire time with no luck. Then, I cast out the Bombshell, and dragged the unscented turtle maybe two feet before it was inhaled with force. I've fished this school every summer and fall for the past five years, and typically use live and cut bait as they are always very picky . . . but they ate the Bombshell Turtle immediately and repeatedly.
I can honestly say that redfish eat the Bombshell Turtle based upon how it looks and how it moves through the water. I've added no scent to these turtles while fishing with them. Big redfish eat this lure even in unfavorable fishing conditions. I've been pleasantly surprised, and have been getting some good laughs lately when clients ask if those are turtles in my lure box.
A filleted Mahi-Mahi contained a belly full of juvenile sea turtles, so the Bombshell Turtle might have serious saltwater applications.
While some saltwater anglers still may be slightly hesitant tying a turtle on the end of their line for fear of being ridiculed by fishing compadres, the proof is in the pudding, and there is little more gratifying than proving a close fishing buddy wrong. Peter also claims the bait works well on a number of other saltwater inshore species including trout and ladyfish.
For best results: use a weighted jig hook, or 1/16-1/8 oz. weight pegged at the head and 3/0 worm hook Texas-rigged up into the hook pocket.
Capt. Peter claims these turtles cast very well with a mid-shank weighted, worm hook system. For most fishing applications, these turtles cast well enough rigged most any way. However, the poorest casting was when rigged with a jig head or front weighted hook. When rigged with a weedless hook, the turtles swim right through vegetation, and do not collect grass...very weedless. They also swim very true through the water without spinning, and can be skipped well under cover.
--Capt. Jon Brett
About the author: Captain Jon Brett is a third generation Floridian who grew up fishing the waters of West Central Florida. After graduating from Rollins College in 2006, Jon started FishbuzzTV. Additionally, Jon serves as Florida's Gulf Coast Director for the Snook Foundation. Since BP's Gulf oil disaster, Jon has produced and authored a number of articles and videos for the National Wildlife Federation.
For more on the Bombshell Turtle, go to www.BombshellTurtle.com