The booming soft-plastic market's going soft, too soft, many claim, and something had to be done about it before many more creature baits, bogus worms, faux paux frogs and imitation crawfish got torn up by fish or slid down the hook, thus rendering them unusable.

Mann's Bait Co.'s artificial lure-making wizard Mike McPherson heard the complaint many times, some of them from people like America's Elite Team bass angler Elvis Jeanminette of Grand Marais. McPherson listened and did something about it starting in January 2005.

Mann's Bait Co.'s director of operations, who lives in Eufala, Ala., the hometown of the artificial lure manufacturer, went to work to solve the problem that seems to have been compounded over the years by the injection of other elements, like salt, into the molds for soft plastics.

He got an earful from weekend anglers as well as pro fishermen, saltwater and freshwater, wanting him to do something to keep favorite soft plastics from ripping up after one or two fish.

McPherson, who has been responsible for more than 1 billion artificial lures since he joined Mann's Bait Co. in 1991, decided to try to fuse two materials of different hardness in some way. He was well aware that molds can turn out two colors, such as a black plastic worm with a chartreuse tail.

He worked on building a tool that would weld a hard component in one compartment with a soft component, with salt added, in another compartment.

Thus Mann's HardNose line was born, and it was led, in Jeaminette's opinion, by the Swim Toad. A HardNose product is the only one-piece soft plastic bait with a harder plastic head, according to McPherson.

McPherson said the harder plastic keeps the eye of the hook in the head of the bait, which means it won't slide down while casting or retrieving through structure, including brush and underwater vegetation. The HardNose baits also won't ball up on the hook on a hookset, he said.

By last spring, the company had it together. The HardNose line was introduced at the ICast show in July 2005.

And Mann's Bait Co. started getting the new soft plastics into the hands of bass fishermen. Jeanminette, a field tester 12 years with the company before earning America's Elite Team status in 2002, got some.

"As soon as I got them, toward the end of October, I started using the Toads. It really works. It really catches fish," Jeanminette said.

The Centerville postmaster, fishing show radio personality and veteran bass fisherman fished the Toad in Charenton Lake on the western edge of the Atchafalaya Basin. Football-sized bass fell for the artificial lure, which he noticed caught fish after fish without needing to be discarded.

"I never had to change it. The bait stays on the hook. That's what I like about it ... the economy of using a quality lure," Jeanminette said.

The Swim Toad's action impressed him as much as its durability, he said. He liked bringing it off a grass bed and watching the appendages "flap," as he described it.

"What happens when you reel it off the grass, the way it falls, the feet flap," he said. "What happens with the frog, once you reel it off the grass and it descends, you see a boil behind it. It's a hard bite."

Jeanminette said he prefers a white Swim Toad with the feet dipped in chartreuse dye.

"I like the frog. That frog is really mean. That's the one I probably use the most of," he said.

Later in the year, Jeanminette took one of the new line's plastic lizards for a test drive in a bassy fishin' hole known in the Teche Area as Quintana Canal. He liked the results there, as well, he said.

Jeanminette said he has distributed 2,000 to 3,000 sample packs of HardNose products, of which there are 14 as of the second week of March, according to McPherson. Three more HardNose artificial lures will hit the ground running at the next ICast event, he said.

Hank Parker, bass fishing pro, television fishing show host and pro staffer for Mann's Bait Co., sees a good thing when he fishes a HardNose.

"The revolutionary new Mann's HardNose series will save you time, frustration and money ... and most importantly, they'll help you catch fish," Parker said.

He wouldn't get an argument from a growing number of bass fishermen around the country .

For more information about Mann's Bait Co.'s HardNose Toads and other soft plastics in the line, log on to www.mannsbait.com.