ItzaBug improvement on Gator Pup
Features of the ItzaBug make it much more effective than the Gator Pup.
Look closely at it, and there’s no mistake it resembles a soft-plastic creature bait that was responsible for tons of bass — the old and ultra-popular ReAction Lures Gator Pup. The similarity ends when you look at the bulky shape of the body caused by “soft real-feel air rings” that, coupled with the pinchers and curl-tail tentacles, make it irresistible.
It’s taken the market by storm since it came out a few months ago.
How did it happen? Dean researched his archives last year to see what existing soft plastics could be transformed with a ring concept. The Gator Pups (and the larger Gator Dogs) he designed were (and for those who have them, still are) the rage.
He started tinkering with the Gator Pup redesign in October and November to see if it could be changed for the better, i.e., into a bulkier, ringed creature bait following the immediate success of Stanley’s Sidewinders and Y-Nots. It helps when there’s a mold available that can be used, such as the one for the Gator Pup.
The prototypes looked good, and he kept tweaking until he had the perfect ItzaBug. And, thus, Dean said, he “changed a great bait into a greater bait.”
Dean won’t get an argument from Sid Havard of Simsboro, a fishing guide who also fishes tournaments on pro circuits in the region. Havard, 52, works as a safety consultant for Superior Loss Control Solutions out of Ruston.
“That John Dean. It amazes me some of the baits he comes up with,” Havard said.
Bass, he said, seem to hold onto the ringed creature bait longer.
“They suck it up,” he said. “It’s such a small and compact bait. On the bite, it’s down the throat ... when they feel those cushy things (soft plastic rings around the body).”
Those soft, flexible rings trap air released in the form of tiny bubbles that imitate a live, breathing crawfish, he said. The creature bait also has two flat appendages with pinchers and the pair of curl-tail tentacles add some liveliness bass sense underwater, he said, noting the movement is exaggerated when the soft rings and body parts bump into grass, weeds and other structure.
“I’ve had good success with it in tournaments. It’s been a lifesaver for me,” Havard said.
The ringed soft plastic has been good to him on more than one occasion, he said. A prime example was when he was fishing with clients a few months ago on Caney Lake. Bass were busting all around them, and they couldn’t get bit, he said, until he tied on an ItzaBug and the others followed suit to hook and catch multiple bass out of Caney.
Havard doesn’t want to blow smoke about the new artificial lure.
“I’ll be honest with you, it’s something new, something they’re not seeing. I think some of the success is due to that,” he said. “Like so many baits, some days they want to eat it up, some days they don’t.”
But, as Dean said, it’s the No. 1 soft plastic going into the summer for Havard. The fishing guide oozes so much confidence over the ItzaBug.
“It’s now part of my arsenal. I really believe it’s the right size, the size of crawfish in our water system up here,” Havard said. “I think the big thing to me is the texture of the bait. And the action of the bait is just tremendous.”
That was behind the idea for tweaking the Gator Pup, Dean said. He doesn’t miss the old soft-plastic creature bait at all, he said emphatically.
“No, I don’t. You look at the before and after, the after being the ItzaBug. It is far superior to what it was before when it was the Gator Pup,” he said. “It’s more productive now. It’s funny how you can come up with a concept and ad lib with another concept and make it better.”
Havard’s favorite colors have been watermelon/purple and, shades of the popular Gator Pup, black/neon, he said. Other ItzaBug colors and color combinations are junebug, black/blue, watermelon/Mardi Gras, watermelon/red, green pumpkin/red and melon red/pearl.
Havard likes to fish his ItzaBugs mostly in and around grass beds Texas-rigged with a 3/0 wide gap hook under a 1/8- or 1/4-ounce bullet weight. It’s also effective when he swims it over the top of the grass under a lighter bullet weight, he said, remembering some memorable trips on waterbodies in North Louisiana.
He’s also had success when he fishes it as a soft-plastic trailer in a jig-and-pig combination, he said.
In less than a month with the new weapon in his arsenal, he’s boated two 6-pound class thanks to the ItzaBug, he said.
“I’ve fished it about a month now. I missed most of the spawn. I can’t wait until next spring,” he said.
Dean said from the reports he’s been getting since the ItzaBug hit the market in late February and March, many of the ItzaBugs have been fished Carolina-rigged.
“That’s where the Gator Pup really shined,” he said.
Others have used it as a “pitch” bait or a “drop-shot” bait, he said.
Five-inch ItzaBugs will start rolling off the assembly line soon, he said.
For more information about the ItzaBug and other artificial lures manufactured by Stanley Lures, such as the Y-Nots and Sidewinders, go to www.fishstanley.com or call 800-256-2075.
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