The deer hunting was good — his son shot two deer — but the reports filtering in on a soft-plastic swimbait he designed last year especially for saltwater fishing were even better.
Bass Kandi's Coastal Crippler was putting a hurting on the speckled trout population along the coast of Louisiana — particularly around Cypremort Point and Lake Charles.
"It's a swimbait. It's awesome. It's killing speckled trout, redfish, and it's even killing flounder," Holland said, noting some memorable catches he chalked up in previous weeks in Calcasieu Lake. "We've been doing pretty good with it — catching a lot of big speckled trout."
Farther to the east, Holland didn't get an argument from Elvis "Top Rod" Jeanminette of Grand Marais in rural Iberia Parish, who was one of the first anglers in the state to get his hands on a Coastal Crippler.
"It'll be a dangerous bait," said Jeanminette, a part-time fishing guide who works as postmaster in Lydia and has a weekly fishing show on KANE 1240-AM. "They do work."
Jeanminette even contributed to the development of a new color in the line of swimbaits, a contribution that was rewarded by Holland, who named that particularly colored Coastal Crippler Top Rod Pink.
Bass Kandi Baits was born a little more than two years ago at Holland's home in Ragley, which is near Lake Charles. Holland and his wife made a variety of soft plastics — creature baits, crawworms, jerkbaits, etc. — that became instant hits on the business end of fishing lines. Kandi Stiks, Kandi Kraws and Kandi Bugs, among others, enticed bass to bite wherever they were used.
Since then, the 43-year-old Holland has seen the company's manufacturing side expand from the large building near his home, where soft plastics still are hand injected to many soft plastics being mass-produced in North Carolina. The saltwater line is being made in that state.
After his first-ever fishing trip for speckled trout with Jeanminette in 2011, the veteran bass angler started thinking more and more about introducing a swim bait that could be effective in saltwater.
"I wanted something with action," Holland said. "Most of the saltwater baits I've seen don't have action. I wanted to design a bait with action for saltwater and freshwater. The back end gives it a side-to-side, erratic action. We pop it up and down. Elvis says he's swimming it."
With that up-and-down popping retrieve, Holland said the tail has more side-to-side movement when it's falling than other soft plastic swimbaits. That vibration is even more pronounced when it is retrieved steadily.
"When you reel it, it feels like a ¼-ounce Rat-L-Trap in your hand," he said.
Over in the Teche area of Acadiana, Jeanminette agreed wholeheartedly about the thumping action on a slow, steady retrieve through his experiences last fall and early winter fishing with it in and around Vermilion Bay. His first experiences, though, weren't anything to write home about because he was just getting the feel of it that week of Thanksgiving.
"I went out and field tested them," said Jeanminette. "The one I got most of the bites on was a glow/chartreuse tail. However, there were more bites than hookups that time.
"I called (Holland) and said, 'Maybe the bait's a little too big. It's 3.75 inches long.' He said, 'We're catching on them over here.' I went back about two weeks later and started catching fish on the glow/chartreuse. They were holding on."
Jeanminette, an accomplished B.A.S.S. Federation Nation angler who finished second several years ago in the Central Division event at Fort Gibson Lake in Oklahoma, figured out that the speckled trout in the inside waters in his region wanted the Coastal Crippler on the move.
"I think the pattern on this bait is you really have to move it," he explained. "That tail just swims naturally. The best pattern is to reel it in with a slow retrieve. They'll just kill it."
In the beginning, Bass Kandi offered four colors or color combinations. Those were chicken-on-a-chain, purple/gold, glow/chartreuse and chartreuse/glitter, he said.
Something was missing, so he told Holland.
"The thing is nobody likes to make the color I like to fish with. It's a transparent pink with a chartreuse tail. It looks like a live shrimp, especially in our marsh-colored water," Jeanminette said. "(Holland) said, 'If I can come up with it and you like it,' that he would name it Top Rod Pink.
"It was perfect. I love it and I'm catching fish on it whenever I go. There's something about pink in our water fish are attracted to. Why not throw pink? I'm just partial to transparent pink. But I like glow/chartreuse, too."
Holland was proud of his lineup of colors and color combinations and future plans. In addition to chicken-on-a-chain, purple/gold, glow/chartreuse, chartreuse/glitter and Top Rod Pink, Bass Kandi Coastal Cripplers are or will be manufactured by the time you read this in margarita, white/chartreuse, red silver/white, opening night and new penny.
Holland, Jeanminette and many others fish the Coastal Crippler on a ¼-ounce leadhead. Naturally, Jeanminette, who favors a round jighead, breaks out some pink fingernail polish and paints the leadhead, and then applies a white circle for an eye on each side and adds a black dot in the middle of each.
Holland said other saltwater fishermen have been successful with the Coastal Crippler on a 3/8-ounce leadhead or even a 1/8-ounce version.
Holland and Jeanminette said the soft plastics are durable; Holland has caught at least 10 speckled trout on one Coastal Crippler.
Jeanminette also said he can't wait to try the new soft plastics out this spring while bassin' on Toledo Bend.
For more information on Bass Kandi's Coastal Crippler and other soft plastics, call 337-725-3474 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.