And when the tuna, dolphin and marlin see an artificial lure that looks so much like the real thing, right in front of their noses, they go crazy. That's when veteran saltwater fishermen like Tommy Pellegrin of Houma get into the swing of things and get as many artificial lures in the water as possible for what he calls the "Cocodrie Shuffle."
That amazingly lifelike soft-plastic bait is a Ballistic Flying Fish from Offshore Innovations LLC's Frenzy Big Game Tackle, which Pellegrin and other coastal charter captains along the East Coast, West Coast and Gulf Coast have been using since it got on the market in January.
Pellegrin touted the Ballistic Flying Fish's merits in May while speaking in New Iberia at a fishing seminar hosted by the Acadiana chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association of Louisiana.
Later, Pellegrin spoke even more highly of the artificial lure that has become an integral part of his game plan. He's proud, too, that the Ballistic Flying Fish was the brainchild of Louisiana anglers Scott Seaner of Mandeville and Bill Delabar of Marerro.
Those "local boys" have come up with a winner, Pellegrin said. He has given Ballistic Flying Fishes some of their best workouts on The Lump, he said, where he drift-fishes them through slicks.
"You can cast, troll or drift it in a chum line. There are so many ways you can fish it," Pellegrin said a few weeks ago.
"It definitely does its intended purpose — catch fish. It's a really, really impressive little bait," the charter boat captain gushed. "What makes this different than others is it's a one-part fish — the wings are part of the whole bait. With a single part pour, they're lasting a lot longer."
That was the one of the ideas behind making the artificial lure, according to Seaner, 40, a veteran saltwater fishing guide who went into business with Delebar in November 2003. The Ballistic Flying Fish, one of the company's first products to hit the shelves, is durable and affordable — about $7-$8 less than other flying fish artificial lures on the market, Seaner said.
"We spent last year working on lures, testing, prototypes, getting manufacturers, and we finally brought the product to market in January. The goal of the company was we don't want to make everything out there. We wanted to bring quality products to the market that everybody can afford. Offshore fishing is expensive enough," Seaner said. "The one-piece design is the real key to that fish. The price is appealing. You get out there, with a bait that costs $20, and you bring three or four, that adds up fast."
Heavy fish smashing soft plastics, particularly ones in three pieces and glued, can take a toll.
"Bill and I sat down and, basically, the bait we got is an exact duplicate of a flying fish that lives in the Gulf of Mexico. We fish down there a lot. We know what works, and we took that approach," he said. "So the biggest challenge we had was being able to create a mold of a fish in one piece. We were able to do it. It's the most durable flying fish lure you're going to be able to get."
Frenzy Big Game Tackle's Ballistic Flying Fish is about 9 inches long, head to tail, with a wingspan of about 9 inches. It weighs about 4 1/2 ounces.
The body is a "very elastic rubber, very pliable," Seaner said. They didn't want it so hard that it would break or crack like those "super balls" of yesteryear.
"I can stretch the wings as far as my arms go. In addition to the one-piece design, a lot of durability comes from the type of rubber we use. It actually exceeded our specs when we manufactured it," he said.
Their Ballistic Flying Fish is armed with one of the company's specially made circle hooks.
"We wanted a specific size hook not available, so we asked them (the company's circle hook manufacturers) to make it for us. It's probably about an 8/0 hook," Seaner said.
They are available in glitter with blue, pink, green and purple, and glow with blue, pink and green. Suggested retail price is $12.99, rigged.
The glow models have worked extremely well at night, Pellegrin said.
Seaner and Delebar aren't resting on the laurels that are pouring in as fishermen coast to coast praise the Ballistic Flying Fish. Already, Seaner said, there are changes being made in the latest production to meet the requests of fishermen, who wanted unrigged models and a little more corrosion resistance on the hook.
"So we did that. And we're changing up the split ring, going stainless steel. Otherwise, we're doing nothing major to the lure," Seaner said.
Their artificial lure is being manufactured in China, which during these ultra-patriotic times might raise a few eyebrows. But overseas production was a business decision that had to be made considering it was a two-man company, Seaner said.
"Probably nobody wants to make it here more than me. Do we want to make it here? Yes. More than anything we'd like to manufacture and put jobs here," he said. "We looked at manufacturing here ... but when you pile on all the costs — building, OSHA regulations, EPA, licensing, worker's compensation, insurance, liability, everything — it stacks up.
"We did research. We looked at the cost and what we'd have to sell it (artificial lure) for. Remember what I said? We wanted quality and to keep it at a good value. That was going to be our niche."
The Louisiana pros and the Chinese connection apparently are working well together. The Ballistic Flying Fish has yellowfin tuna, blackfin tuna, dolphin and marlin in a feeding frenzy.