It's Mann's Bait Co.'s Feather Shad, a soft plastic jerkbait with hand-tied chicken feathers and tinsel attached to the tail of the soft-plastic body. It was expected to be on the shelves and, of course, in the water catching bass and other fish, in March.
The 6-inch half soft plastic, half full-length feather is the most innovative artificial lure to hit the market in a while. A Tri-Lock System of injection molding makes it possible to combine the feathers with the soft plastic material, according to its creator, Mann's Bait Co. operations manager Mike McPherson of Eufala.
Look at three of them in the package and you might do a doubletake. Imagine what the bass' reaction will be when they see something like that.
"I have to admit, it takes you by surprise when you first look at it," McPherson said one afternoon from the plant where he was "watching a few thousand lures being painted."
"'Unique' is kind of overworked in this business — but it really is," Mann's Bait Co. spokesman Suzanne Newsom said about the Feather Shad with a great deal of pride from her Eufala, Ala., office in late February.
"I was trying to come up with something we could grab onto and make us different in the market," McPherson said. "I said, 'Soft plastics really haven't done much. If I could put a feather, tinsel or something, make it stick out and look nice, something like a topwater, like a jerkbait.'"
That was last September. He had a prototype out in October, and some of the first Feather Shads rolled off the assembly line during the first two months of 2003.
And, excuse the pun, they're catchin' on. The man who recently won the $100,000 first-place prize in the FLW tournament in the Atchafalaya Basin is sold on the Feather Shad.
That's Paul Elias, the veteran bass fishing pro from Mississippi. He has been fishing with the Feather Shad for the last three months, he said.
"I've already caught some real good fish on it," Elias said, adding that he likes to use it as a quick follow-up presentation after a bass misses a buzz bait or spinnerbait because it falls slowly and it looks different. Reaction strikes on it can be vicious, he said.
The Mississippian said he caught several fish on the odd-looking artificial lure during practice for the FLW event in the Atchafalaya Basin. But because bass were biting so good on a spinnerbait, and were easier to hook, he relied on a spinnerbait in that hard-to-get-to honeyhole of a chute near Grand Lake just east of the Atchafalaya River.
Elias is partial to the watermelon Feather Shad. He impales whichever one he's using on a 4/0 hook with a copper screw-in.
He answered one of the toughest questions about the artificial lure himself.
"I was a little concerned about the number of fish you can catch on one. (But) I probably caught six fish on one bait. It's no different than a soft plastic jerkbait. If you've got something that works ... most people don't mind it (tying on a new one after so many bass)," he said. "I think it will be received well, once people see the way it works in the water."
He can't wait to use it when the weather warms up. The fish he caught on it were in cold water over the winter months.
It ought to be dynamite on schooling bass in the summer and fall, he said, because it falls slowly and is an especially inviting target.
Elias also believes it will be effective on saltwater fish.
"There will be a lot of uses for it," he said.
That's what McPherson envisioned for the Feather Shad.
"Basically, the Feather Shad is a hybrid of something I saw in BASSMASTER (Magazine) one time, something one of the pros was using," he said. "I think it was Charlie Campbell. It looked like half a SHADow or soft-plastic Slug-Go. He'd taken a feather and tied it to a big single hook. It reminded me of a Frontrunner that Norman did."
He had a new and improved version in mind. But he puzzled over how to do it.
"After a lot of trial and experimentation, I came up with the design," he explained. "I sat around and came up with insert molding, doing a special molding technique."
While it has a "big appearance" in the water, it also has a delicate look to it at the same time. The feather tail pulses and vibrates when it is retrieved.
"What it looks like in the water is absolutely dynamite," he said. So much so, he said, he has caught 7-pound-class bass on it from waters around Eufala.
The chicken feathers are supplied by Rhumph & Sons, a leading manufacturer of fur, hair and feathers for flytying, McPherson said.
As of late February, he said, Feather Shads were available in six solid colors, including pearl, watermelon seed and blue ice. Plans called for laminated colors to roll out soon, he said.
For more information on Feather Shads and other Mann's Bait Co. lures, log on to www.mannsbait.com, or call 334-687-5716.