The incredibly realistic LiveTarget soft plastic shrimp Vic Cook designed looks so good, you can almost picture it drizzled in garlic and butter, or served New Orleans barbecue-style accompanied by a piece of hot French bread.
But the great thing for Louisiana coastal fishermen is the lure apparently looks just as delectable to the eyes of hungry redfish and speckled trout.
On two recent fishing trips during the Buras Marsh Media Bash at Cajun Fishing Adventures, I personally used the lure to catch multiple speckled trout at Breton Island, along with almost 20 bull reds near California Point - all on a total of two shrimp. (And I probably could have caught more, but a bull red finally popped my line.)
I got to fish with Cook, who is a partner and product designer for LiveTarget, at Breton Island, and I asked him what it was like to design a bait from scratch that was proven so successful in the waters out of Buras.
“As any fisherman knows, to go out there and fish when it’s in your blood and you have a passion for it, and to be successful — it’s just exhilarating,” said Cook, who is still a practicing orthodontist in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio. “Taking that to the next level, when you have had a significant influence in the design of a bait, now you combine those.
“The exhilaration of fishing with a bait you designed and then being successful with it is one of the biggest thrills I have ever experienced in my lifetime.”
With more than 750 fresh and saltwater lures to its credit, LiveTarget prides itself on realistically matching the hatch and manufacturing baits and lures that are anatomically accurate down to the tiniest detail, which was Cook’s primary mission in creating a realistic soft plastic shrimp.
“We firmly believe that predators really focus on profile,” Cook said. “Profile is the most important thing. There are other things that are important as well, including color pattern, scent and more, but the profile is primary. So we had to get the profile right.”
Cook had lots of questions to answer before he got started with his design: How would the artificial shrimp be rigged? Would it swim backwards or forwards? What type of hook would be used?
And in looking at countless pictures and videos of shrimp in the design process, he’s become somewhat of an expert on how the crustaceans get around.
“Shrimp do not swim backwards,” he said. “They swim backwards when they are impeded in their forward swimming by other shrimp, obstacles or predators. They swim forward with swimming legs in a horizontal fashion with swimmerets and move up and down in the water column very slowly, and will react with propulsive maneuvers to elude predators.
“So the lure had to be balanced, and had to settle horizontally in the water.”
Jokingly, he summarized his design mission with the laundry list of requirements he set out to accomplish with the new lure.
“So we needed a pre-rigged, perfectly-weighted, perfectly-profiled, perfectly-patterned-in-color shrimp that would swim horizontally, fall perfectly vertical and swim forward moving up and down in the water column with the tip of the rod,” he said, almost out of breath. “That’s all we had to do.”
Prototypes were eventually constructed and tweaked, internal weights were adjusted, colors were perfected and a hook with the eyelet tipped up to make the shrimp swim horizontal was designed.
And that hook has an added — if not intentional — benefit, as well.
“It turns out, when you set the hook, it causes the hook to turn and it will typically catch the majority of the fish — maybe 90 percent of the time — in the corner of the mouth,” he said. “And when it does that, it also preserves the soft plastic bait.”
In fact, on many of the strikes with big bull reds, the soft plastic shrimp moved up the leader almost to the cork, which helped it last for almost 20 fish on my trip. All you have to do is slide it back down and reposition the shrimp on the hook before casting again.
LiveTarget manufactures the rigged shrimp in a variety of realistic color patterns, including perfect imitations — down to the whiskers — of white shrimp, brown shrimp, grass shrimp, glass shrimp and many more. All are impregnated with a shrimp scent, and come with an inner glass rattle that simulates the "click" of a swimming shrimp.
In addition to fishing it under a cork — where Cook says a traditional knot works fine — the soft plastic lure also can be tight-lined with a loop knot on about an 18-inch leader.
“As we do with all of our baits, we want accurate action applied to that realistic profile, and we want the novice angler to be successful,” he said. “We want to build a bait for the novice, intermediate and professional angler.
“It’s something that out of the box someone could pick up and tie it on and throw it and succeed.”
LiveTarget also creates a hybrid shrimp, which has a hard plastic body and soft plastic swimmerets. It can also be fished under a cork or tight-lined, but Cook recommends a traditional knot tied down directly in all uses for the hybrid.
“Personally, I like 18 inches of a 20- or 30-pound fluorocarbon leader depending on what you’re fishing,” he said. “I think you’re best bet is to tie the line directly on the hard shrimp, but absolutely use a loop knot on the soft plastic rigged shrimp.”
Under a cork, Cook said he likes to combine a swimming action with the pop for more strikes.
“When I use that popping cork, I don’t just pop it,” he said. “I’ll swim it a little bit, then pop it to bring the attention. That way the shrimp is still moving forward, not just falling.”
Soft plastic rigged shrimp come four to a pack in two different sizes: The 3-inch version sells for $12.49 and the 4-inch model goes for $13.49.
Hard-plastic hybrid shrimp feature a rear treble hook and a grassless dual prong belly hook, and are sold one lure per package. The 3 ½-inch version sells for $15.49, and the 4-inch version sells for $16.49.
For more information on LiveTarget, and to see their complete line of saltwater lures, including a video featuring the action on the rigged shrimp, click here.