A Lake Sam Rayburn fishing guide’s voice oozes pure pride when he talks about a crankbait that’s been around six years, with ebbs and flows in popularity.
Brian Branum, 57, of Brookeland, Texas, designed the Bill Lewis Echo 1.75 square-bill crankbait from scratch. The Echo 1.75 features an intricate weighting system, plus six rattles made of three different materials to heighten sensitivity, i.e., sound. His was a Dr. Frankenstein-like approach that resulted in a crankbait that impresses thousands of bass anglers to this day.
One of those Echo 1.75 square-bill crankbait admirers is Wes Higgins, president of Bill Lewis Lures, based in Alexandria. Higgins described the Echo 1.75 as “the Colorado blade of square-bills, because it wobbles so wide and can produce lots of action on a slower retrieve. It’s incredible around shallow grass and stained waters.”
He also said the crankbait that hasn’t received much publicity has been a long-time “secret weapon of many Sam Rayburn heavy-hitters.”
After all, Higgins pointed out, it was made by Branum, an engineer with several successful, patented inventions behind him, including his first: an eyewear design sold to Foster Grant that was his college senior project at age 24.
Branum, who designed lures for Gambler Baits starting in the early 2000s, has been guiding on Lake Sam Rayburn since 2004.
“The Echo was a pretty fun project,” said Branum, who fished FLW, Bassmaster and other tournament circuits in the 1990s.
A friend who was a pro bass circuit regular, Andrew Upshaw of Hemphill, Texas, had the idea for a crankbait and put the bug in Higgins’ ear. Higgins liked what he heard while talking with Upshaw and Branum during the Rat-L-Trap Open in January 2014 at Sam Rayburn.
Check the boxes
Later, according to Branum, “Wes said, ‘Get with Andrew Upshaw. We’re going to build something besides a Rat-L-Trap.’”
Upshaw wanted a crankbait with a square lip. He specified five other must-haves for the crank bait.
- Rattle like at Rat-L-Trap;
- Be flat-sided;
- Have a wide body;
- Run well through hydrilla;
- Dive 2 to 5 feet.
Higgins chipped in with his own requests, which raised the list of boxes to check to 10.
“Wes asked if I had everything I needed. Wes hammered out a few more things about the bait,” Branum said.
Upshaw and Branum drew pictures of their creation, and Higgins took notes, instructing Branum to make the prototypes by hand. He did, using body parts from other crankbaits to build three “robot-looking Frankensteins.”
Then, a grad student in college was hired to produce a computer assisted design for Bill Lewis.
“He did a fine job,” Branum said. “We had eight, maybe 10, 3D-printed by a company in Atlanta that did prosthetic parts.”
Testing it out
The last test was to put finished crankbaits in the hands of three of his fishing buddies, who used models X, Y and Z. Each picked their favorite, and it was the same one.
The new crankbait hit the market in spring 2015. Of all the products he has invented or designed, Branum may be most proud of the Echo 1.75. Heck, he nailed a 5-pound bass on his creation before it hit the market.
One of the rattles in a special chamber is zinc-coated copper. Two others are lead, and three are steel alloys. The combination gives it the combination of low-knock and high-frequency rattle like the legendary, lipless Rat-L-Trap.
Those rattles make it different, but so does the weight system. Branum an axis of three rotations that makes it unique. On the cast, the rear weight controls the flight, then, without the lip getting involved, the middle weight takes over on the dive before switching to the front weight based on the angle of the fishing line.
It’s armed with two Mustad Triple Grip treble hooks and quality split rings.
For more information on the Echo 1.75 visit rat-l-trap.com or call 800- 633-4861.
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