“Drill, baby, drill”

The U.S. commander-in-chief’s words had promise before the oil spill, but then they rang hollow with the ensuing de facto moratorium on deep-water drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico — much to the chagrin of oilfield and oilfield-related workers and businesses along the Gulf Coast.

But one of the country’s leading artificial-lure designers, who lives in this region, stuck to his idea for drilling to revolutionize the way soft plastics are presented underwater. After two years of costly and time-consuming testing, Kelly Jones Jr. delivered the Hightail Series courtesy of his Kicker Fish Bait Co. As far as he and others can tell, it was a big hit after demonstrations at the recent Bassmaster Classic in New Orleans.

“We have been selling them as fast as we can make them,” Jones said the first week of March.

Like Ford Motor Co. decades ago, Jones believed he had a better idea for making a soft plastic float off the bottom once it was submerged, and cause it to do so without a special soft plastic that’s generally considered harder than most soft plastics and sans a “spongy” material that may take away from overall performance. The light bulb came on, he said, one day when he saw his young son flip a canoe and, while he was concerned about the boy’s fate, realized the youngster was staying under the tilted canoe in an air pocket.

Jones, of Deer Park, Texas, right along the shoreline of Lake Sam Rayburn, had the inspiration he needed, and it involved drilling to create air pockets in the body of the soft plastic.

“We started drilling,” Jones said last month. “I tried to figure out how to make open holes.

“I started designing holes in the worms. It took a while to get it right. It took probably two years to get everything cut right in the mold and the production.”

He has a patent pending on the design, he said, which involves evenly spaced holes on one side about as deep as the head of a good ballpoint pen.

Actually, there’s more to the concept, as there usually is with innovative artificial-lure manufacturers. With so many manufacturers looking to get the edge in the race to get into tackleboxes around the nation, Jones simply wanted to improve on artificial lures like the ones he and other bassers grew up with.

The 40-year-old outdoorsman, who has owned the company since 2001, took a hard look at the plastic worm. The conventional plastic worm, he said, will lie on the bottom looking dead until a bass angler moves the rod tip. With, say, a 10 1/2-inch long Hightail Ribbontail plastic worm from Kicker Fish Bait Co., the “bait is literally fluttering when you’re not moving it. Let the water move it around.”

It took seven prototypes to get what he wanted to achieve. He would throw one of the special plastic worms he was working on in the pool in the evening, and if it was standing up on the bottom the next day he knew he had a winner.

Sure, he said, others have introduced “floating” plastic worms to the market. But there are drawbacks in some of them, he said, as aforementioned.

Kicker Fish Bait Co. previewed the Hightail Series at the Bassmaster Classic in New Orleans, where Jones had a fish tank set up to demonstrate the Hightail Series and a video featuring the remarkable capability of his new offering to the artificial lure manufacturing business. Hundreds of people who saw either or both were hooked, he said, including dealers.

“Since the Bassmaster Classic, we’ve had 20 dealers contact us,” he said.

Clark Reehm of Lufkin, Texas, who fished the Classic, helped design the Hightail Series. Reehm, who grew up in western Louisiana and graduated from Leesville High School and Louisiana Tech, is one of the biggest fans of the Hightail Ribbontail, Hightail Holeshot and Hightail Lizard. They are produced to emphasize the “soft” in soft plastic, Jones and Reehm said.

Reehm plans to use the Hightail Ribbontail extensively, perhaps exclusively, when the B.A.S.S. tour goes to Toledo Bend in mid-April. He’ll be probing deeper water in the post-spawn period, he said, noting he’ll have a 100-count pack of plum Hightail Ribbontails, and probably use all of them.

Hopefully, he said, it will be as productive as it was last year when he finished third in a B.A.S.S. stop at Lake Amistad in Texas. The Carolina-rigged Hightail Ribbontail and a jerkbait propelled him to the high finish and big payday, he said.

“When you go on a tournament after April, in May, June and July, you’ve got to have a big worm tied on,” he said from experience. “The Hightail Ribbontail stands up in brushpiles and grass beds.”

At the moment he was talking, Reehm was prefishing for the B.A.S.S. event on the Harris Chain of Lakes in Florida. Yes, he said that second week of March, he had a junebug Hightail Holeshot “trick worm” tied on specifically for pitching in and around lily pads and grass beds.

Everybody on the waterbody probably had a “trick worm” tied on, he said. He believed he had an advantage with the Hightail Series.

“They all look the same going down. The benefit (of a Hightail Series) is when they get on the bottom. They stand up,” he said, also noting one of the most appealing springtime soft plastics because of that is the Hightail Lizard. He rigs it Carolina style and Texas style, which makes it look like a reptile eating on a bass bed.

His go-to bait this summer will be the Hightail Ribbontail, watermelon/candy in clear water and plum or junebug in stained water. He’ll rig it on a 5/0 plastic worm under a 1/2-ounce Tungsten 97 worm weight.

“I think he’s taking proven baits and improving them. With a Hightail worm, I think it’s above what everybody else has,” Reehm said matter-of-factly, proud of his role in the product. “It has more action. It’s constantly rising.”

For more information on the Hightail Series, call (281) 470-2277 or go to www.kickerfishbait.com.

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About Don Shoopman 453 Articles
Don Shoopman fishes for freshwater and saltwater species mostly in and around the Atchafalaya Basin and Vermilion Bay. He moved to the Sportsman’s Paradise in 1976, and he and his wife June live in New Iberia. They have two grown sons.

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