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The Striper Magnet
My initial introduction to the Striper Magnet came a few years ago when I spotted them on the shelves of a local marine/fishing store. I grabbed a bag and showed them to my younger son who was with me that day; asking him what he thought. He just shrugged his shoulders, probably because he knew I didn't need any encouragement when it came to buying a new fishing lure. I left with a few bags, vowing to try them the next time on the water. It was actually a few weeks later when I remembered I had them; as I recall, I took a few small bass with them. From that somewhat inauspicious beginning, the Striper Magnet has become one of my favorite baits for striped bass and similar predators. In fact, I have so much confidence in the lure that it is the first one I tie on when leaving the dock; at certain times, when I'm fishing the Cape Cod Canal, it's the only bait I carry with me.
The Striper Magnet is manufactured by Bill Hurley in what can be considered the classic basement (or in this case, garage) business. Despite the success I have had with the lures and its growing popularity, going "big-time" doesn't seem to be of any interest to Bill, a fact that often has a negative impact on the availability of the product. The son of an Army general and himself a Navy diver, Bill spent time in the water observing fish and then invested $25,000 of his own money into the research and design of the Magnet. He is currently tinkering with another prototype lure, but the Magnet is clearly his most successful effort to date.
The Striper Magnet is a soft plastic bait that, some might say, is just another in the long line of Slug-Go imitators. While there are some basic similarities, there are also clear distinctions between the two. Similar to the Slug-Go in shape, the Striper Magnet has a slim, overall profile with a slightly bulkier body terminating in a thin, wispy tail. The one feature of the Striper Magnet that will immediately get your attention is its eyes -the lure has large, rattling doll eyes glued on both sides. Bill, through his underwater research, firmly believes that the large eyes help trigger the killer instincts in striped bass, and in other predatory species such as bonito, false albacore and bluefish.
Another feature that sets the Striper Magnet apart from other plastic baits of this type is how the hook is rigged. While most Slug-Go-style baits are rigged by inserting the hook through the front, the Striper Magnet is rigged from the belly up. The bait comes with a custom-designed, weighted hook, the eye of which is forced through the bulkier head section, starting inside a specially slotted belly cavity. This cavity is designed to facilitate rigging and is not intended to make the bait weedless; when rigged properly, the hook point is exposed and acts as a sort of keel to keep the bait from rolling when retrieved. The weighted hook and rigging technique, while assisting in casting and adding to the overall action and appeal of the lure, makes re-rigging somewhat of a pain in the backside as you need to re-tie each time you need to rig a new lure. Since I generally fish the bait with a swivel and fluorocarbon leader, frequent re-tying can be a nuisance, both because knot-tying with fluorocarbon can be tricky and because the leader length continually diminishes until it's of no benefit. For that reason, I often have a dozen or so baits with leaders pre-rigged before heading out on the water.
The original Striper Magnet is 7 3/4 inches long. Both larger and smaller models are available; the Mini-Magnet is 5 3/8 inches long and the large Magnet measures a full 10 inches from stem to stern. The Mini-Magnet utilizes a special 3/0 hook and weighs approximately 1/2 ounce, the 7 3/4-inch model uses a 6/0 hook and comes in at 3/4 ounce, and the 10-inch size employs a 9/0 hook and weighs about one ounce, I usually fish the Mini-Magnet with 12-pound-test spinning gear and toss the larger Magnets with a conventional style muskie rod spooled with 17-pound-test. With the proper equipment, all of the baits cast well, although you won't win any casting contests with them. Thankfully, under most applications, long casts are not required.
Soft plastic baits come in an almost endless array of colors and, while many colors of Striper Magnets are available, their maker hasn't gone as color-crazy as some companies have. As you would imagine, there are the basic, traditional colors one expects of saltwater lures, including an albino blue, a black back and a green back model, but there are others too, such as all black, solid yellow, and a pink model, any of which might help fill the need for a certain hue in very specific circumstances. I guess I am a traditionalist and therefore generally stick to the basics -the albino blue/black back, green back, and solid black -but I do have some of the other colors as well.
It's been my experience that the Striper Magnet just flat out catches fish. You can take bass with them under almost any condition. (They work great on bluefish as well, but that can quickly become an expensive proposition.) As I mentioned earlier, there are times when fishing the Cape Cod Canal that this is the only bait I use. Early in the season, when everyone is focused on using live herring, the Striper Magnet is a good alternative, but I also like it during the summer slowdown when fishing can get a bit more difficult. The main reason I like throwing it in the Canal is because it can be effectively fished in shallow water close to shore. I know many people are committed to fishing the Canal with heavy leadhead jigs and long casts, large pencil poppers, or metal lures, but the fact is there are many bass that cruise the edges of the Canal. Those fish are in tight because they are on the feed and often will take a lure more readily than those that are holding in the deep water, and the shallow running Magnet is perfect for them.
The Striper Magnet can be very productive during late May and early June when the squid make their annual appearance along Martha's Vineyard in the area of the Middle Ground. I imagine the same would be true on the reefs off Watch Hill, Rhode Island. The albino blue model closely mirrors the color and swimming action of the migratory squid (there is also an orange/black model) and the stripers jump all over it. I have also found the Striper Magnet to be equally effective in the deeper waters of Boston Harbor during late June and early July, when the spawned-out herring are dropping out of the rivers and running the gauntlet between the harbor islands back to the safety of the sea. During this period, you'll often see bass chasing the herring to the surface; because of this, fishing the Striper Magnet near the surface often elicits vicious strikes. You can also cast the bait at breaking fish and 'dead-stick' it. Hits will come as the lure falls as if you were fishing a jig or similar metal bait. Because herring are common throughout the New England area, this approach can be utilized just about everywhere.
A third and final deadly striper technique is to fish the lures anywhere there are rocks and current of some sort, such as along the Elizabeth Islands. Experienced anglers know that very large bass will often prowl along these rocky shores in very shallow water at first light, and a Striper Magnet pitched into the shoreline and slowly worked out will garner a great deal of attention, especially if there happen to be bunker in the area. Using that strategy has produced a number of 20- and 30-pound class fish for my brother-in-laws and me while fishing the Martha's Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby. To be honest, this technique is much easier than tossing eels and almost as productive. The Magnet is a bait that has a great look and can also be effectively fished in shallow water, where more traditional striper baits cannot.
Bonito and false albacore are not immune to the lure's charm. I like tossing the smaller Mini-Magnet into breaking schools of these little tunas and then either dead-sticking the bait (that is, letting it drop in free-fall to mirror an injured minnow) or working it near the surface to imitate a fleeing baitfish. When false albacore appear around the Vineyard late each summer they often have a preference for finger mullet (provided the mullet make it this far north during the season); the Mini-Magnet is a good imitation when that bait source is available.
If you read this far you might be thinking that this lure sounds too good to be true. There is a downside, in that finding the Striper Magnets can be somewhat of a task as they are not widely available. Bill Hurley does have a website and you can contact him there: www.codandstriperlures.com/prod.html.
I have also purchased Magnets both from local area shops and on-line companies, but they too often experience difficulties in maintaining adequate stock. A word to the wise: if you see them for sale somewhere, don't hesitate to purchase them. Despite the difficulty in finding and rigging the Magnet, I firmly believe they are worth the effort.