- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 18, 2009

The amount of correspondence that comes in during the cold months - concerning a 3-inch-long, rubbery fishing lure that has an almost magical effect on the bass, perch, crappie, even resident river rockfish population - is astonishing.

Most of the readers who ask about the Mann’s Sting Ray grub primarily want to know how it can be used to best advantage. Without fear of showing favoritism for one product over another, there is no other fishing lure just like it in the land.

The Sting Ray will confound, anger and frustrate you whenever it becomes stuck on a river or lake bottom obstacle - which will happen as sure as the sun rises in the east. But when it works as it’s supposed to, it will become the joy of your cold-weather fishing excursions.

The man who must get the lion’s share of the credit for making this chubby, plastic lure so popular among local river anglers is fishing guide Andy Andrzejewski, a bass fishing phenom who doesn’t want the limelight about all this. Instead, he said Roland Martin, the famous tournament angler and host of a cable TV show, was the one who proved to Andrzejewski how effective the Sting Ray can be.

“It was decades ago, back when I fished bass tournaments,” the La Plata-based guide said. “Roland came to a weigh-in stand with a bunch of bass, and he showed me what he used to catch his fish. It was the Mann’s Sting Ray. He even handed me a few of them, and I began to use them with great success back at home.”

Andrzejewski said the ribbed, fat-bellied, flat-tailed lure is best fished with an exposed ball-head jig hook that is made of thin enough metal so it can be straightened and pulled free of the snags and hang-ups that are bound to occur.

“I use strong enough monofilament or braided line to let me pull it out of a sunken tree or from between bottom rocks,” he said. “Then I’ll bend it back into shape with needlenose pliers and use a file or sharpening stone on the hook if needed.”

In the tidal sections of the Potomac River between the District and the western parts of Maryland’s Charles County or Virginia’s Prince William and Stafford counties, the fishing guide prefers an avocado color Sting Ray, usually pierced onto a 1/4-ounce jig hook. The lure is almost exactly the color of a tidal water bullhead minnow and it imitates the action of a baitfish when you gently, slowly drag or hop it along sharply falling feeder creek shorelines. It is dabbed with a fish attractant cream that helps in cold water.

Another La Plata-based fishing guide, Dale Knupp, once fished with me and, before the morning ended, had caught a 6-pound bass, along with a couple dozen others, plus an eye-popping 41 1/2-inch-long striped bass - all on a Sting Ray and all in the main stem of the Potomac River during a time when the submersed aquatic river vegetation had just begun to sprout. After the weeds begin to grow densely, the Sting Ray can still attract fish, but only if you’re able to keep it from snatching up piles of hydrilla or milfoil vegetation, which is a tough assignment. It’s one reason why the lure with the exposed hook is more often used during the cold-weather months.

We’ve had days in the Spoils Cove upstream of the Wilson Bridge, or in the Mattawoman Creek, the Chicamuxen and Aquia Creeks, or the river’s main stem when we would hook 40 bass in a day, sometimes more. On a trip to western Maryland when the smallmouth bass didn’t want to bite on the usual tubes, crankbaits and spinners, an avocado color Sting Ray grub managed to quickly bring a half-dozen smallmouths to my side of the boat. On the Shenandoah River, my friend Dick Fox slowly drifted and dragged a Sting Ray across the bottom boulders and hooked one smallmouth after another.

When the yellow perch and crappies balk and don’t look at our dropshot shiners or small shad darts under a bobber, the Sting Ray often takes up the slack.

The effectiveness of the Sting Ray became so well-known that a certain latecomer to the Potomac’s bass guiding business announced that he had brought the lure to the attention of local bass fanatics. That’s almost as funny as the note I recently received from a reader who said he caught an 11-pound, 6-ounce largemouth bass in Maryland and, after weighing it, let it go without me seeing a photo or hearing from witnesses.

Yeah, I’ll believe that.

Not.

- Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected] Visit Mueller’s Inside Outside blog at washingtontimes.com/sports.


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