Sunday, May 2, 2004

The coverage of a certain fishing lure has been on a national, massive scale. You’ve seen it on these pages, as well as Bassmaster Magazine, Outdoor Life, and others.

It’s the story of the “fat” worm — a plastic wonder that looks like an inanimate slug and often is fished in a “do nothing” way, with very little movement. Sometimes it’s “wacky-rigged,” looking kind of goofy as a hook is inserted into the middle of the 4- or 5-inch-long rubbery critter and the lure is cast without any added weight and allowed to flutter hopefully into the lair of a largemouth bass.

The names of these plain and unsightly looking things have become household words among legions of American anglers. There’s the original Yamamoto Senko, the Venom Hot Rod, the Gulp! Sinking Minnow, the Tiki Stick, the Picasso Scuttle Worm, the Yum Dinger and half a dozen others. I’ve probably tried the majority of brand names and all of them work — eventually.

But for me, nothing will match the performance of the latest entry into the field of “fat” worms, the Strike King Lure Co. 5-inch-long, fast sinking, salt-impregnated Zero.

It’s made of a material that now is known simply as 3X. The 3X line of lures is made from a proprietary crystal gel compound, protected by four separate U.S. patents, that is so strong you can stretch it to outlandish lengths and it won’t snap in two, yet it’s soft as a baby’s skin. There have been instances where Strike King field testers fished all day with one of the super-soft worms (or lizards) and even after repeatedly hooking bass did not need to replace it.

That out of the way, my neighbor, fishing guide Dale Knupp, had me aboard his bass boat when he entered the backwaters of a Southern Maryland feeder creek to the Potomac River. We’d use a variety of lures, but special attention would be paid to Strike King’s Zero.

Please believe it when I say that the moment Knupp reached a particular marsh bank that is known to attract spawning bass and said, “See what you can do over there — there ought to be a bass hiding or sitting on a spawning bed,” I cast the wacky-rigged Zero to the spot and promptly set the hook to a 5-pound bass.

Just like that. As if it were child’s play.

Knupp laughed out loud. “Now that’s what I call a good fishing lure. It delivered on cue. What else could a guy ask for.”

Within a shoreline stretch that measured maybe 200 yards, the guide then took the soft, stretchy plastic bait — a sparkle-flaked model in junebug color — and hooked three bass without batting an eyelash; he then went around a narrow point and did it again.

“I love these lures because they work,” said Knupp.

However, when we charged out into what appeared to be a wide open body of water and stopped the motor to start fishing once again, the guide began casting and retrieving a chartreuse spinnerbait across the placid area.

“Actually,” he said, “it only looks devoid of cover for fish, but in fact there are some grass patches under us. In this kind of terrain, I can fish faster and more efficiently with a spinnerbait.”

Bang! He’d barely finished speaking when a bass slammed the spinnerbait, forcing Knupp’s casting rod down in a sharp arc.

I don’t have to remind you who the world’s biggest spinnerbait company is, do I? It’s the same outfit that produces the super-stretchy, salty 5-inch Zero.

• Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column every Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail:

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