distribution relationship with a number of Japanese brands now making waves stateside: Ima, Deps, Zappu, Reins, and Vagabond. By 2006, Optimum Baits was winning awards for its new designs, with Furbit the Frog and Poppin` Furbit named Best New Soft Lure by the American Sportfishing Association.
Like a lot of the other bait makers we’ve talked to, Matt relies heavily on his pro-staff for new bait development. At Op- timum, the process is usually started by a suggestion from one of the pros for either a new design or a modification, and the whole process takes about a year. First, Matt will make a pro- totype, and fish it himself to look for balance and design flaws. Once he has that nailed down, he’ll hand it off to three of the pro-staff for feedback, which he says he gets back in spades. In fact, he’ll limit the number of people in the design process to cut down on the opinions and hone in on a design. “In fishing, everyone’s got an opinion, and everyone’s right.” Finally, they’ll go through an average of 5-10 prototypes until they nail down the design exactly, and then it goes into produc- tion.
Optimum has a reputation at ICAST for bringing a “show with- in a show”, with all of the Japanese lines showing off new baits along with the innovations from Optimum themselves. This year they brought out a new larger version of the suc- cessor to the original Optimum swimbait in a line-through design, called the BLT, or Baby Line Through. The BLT was the result of suggestions from the pro-staff, who were looking for a bait similar to the classic Optimum, but that could be fished faster. The pros had been rigging them in a line-through style on their own, so they decided to take it to the drawing board. With a weighted head for a deeper dive, it’s available in 3”, 5”, and now in a new 7” size, all with non-lead weights and in 25 colors.
Working With the Pros
the neW stuff
Randy Pringle is a fan of the BLT, calling it “a real breakthrough” with the line-through setup. “It’s balanced, so it runs true. It makes it so an average Joe can throw a swim- bait.” Plus, the BLT is a multi-species bait, good for both freshwater and saltwater species, including muskie, pike, or stripers. “It looks like an easy meal,” says Pringle, “any toothy critters are going to eat these baits.” The multiple-stage prototype process really came in handy during the creation of the new 7” BLT. What seemed at first like a simple scale-up didn’t work out as planned, Matt says, “the seven
randy Pringle’s Picks
As anyone who’s read or watched one of Randy Prin- gle’s instructional videos in his role as The Fishing Instructor knows, he’s got a lot of advice and a lot of opinions. He’s also got a lot of time on the water as a full time guide and pro angler, so we asked him for his tips and tricks when it comes to Optimum lures and his signature 7” Big Stick from Ima.
tackle recommendations for the Big stick
fishing the Big stick in cooler Weather
The Big STick was designed for flat calm water as well as choppy water days. In cooler weather when the largemouth are not feeding as much, the Big Stick can be fished slowly and methodically, with a lot of pauses. For best success of a hook up with lethargic bass, keep the lure in the strike zone for longer than you would in the warmer season. For striped bass or saltwater fish get more aggressive with your technique, and make some noise. It’s important in waters like the California Delta with chop to make more of a splash in your presentation.
Rod: Go with a bigger-than-average heavy action 7’-7.5’ rod with a fast tip to compensate for the larger lure. Reel: Choose a wider spool to hold more line, since with a big bait you can get a longer cast, and you may want to keep more line out in general, and a 6.1 or 6.3 ratio reel is best. line: Preferably braid. Pringle recommends a 55-60 lb. test low-friction braid, allowing for a quick and smooth left to right walking action. Monofilament is good for slower sweep- ing motions, and noted for strength and ease of use.
cold Water Bait Picks from the Whole oPtimum lineuP:
ima FliT Rip BaiT: “Because we have a lot of shad in our waters, and in cooler weather a rip bait can be extremely successful.” opTimum BaBy line ThRough (BlT) “[It’s] subtle and methodical - fish come up from behind to investigate.” ima Big STick “For top water”