A few weeks ago I alluded to my newfound obsession with lure painting. Well, the obsession has only grown in the last few weeks! I now find myself with an airbrush, compressor, custom-built (read redneck engineered) spray booth, and a whole slew of paints and coatings! I have to say, this really is a lot of fun, and like fly tying, I love the immediate gratification of the quick turnaround. One of the things that has always weighed on me about building fishing rods is the long turnaround. I have always jokingly said that "I really don't enjoy building rods, but I LOVE fishing with a rod I built myself" I hate the delayed gratification of building a custom rod, but I endure it, because I just can't stomach the idea fishing with a rod someone else assembled!
Last week I had lunch with lure painter extraordinaire Jared Ducote. Jared and his dad, Bob have been painting some of the most incredibly photorealistic lures for the past several years, and have numerous high-profile tournament fishermen using their baits to help them compete at the highest level. Since I have known Jared, he has painted at least a dozen or more pieces for me personally, specifically to my specs. Although "my specs" tend to be much less detailed than most, as I am not really a true believer in photorealistic lures.
Over lunch. Jared and I shared our opinions on the effectiveness of photorealistic paint jobs, and whether or not it makes a noticeable difference in the number and/or size of the fish brought to hand. I honestly don't think it does, and I am actually much more convinced that profile, movement, speed of retrieve, and presentation details FAR outweigh any sort of detailed paint job. One only needs to look at Tim Borski's flies as an example of "not really looking like anything specific, except something that is alive" Tim has always had a knack for engineering fly designs that just have a really "buggy" feel to them, but photorealistic they are not....and man do they catch fish.
Throughout the entire decade of the 1990's one of the prime big Speckled Trout baits for conventional tackle here in Texas was a topwater plug known as the Ghost, made by the Producer Lure Company. Amongst the hardcore "troutheads" the most effective pattern was a solid, undetailed pale yellow/creme color known as 'bone". That's it...a cigar-shaped topwater stick bait painted in a dull pale yellow, with a set of lifeless painted on eyes. And truth be known, the paint job looked like it could have been done with a $4.00 can of Krylon spray paint from the local hardware store and executed by a 5 year old. Yet the Ghost accounted for an untold amounts of magnum-sized Trout and Redfish throughout the decade. Unfortuntaely, the Producer Lure Co. went out of business in the early 2000s and the Ghost hasnt been available in many years. Several years ago I started buying Ghosts up on eBay regardless of condition so that Jared could work his magic on these old classics. Although asking him to paint one of these old plugs a simple dull pale yellow seemed like almost an insult to someone with his level of talent and skill....hence the reason I have now picked up an airbrush!
I certainly have nothing against photorealism in lure painting. In fact, I can almost guarantee at some point I will engage in some of that myself. But much like fancy threadwork on fishing rods, I just believe those beautiful paint jobs are more to catch fisherman, than fish. Look at it this way...a fisherman is nothing more than a predator. And, when a fisherman stalks his prey, he's not looking at the details of the individual scales or the size and color of the gills on his quarry. Instead, he is looking at other things to identify whether this specimen happens to be the prey he is after. Overall shape and profile, general movement characteristics, behavioral anomalies specific to that species, as well as general physical characteristics that differnetiate one species from another, such as the spot on a redfish's tail, or the subtle bars on a Bonefish's back. These are things that we look at from a predator's point of view, not the most excruciating minutia, that arent even visible to the naked eye.
Having said all of that, even if I am right, you can bet that I won't stop experimenting with variations in color and detail on the lures I paint in my shop. It is, after all, part of the fun, and as my good buddy and rod builder extraordinaire Bill Falconer likes to say "It's a way to be doing it, when you can't actually be on the water doing it"
Hope you all have a great week.