About our hair baits.
Wonder where we came up with the name; “Wild Hare Baits”, or what that goofy looking rabbit in our logo is all about ? Here’s the story..
Many years ago,, (twenty or more) ,, I read a magazine article about Eastern smallmouth fishermen cleaning up on Bass with natural rabbit hair jigs, with a few photo examples included.. There didn’t appear to be anything special or out of the ordinary about the jigs shown.. They were nothing more than round-heads in a limited variety of weights with a tuft of hair thread-wrapped to the collarless hook shank.. The hair color was a non-descript brownish-gray and none of the baits shown were over three inches long.. I came close to just turning the page for the next article..
But the photos of football-shaped Smallmouth Bass accompanying the article made me give at least the first paragraph a quick scan though.. Those were some gorgeous fish in the four to six pound range.. It made me wonder how quality Smallmouth could get fooled by what looked like a pretty ho-hum bait. When I did, I learned something..
I learned that when it comes to natural materials, nothing quite measures up to the attributes of rabbit hair when compared to feathers, deer or fox hair, or any other natural lure dressing material then in use.. That’s because none are quite as soft and supple, nor as BOUYANT as rabbit hair.. And it seems, none are quite as durable at the same time either.. Coarse, less flexible hair tends to break up when abused by the rough treatment big Bass can shell out, while rabbit hair is soft and fine enough to shrug off sharp teeth or the sandpaper lips of Bass.
“Soft” also translates to motion other materials can’t quite match.. Ripped through the water, (as the article suggested) these little hair jigs streamlined to duplicate the visual profile of a fleeing bait fish perfectly. But where they really shined was on the pause.. Suddenly stopping the jig allowed the soft hair to bloom out and expand with a life-like pulse to impart a visual phenomena that fish had never seen in an artificial bait before.. According to the fishermen interviewed for the article, it was that one attribute alone that made these baits the killers they were, and they did it without any frills added. No eyes, no little fake fins, gaudy colors or molded fish scales.. Just a simple little fish-shaped profile in a dirty looking color..
I decided I wanted to give this a try but there were a few obstacles in the way.. Nobody that I knew of sold ready-made rabbit hair jigs and in order to make a few myself, it looked like I’d have to go rabbit hunting because I had no idea where the rabbit hair store was located in Phoenix, Arizona..
I called a friend down in Tucson who was big into fly-tying and asked him if he knew where I could get rabbit hair.. He did, of course, and asked me what I was going to do with it.. I told him about the magazine article and said I wanted to give rabbit hair jigs a whirl and see if they are all they are cracked up to be in the article..
He knew of the article and said forget rabbit ‘HAIR’. Use the whole thing, hair on tanned rabbit hide.. Not really a hair bait, but more like a ‘FUR’ bait.. You know what “Zonker Strips” are, don’t you? I use them in my Bass fly patterns all the time.. If you want soft, tough, and moves like Little Egypt,, that’s what you want,, Just tie some Zonker strips on a ball head and you will be ten steps ahead of those guys back east. I’ll send you some..
The strips he sent were all white and only about an eighth inch wide.. Not quite what I had in mind as far as duplicating the jigs illustrated in the magazine article.. But I made up a half dozen or so anyway and promptly headed to Roosevelt Lake at the top of Arizona’s Salt River chain of impoundments.. Big disappointment.. I didn’t catch a single Smallmouth.. I did manage to catch a half dozen chunky Largemouth though, along with twenty or thirty fat Crappie,, all on a single jig tied on in the morning and fished four hours straight without replacement.. When I finished the day, the bait looked like it had just been tied on.. Nobody had to hit me over the head to tell me I was on to something.. The weird looking little jig caught fish and wore like iron.. What’s not to like ?
My enthusiasm didn’t last though.. A week later I wanted to show the jig to a friend and when I pulled it out of my tackle kit my heart sank.. The rabbit hide tail had shriveled up and was stiff as a potato chip.. It resembled what happened to a pork rind bait when left out to dry in the sun. It was ruined..
Or was it ? Pork rind !! Needs to be kept wet.. As long as its wet its flexible.. I had a eureka moment about then and filled the kitchen sink with water, dropped my little potato chip in it and sure enough.. Within two minutes the rabbit hide and hair was as soft as it was when brand new.. Problem solved.. If a hair bait dries out and curls up, just put it back to work in the water.. It will take care of itself in short order.. No need to keep it in a jar either !
That was over twenty years ago.. Since then I’ve come up with lots of different ways to incorporate rabbit hair-on-hide materials in fishing lures besides just the basic fleeing bait fish patterns.. (And I’ve even discovered where to buy prime, hair-on tanned hides) Using much wider strips and different colors of dyed hides and an occasional bit of thump and flash, experiments have produced several tried and true fish producing patterns.. Some of our favorites are offered here exclusively.. You won’t find them anywhere else at any price. Look them over and see what you think.. We even use them to dress a spinner bait tail !
Because we are always trying to improve on a good thing, patterns change and vary occasionally.. When we do this its always to upgrade a bait, not the other way around.. We are less concerned with saving a few pennies than we are with producing better results..
With respect to colors, shades of chartreuse will vary slightly between different dye lots,, but if a color doesn’t look quite right to us we won’t use it.. We only choose those colors we know will work.. When choosing natural un-dyed hides, the colors also vary greatly.. Some are silver-grey and Chinchilla-like, while some run to a reddish brown caste.. Both are effective, with the silvery color mimicking many bait fish very well while the browns suggest craw colors.. We choose which color to use based on the profile the bait patterns suggests.. If its an open water bait fish profile we will go with the silver-grey, while a bottom rooting creature will tend towards the browns.. If you have a definite preference, you can include an email note when you order and we will try to accommodate you at no added charge .. But since that would essentially be a custom tie, it may delay shipment for a few days while they are being made up for you..
Oh yes. The name.. Nearly forgot.. Our hides are imported from Spain.. They are high-grade skins of the “European Wild Hare.” And since the hair bait line is our original signature product,, it all sort of ties in, don’t you think ?