FLATHEAD LAKE – Many first swims have been swum in Flathead Lake, but few probably happened like Betty’s, when she was thrown off the stern of a boat motoring along at a brisk 7 knots.
Whether Betty would swim appropriately, if at all, was of main concern aboard the A Able Fishing Charter boat, captained by Pat Campanella. At 14 inches long, Betty is one of the largest of Dan Magers’ BFD Big Game Lures, which are made to mimic the feeder fish that large, pelagic predators like marlin and tuna love to eat.
Magers tossed Betty, a new prototype design, into the lake to see if the lure would pop up out of the water every now and then, a signature move of his plunger lures. The difference between Betty and every other lure on the planet, Magers said, is that his lure’s body is entirely oval, instead of the round shapes mass produced by other companies.
Being oval means this lure looks more like a real fish, he said, and the hand-placed weight in the belly of the lure makes it carry itself like a fish, too. Magers’ lures never twist and roll in the water either, so the long, rubber-like strands pulling behind the main head of the lure stay unruffled and flowing.
Standing with Jana Primmer, a consultant and IT designer for BFD Big Game Lures, Magers watched as Betty performed exactly as she should.
“There she goes,” Magers said, watching as Betty swam.
BFD Big Game Lures are made for much bigger fish than those that could be caught in Flathead Lake, but the company, based in Ferndale, is becoming a player in the offshore fishing game.
Each lure made in Ferndale is crafted by hand. Since all of them have some sort of oval part – Betty is the only full oval lure – they can’t be placed in a machine to be polished, and the weights placed in each lure are positioned precisely in the belly to keep the lure from spinning.
They also include rare earth elements that keep them glowing for 24 hours after 15 minutes in the sun, Magers said.
Magers didn’t plan on running an innovative lure business, but he couldn’t turn away from the opportunity when it presented itself. Aside from being an angler, he has collected fishing tackle for “a long time” and written two books on fishing, “Striking Steelhead” and “Joe Yee and His Lures.”
The Joe Yee book, which profiles the Japanese lure-making legend, is what spurred Magers into creating his lures. He thought of the new modifications while researching the best salt water trolling lures for pelagic – meaning water that is neither close to the bottom nor near the shore – sport fish.
“It didn’t seem to me that a whole lot had changed in the last 50 years,” Magers said.
So he developed his own changes, and started hand-making the lures in Ferndale. A couple years and about 2,000 lures later, his designs are faring and selling well. The differences – the oval shape, the keel weight, and the glow – have increased anglers’ successes with marlin and other big fish.
“With those three things put together, our hook-up ratio on these lures have been two to three times what they are on traditional lures,” Magers said.
BFD Big Game Lures only sell online, costing $75 for a 12-inch lure and $119 for the eventual 14-inch Betty option. Each one is unique, and some include semi-precious stones, such as amethyst and peridot, to give them depth and relief.
“The market is really dominated by people who are mass producing lures,” Primmer said. “(The BFD Big Game Lures) are shaped like a baitfish.”
She said the lures have sold all over the world, including Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii.
Betty tested well at 7 knots, then at 10. Magers had Campanella kick up the speed to 14 knots, and the lure kept performing. This is a breakthrough, he said, because when trolling around the ocean, an angler might want to motor over to a different spot. Normally, they’d have to reel in their lines because their lures can’t perform at such speeds, but Betty holds strong.
By the time the two journalist guests on the boat have to leave, Magers has popped the champagne. The boat docks, drops off the party poopers, and heads back out on the water – this is a celebration, after all, and there are fish to be caught, albeit on smaller lures than Betty.
For more information on BFD Big Game Lures, visit www.bfdbiggamelures.com.
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