We’ve all heard the expression, “Fishing lures are designed to catch fisherman and not fish.” And while most of that holds true, some lures, and their design, are true fish catching machines. So when I moved to San Antonio, TX in 2013, I was quickly introduced to a locally produced bait called Kelly Wigglers, and told that this bait flat out catches fish. Unfortunately for me, that was the extent of my experience. In the 3 years I waded the TX flats, not once did the line peel off my spool with a Kelley Wiggler Ball Tail Shad attached to the other end.
Actually, it wasn’t until I moved to Florida and fished the Indian River Lagoon, that I even considered throwing a straight tail soft plastic jerkbait. This is due in large part to the abundance of docks, mangroves and grass surrounding many of the local flats. Additionally, super clear water and pressured fish have made me reconsider many of my formally written off techniques, in hopes of truly tricking one of these monster trout into eating. That’s not the point of my product review though, the takeaway I’d like to leave you with is a sound breakdown of Kelley Wiggler’s most popular baits, the Ball Tail Shad or “BTS”.
The BTS, by design is truly nothing visually spectacular. “Minnow shaped” on the front, the body carefully tapers to a rat tail earmarked with its signature BB-sized ball on the end, hence “Ball Tail Shad.” The concept behind the ball is it gives the tail of the bait that little extra movement when twitched or retrieved. This is achieved due to the friction it has with the water column, and the wiggle caused by the displaced water, thus enticing more strikes from wary trout.
So, before I get into my breakdown of the BTS, I have to provide a caveat that this review was done solely on my dime. Baits were not provided for free or for “field testing”, but purchased by me because I’d like to see if they produce firsthand.
My approach to choosing colors was to stay natural as possible for the majority of my purchase and choose one way “off the wall” color for fun. That said I chose 3 natural colors: Bone Diamond, Laguna Pearl and Mansfield Margarita. My one off the wall color was Honey Gold, based off a DOA color, and local producer of big trout, called Copper Crush.
After receiving my shipment, I quickly noticed that all plastics were neatly placed in the bag, with the tail straight. This is a key component for me, especially when the key feature is the tail. By not having a straight tail, means it’s useless to me in the confidence department, since I have visions of a bait spinning or helicoptering down the water column.
The second feature and most important I noticed was the clarity of the baits color pattern. The colors subtly bled into one another, yet looked precise and natural. Certainly something I would’ve expected for 7 plastic tails for $4.99.
Lastly, I was interested in their durability yet pliability. On the bag, it says, “The TOUGHEST soft plastic on the Gulf Coast”, and although I’m interested in bait longevity, I want to see if they compromised natural bait movement for plastic hardener. Again, at first glance it looked like a nice mix of the two…more on the durability piece later.
Less than 2 days after getting my shipment, I donned my wading gear for a local flat that produced numbers of nice quality trout a week earlier. The key to this spot was making long cast due to the super clear water. The bottom contour I was fishing was a “dead end” under water trough that centered itself onto a clean sandy flat outlined with Florida’s tangly mangroves. I chose to throw bone diamond on a 1/8oz jighead first since it was the most natural of the 4 colors. Less than 3 casts into my trip I caught a beautiful 18” trout.
Here’s where this applies to my product review. Due to the bait density, I actually lightened my jighead to a 1/16oz to ensure I got the slow sink effect I was searching for. That said, I never sacrificed my cast ability despite going lighter. In other words, these baits cast very well, and will not spin when thrown. Additionally, when fishing I used very short quick twitches between long pauses to produce the erratic movement and the slow sink of the bait produced something the fish were agreeable too. I did mess with shorter cast to visualize the bait moving through the water and what I had envisioned was confirmed. The only issue I had initially was threading them straight and dead center to the lure. I did experience some spinning initially, but after careful placement of my jighead, the spinning ceased.
This particular day, I probably caught close to 20 trout up to 23”s using both of the colors I threw; Honey Gold and Bone Diamond. Again, I paired them with the 1/16ozNorton Lure Black Nickel screw lock jighead and I used 3 tails, 2 Bone Diamond and 1 Honey Gold. I would have only used 1 soft plastic if it wasn’t for small jacks and my intrigue in other color patterns. In other words, this bait, if paired with a screw lock, will last 20+ fish. The only tender spot I noticed on the lure was on the back of the bait, which is earmarked by the word “Kelley”. After 5 or so fish this area would tear some, but it didn’t affect the baits performance.
I would highly suggest giving these a try. As mentioned in my introduction, regarding lures attracting more fisherman than fish, the simple design of these baits surely won’t turn heads, but they flat out catch fish. After now having multiple successful trips under my belt, my only regret is I wish I would have had them in my tackle arsenal 3 years ago while wading the Lower Laguna Madre. In hindsight, its okay though, I’ll just have to continue to introduce these FL fish to a tried and true Texas bait and hopefully the fish follow suit of the infamous slogan about EVERYTHING being bigger. Seriously, though, if you are considering buying some of these baits, I highly recommend them and hope they produce for you like they did for me.
Tight Lines and God Bless,
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