from Past to Present II


Next up is a lure that actually predates the French Vivif by a couple of years. Around 1950-51 the Plucky Minnow also known as “The  Swimming Lure” was  exported out of France through the Rublex company. This bait was very popular for bass throughout Europe as well as trophy brown trout as far away as New Zealand.

Initially the Plucky was an expensive boutique bait that was 5x the price of most artificial lures. Casted out of a thin tire like rubber the bait needed to be maintained or would unfortunately degrade if left under sun light. The bill,dorsal and tail fin were molded with the bait so they’re attached rather well, but were made of leather so they would dry out,crack, and degrade over time.  The joint consisted of a small metal piano style hinge, coupled with the leather bill and a life like tail this lure had a very convincing swimming minnow action that could be counted down.

French Plucky

What is interesting about these lures is the bait had a unique line through design. After hooking into a fish the double pointed hook would detach from the bait and slide up past the small swivel and be free of any additional weight.

French Plucky line through

All baits were painted by hand and came in a variety of finishes.There were three sizes released 2 3/4″ 1.6 oz, 2 1/4″ 1.3oz, and a 1 3/8″ 1.2 oz. Since the lures were a bit small anglers would often rig up a 1/2 oz weight ahead of the lure to get distance from the bank.

French Pluckys 3 sizes

After getting some momentum sometime in the late 50’s early 60’s the Garcia/Mitchell company (now Abu Garcia)  picked up the rights to the lure. Garcia decided to try and streamline the lure and extend the lifespan by changing the makeup of the bait. This is a common theme once a lure gains status and can often lead to its demise. The new bait made use of a new rubber bill and tail fin and opted to lose the dorsal fin. The body material changed and was made of a stiffer more durable plastic material, and the head was reinforced to stop it from caving in (I read somewhere that guys used to inject cod oil in this new mod).

Even though my lures are 50 plus years old I could not detect a noticeable difference in action. With the cheaper injected plastic lures starting to dominate the scene I think one could argue that boutique baits started to really lose their lustre.

Garcia Mitchell Plucky

Dipping back just a few years before the legendary French Vivif reveals a soft bodied lure with a dual point hook and awesome swimming action. While the Vivifs were lipless it’s hard to not see a few similar traits with it’s French made predecessor.

French Vivif Plucky


from Past to Present……..

French Vivif Card flash

Anyone that has followed some of my forum posts over the last few years has more than likely seen my interest in older lures. While I am a novice collector at best it’s been fun collecting older lures not because of their value but because of the intended action behind each lure. Since I have started making my own home made lures I set out to look for lures from the past to present to get a better understanding of what makes them tick and see how each lure might have influenced the next.

French Vivif Card rear 2 flash

Going back to as early as the 1950’s a company in France started producing a lure called the French Vivif Living Minnow. This lure was arguably one of the first “swim baits” produced. This 5 1/2″  2 1/2 oz lure caught on throughout Europe and accounted for many records. Within a short time a man named Cecil Hog who was running a mail order company at the time (Waldorf Record Company) got wind of the bait and decided to import it.  He used a distributor out of Harrison,New Jersey called Harrison Industries (now Harrison-Hope Industries) and started the very popular tackle company Panther Martin. Within the first year Mr. Hog sold a million dollars in French Vivifs! Something almost unheard of at the time.

French Vivif flash
early 5 1/2″ French Vivif

The original baits were casted from a hard tire like rubber, had an internal weighting system,fixed duel point hook(frog hook), and a heart shaped tail that wagged like crazy. What is interesting is the lures were actually hand painted by French prison inmates until switching over to PVC foam in the 70’s.

PVC VIVIF 1975_201006291216150000
second generation PVC foam French Vivif

With the growing popularity of people using spinning outfits the smaller lighter 2 1/4″ and 3″ versions were developed. The lures sold well over the years but by around 1982 the French stopped production for reasons unknown. Fast forward to the late 90’s and Cecil Hog’s son Cecil Jr. started taking notice of baits that were entering the market that were very much inspired by the Vivif.  Cecil decided he wanted to reintroduce the Vivif back into the market, but with a few modern day tweaks. Instead of the older PVC foam he opted for the use of soft plastic,as well as a single top hook, and a foil insert to give the bait flash. The “Living Minnow” was remade and exported out of China and was back on the shelves!

Modern Day French Vivif Living Minnow

A behind the scenes look at Deps Headquarters and interview with the founder, Mr. Okumura

Here is an interview I did with Mr. Okumura (Deps President)

Introduction: When it comes to big baits in Japan Deps is considered one of the pioneers and continues to develop some of the most exciting lineup of premium JDM baits. We take a look inside the operation at Deps Japan and spend some time with Mr. Okumura, the Founder and Owner of the company.

The outside of Deps Headquarters at Ukyo-ku, Japan in the Kyoto Prefecture

B.Hiroshima: You are known in America as one of the first trophy bass pioneers in Japan, when and where did you start fishing?

Mr. Okumura: In my childhood I fished ponds and rivers, but I began bass fishing seriously around age 20 on Lake Biwa.
The outside of Deps Headquarters at Ukyo-ku, Japan in the Kyoto Prefecture

B.Hiroshima: When did you start targeting trophy bass?

Mr. Okumura: During my first serious year of bass fishing a friend invited me on a fishing trip to Lake Biwa. It was on the third day that I caught a bass of 56cm (22 inches) from then on my goal was to catch big bass.

B.Hiroshima: When did you realize the effectiveness of throwing bigger baits for bigger bass?

Mr. Okumura: I went to Lake Baccarac in Mexico around 12 years ago and met a Japanese fellow from Los Angeles. This man told me a story about an angler back home that pursued 10 pound bass with a bait called the Castaic-trout bait. I gave him money and asked him if he could purchase the bait and send it to me since big baits were not sold in Japan as of yet. After receiving the bait I went to the Ikehara dam (Nara prefecture in Japan) and had fish about 60-70 centimeters chasing the bait. From then on I caught many bass of 60 centimeters (23.6 inches) and over on the lure. From this experience, I began to understand the effectiveness of big baits.

Deps Highsiders during production

B.Hiroshima: With Lake Biwa producing a world record tie, what is it about the great Biwa-ko that makes it breed such big fish?

Mr. Okumura: It is thought that one factor is the mixture of Northern strain and Florida strain largemouth. In addition there is an abundance of crustaceans such as shrimp and crawfish, small fish such as sweet fish and lotus fish. This results to bass being blessed with forage at an early age. Also it may have been good that bass were thinned out moderately for many years by fishermen (bass are considered an invasive species in Japan). What’s interesting is in south Lake Biwa there was an abnormal bluegill infestation that lasted 4-5 years. From an early age the bass in this region grew up on bluegill, so it is thought that bass matured into a larger size as a result.

A look at the factory where baits are built, painted and packaged

B.Hiroshima: Do you know roughly when Florida strain bass were first introduced into Lake Biwa and the Ikehara chain of lakes?

Mr. Okumura: In the Ikehara dam chain of lakes largemouth bass were introduced as an economic resource for both the catch and for fishing. In 1988 10,000 Florida strain bass were bought by the people of the native Shimokitayama town and were released into the chain of lakes surrounding the Ikehara dam. It is rumored that some of these Florida strain bass were quietly released into Lake Biwa during this period, however this cannot be confirmed.

Deps B Custom blades are stocked and await shipment

B.Hiroshima: When did the packs of big fish start showing up in Biwa?

Mr. Okumura: Anglers that fished the Ikehara dam were the first to catch 10 pound bass consistently. However the Japanese bass record (7120 grams/15.69lbs) fell suddenly in Lake Biwa during the month of January year 2000. Since then the average big bass has slowly risen year by year in both lakes.

F Sonic 2 lures in an array of patterns

B.Hiroshima: Switching gears here…..Where is Deps located?

Mr. Okumura: The company is located in Ukyo-ku, Japan in the Kyoto Prefecture.

Deps is known for their incredible attention to detail and offers lures in a dizzying array of finishes

B.Hiroshima: Around what year did you start customizing and making your own lures?

Mr. Okumura: Around 1998 I was catching a lot of big bass on commercial 1oz spinner baits, but one day a monster bass hit my bait and broke it! Since then I began making my own baits.

Innovative Prop Jigs

B.Hiroshima: Were there any lures made outside of Japan that inspired you?

Mr. Okumura: Yes, lures such as the Castaic trout and Stocker trout.

B.Hiroshima: Can you tell us a little about your process in developing a new lure at Deps?

Mr. Okumura: I make my lures all by hand at first and test them in the field. As I fish them I slowly try to improve on them, however sometimes I end up with more failure than successes.

All Deps lure designs begin right here on the prototyping table

B.Hiroshima: You have some of the most impressive looking patterns and finishes on the market, how important is matching your lures to the real thing?

Mr. Okumura: If you’re fishing a muddy area pure paint and an elaborate style may not be the best quality. However with regard to the bass of monster size, I believe the action and material used in a bait must be as close to the real thing as possible. In addition as the water clears bass utilize their sight more, therefore the reality of appearance becomes more important.

Deps rods are ready for shipment, the company is currently partnered with Optimum Baits

B.Hiroshima: With the introduction of the new Huge Customs line of rods, is there a growing number of big bait enthusiasts in Japan or are these rods also aimed at the American market?

Mr. Okumura: The big bait boom has gone away in Japan and the big bait lover has settled in the minority. However I believe the Huge Custom series will not be overlooked by the big bass hunter who knows the power of the big bait and still trusts it most. In addition I am very interested in the American market and am currently exporting through Optimum baits (
It helps that Mr. Okumura is a passionate big bass hunter and is constantly designing new lures designed to target lunkers

It helps that Mr. Okumura is a passionate big bass hunter and is constantly designing new lures designed to target lunkers

B.Hiroshima: Thank you Mr. Okumura for his great insight, it has been an honor and privilege. We look forward to your upcoming lures and rods and hope to see more of them here in the U.S. soon.

An Interview with Mr. Takeyama, Owner of Roman Made Baits Japan

An Interview with Mr. Takeyama, Owner of Roman Made Baits Japan

Date: 5/11/10
Interview: Mr. Takeyama
Subject: Roman Made Baits – Japan
Interviewer: B.Hiroshima

This is an interview I did for TackleTour. Pics can be found here

Introduction: TackleTog contributor and custom lure painter Brock Hiroshima spends time with Mr. Takeyama, the Owner of Roman Made baits in Japan. Roman Made is a big bait manufacturer in Japan that is famous for premium swimbaits that are known for catching trophy largemouth bass. Most recently big bass hunter Manabu Kurita used the company’s “mother” swimbait to land the previous record bass out of Lake Biwa.
An assortment of hand carved, hand painted Roman Made baits

B.Hiroshima: Thank you for taking the time to talk with us, let’s start with a little about yourself, what region of Japan are you from?

Mr.Takeyama: My home is in the Gifu Prefecture and Roman Made the company is in the close vicinity of Lake Biwa in the Shiga Prefecture. We are very fortunate to be able to field test on one of the best lakes in the world.

B.Hiroshima: When did you make your first lure and what inspired you?

Mr.Takeyama:  I was 12 years old when I made my first lure. My inspiration came from a topwater lure that was made in the United States. The lure was indispensable in having conversation with the fish and left a very big impression on me. I believe the fish become older and wiser day by day, so  discovering and conceiving new ideas is what drives me. Endless offense and defense is something I very much enjoy!
The Roman “Trick” swimbait

B.Hiroshima: When did you start Roman Made and how many people work at the company?

Mr.Takeyama: The company was established in 2006 and incorporated in 2009. There are six people with the company currently.

B.Hiroshima: What bait makers in Japan do you look up to?

Mr.Takeyama: Mr. Kazumasa Okumura (Deps’s President)

B.Hiroshima: Are Roman Made lures carved within your company or by another manufacturer?

Mr.Takeyama: We make every lure by hand in-house at Roman Made.
The topwater “South” swimbait is designed for deadsticking

B.Hiroshima: Do you see an advantage of using wood versus plastic?

Mr.Takeyama: Wood is a natural material and I believe it triggers a different reaction. Even though wood is not the most stable to make lures from I believe it is advantageous to the fish by it’s own instability. There are no obstacles within movement because each lure at Roman Made is tuned one by one.
The famous “Mother” and smaller “Negotiator” swimbaits

B.Hiroshima: What inspired you to make the big 12″ Mother bait?

Mr.Takeyama: After speaking with Mr. Kurita we came up with the Mother swimbait to locate and capture giant bass over 70cm-80cm in Lake Biwa. We tried many different prototypes that ranged in size from 18,20,27,30,35 centimeters and ended up settling on 30cm and 300 grams (11.8 inches 10.5oz). The results were different with this lure and fish showed more of a reaction to it. Not only would it catch smaller fish but it would drag out schools of several bass over 60cm often on Lake Biwa. I think the Mother swimbait offers an overwhelming sense of existence to the fish and has an instinctive power that varies from other lures. It is constantly evolving since we have learned so much from fishing it. For example a back hook modification was produced with a hint obtained from the new Mother’s practice, and was sold only in a limited number last month.

B.Hiroshima: How much time does it take you to make a bait like the “Mother”?

Mr.Takeyama: Each bait takes about 12 hours to make so we can do about 300 a month.
A “Mother” fish

B.Hiroshima: What bait of yours is your favorite to fish?

Mr.Takeyama: It is hard for me to rank them since all the lures have been released over time. However I want people to use the Mother at least once, I think it will open doors without fail.
The old Lake Biwa Record 18lbr. caught on a Roman Made swimbait

B.Hiroshima: Is there anything that you would like to tell people fishing outside of Japan?

Mr.Takeyama: I would like people in the United States to try Roman Made lures. After last years world record tie it came to be said that Japan (Lake Biwa) has the best bass fishing in the world. Previously the Lake Biwa record was caught on the Mother swimbait by Mr. Kurita. Since both of these fish have been caught there are a lot of people who fish the Mother of 12 inches on Lake Biwa. I am actually witnessing huge bass that are bigger than the bass of last year’s world  record tie in Lake Biwa. I am convinced that Mr. Kurita will catch one of these bass in the near future, he chases trophy bass every day. Will the next world record be caught in Japan or the United States? I do not know but I am hopeful that it is caught on a lure that has the soul of Roman Made.
A “Mother” swimbait with a rear hook modification

B.Hiroshima: Thank you for spending time with us and we look forward to seeing more Roman Made baits here in the U.S.

To find out more about Roman Made Swimbaits visit the company’s website

A Little Big Bait Perspective from Larry Dahlberg……

Ever since watching the Hunt For Big Fish show for the first time I’ve anticipated each new show with a huge set of eyes and ears. So many ideas and perspectives are shared from arguably one of the most humble and respected anglers on the planet.  I had a chance to do a little q&a with one of my heroes here’s how it went….

xtrachewy:Not many people can say they have fished every continent for exotic species, held many unaccounted line class records, designed and patented some of the most innovative lures and fishing rod accessories, authored and co-authored many great articles/books for the likes of the In-Fishermen, guided for over 25 years, helped restore fishing communities by serving on the board for the Fish America Foundation, edited and produced soundtracks for a fishing show that has aired once a week for the last 16 years! and have even answered questions and acted as moderator for your own fishing forum ( would have to invite a friend over just to help wear a hat on every finger and toe to keep up with you Mr Dahlberg! how do you do it?!

LD: I get up really early!

xtrachewy: I bet there’s no shortage of coffee at your house! what is your earliest fishing memory that has stuck with you over the years?

LD:I still remember my first fish very clearly. I was 4 years old and caught it ice fishing. I was never the same again. From then on all I wanted to do was fish. While the other kids were swimming or water skiing I was fishing. At age six, I was allowed to go alone to the little reservoir a couple blocks from my house as long as I wore a life jacket. I was there just about every day at daylight all summer long and would come home for supper.

xtrachewy:I’ve read you used to be a fishing guide before you were old enough to drive a car? what kind of fish did you guide for and where? and do you miss it?

LD:I began guiding at age eleven on the upper St Croix river for smallmouth bass. I strictly guided fly fishermen because my dad wouldn’t let me show anyone where the muskies were!I miss being on the water every hour of every day and having only to worry about where my next fish was coming from.

xtrachewy:where was your first trip outside of the United States and for what species?

LD:My first trip outside the USA was to Belize in the mid 1980’s, where I caught bones, tarpon, snook, sharks, snappers, groupers and a 114 pound wahoo. I think the second place was Venezuela for peacock bass in Guri Reservoir before it was at full pool.

xtrachewy:Having fished for so many different species what is your favorite species to fish for big or small?

LD:That’s a tough question. I love river small mouths on topwater. I love muskies, especially when they follow and don’t bite.Tiger fish, peacocks and golden dorados are great. Atlantic salmon are amazing. Giant Trevally are beyond belief.But, perhaps more than the individual fish, the environment the fish is found in and process by which one catches it is what moves my fun meter. I fish to experience the fish. If I can be in a situation where I see the fish
before I cast and get to watch it and hear it and experience it with as many senses as possible, that’s what I like best.

xtrachewy: And of course the question everyone wants to know…what in your opinion is pound for pound hardest fighting fish in both fresh or saltwater?

LD:Hands down it would have to be any member of the tuna family. Only problem is they don’t jump and most fights are pretty much the same.

xtrachewy:with all the trophy sized fish you have caught how does one release so many potential world records?

this 8 1/2 foot Lau-Lau Catfish if reported would shatter the rod and reel catfish world record by more than 100lbs!

LD:Easy, just let them go! When I did the first pilot for HFBF I was going to see if I could break and register some world records. I’d figured out a temp thing where giant lake trout intersected with the arctic sucker spawn and figured I could get them on big Divers.In the first morning I broke every line class record and it felt wierd. Non-organic. All of a sudden, for the first time in my life it wasn’t about the fish. Also the weighing and measuring and documenting was uncomfortable to me because I knew it was taking too much time and even though we were keeping the fish in the water as much as possible I knew I was risking post release mortality because of it. I tore up the registration documents, and decided the world did not need a balding middle aged jerk running around the world trying to break records. I support the IGFA, and like to use the record book as a barometer as to what “big” is.

xtrachewy:I’d like to change gears here a little bit…with the new popularity of bigger baits and swim baits growing it seems that the fishing market has really taken off….what are your earliest memories of throwing big baits? what do you see that makes them so effective?

LD:My earliest big baits were at age 6 when my dad first took me musky fishing! We used to catch some huge small mouths and walleyes by accident on them. It actually surprises me it’s taken the bass world so long to find their application.

xtrachewy:Are there any parallels to targeting trophy fish in the fresh and saltwater such as solunar phases you like to focus on?

LD:There is no question the whole solunar deal is for real. I don’t like the full moon, but 3 days on either side is usually good.If you’re fishing species that use flats and run in and out on the tide cycles, often the big tides of spring and fall can be great, especially for permit.I’ve found that if local weather and water conditions are stable the major solunar periods are remarkably consistent in terms of best activity of the day. Especially if the majors occur at dusk or dawn. Check out the book, “Moon UP, Moon Down”, by John Alden Knight.

xtrachewy:I’ve seen you throw some very interesting big baits for the exotics most of which looked homemade and unique. How long have you been making fishing lures and do you see an advantage to fishing something unique?

a variation of the Dahlberg Diver that Larry developed in the 70’s

LD:I’ve been making lures/flies for over 50 years. If you are tuned into the water and the fish, and are objective enough to actually observe what it is that makes them respond, especially in heavily fished water it is an ENORMOUS advantage

xtrachewy: Are there any tips you can give guys that want to start out making their own baits?

LD:The best advice is that number one, it’s what it does in the water, not what it looks like in your hand that matters most.Think of each category of lures as a tool that achieves a specific purpose, not an art object to enter in the county fair. I’ve been asked several times to be a “judge” for fly tying contests. How hilarious is that! The only possible judge has to be the fish itself!!

xtrachewy:I’ve read you are going to create a lure making dvd any ideas as to when that will be released?

LD:Hoping to shoot the final stuff today and should be done editing it before the end of this week. Hope to have it on the website as soon as it’s done.

Larry with a monster Minneasota frog fish…sorry guys the frog is still a prototype

xtrachewy:During the course of your show I notice you use a range of rods/reels for throwing big baits… what is your favorite all around combo for casting bigger 1-4oz plugs in the freshwater?

LD:My favorite all around reel is the Curado 300. 1-4 ounces is too big a range for one favorite rod.

xtrachewy:Do you prefer braid or mono when throwing big baits? do you ever tie shock leaders if so under what conditions and what knots do you use?

LD:I use braid 99% of the time for big baits. Usually 65#. I use either wire or hard mono which I attach with either double uni knots, twist melt, or crimps,snaps and barrel swivels depending on the situation.

xtrachewy:With the many hours and casts it takes to find success as a trophy anlger what are a few inspirational tips you can give guys that are trying to go out and throw bigger baits targeting trophy fish?

LD:With each cast you make you are one cast closer to your next bite.

xtrachewy:And last but not least I’ve read that when you pass on you have left instructions to have your remains made into lures, fished, and then snipped once a fish hits is there any truth to this?

LD:Yes, but I only want to be broken off if the lure gets hung up. I want the lure to be fished to death, or used until a fish gets it fair and square. No snipping. I’d starve to death or die of thirst before I cut the line on a fish.

I’d like to thank Mr. Dahlberg for lending his time and perspective for this interview.

Larry would like to thank Jack Links Snack foods, Shimano and Costa Del Mar for continuing to support his efforts. Without their continued support I’d not be in business. Due to  Sufix and Rapala abrogating a 2 year television contract, unless I can find a sponsor to replace them, there’s a 50/50 chance or better you’ve seen the last season of the Hunt For Big Fish.

Most of the cutting edge destinations I’ve either filmed, discovered, (or both) can be accessed by contacting Steve Yatomi at Adventure Travel Alliance.

Osaka Fishing Show part 3

This is the last of the eye candy, enjoy!

No details are overlooked in the Vagabond camp.

great lookin’ crawdad bait and an even better looking dog bait!

the big 10″ & 12″ King Hustlers are looking extra chewy

can never have enough hollow bodied baits to choose from

I bet these baits cast a mile..

some interesting paddle tails coming out of France

It’s great to see the double paddle on the Stella. I remember when the Spirex came out with this feature.

The New Revo Elite fitting right in on the big island

the Revo Salty sportin’ a sharp lookin’ handle/grip combo

some interesting UV colored finesse baits

I’d like to thank David Mery of Reins Pro Staff and French Touch Fishing for the pictures and insight. David lives in Paris,France and is a die hard multi species fisherman who also fishes tournaments. He was fortunate enough to fly over to the Osaka show and fish Biwa with fellow staffers. Merci beaucoup copain!

Osaka Fishing Show part 2

Duel spared no expense for the show with their massive displays

good lookin’ trout and ghost patterns from the Zip Baits camp

some beautiful patterns from Combat Lures!

looks like Combat has introduced a new Royalflash Jr….such a great name for a bait

this lure looks like an interesting concept….possibly similar to the Greg Silks Z-Plug?

interesting big bait from NorthCraft wondering if this is a floater or sinker?

some tasty lookin’ jigs..

tungsten making its rounds

the Crankin’ Frog sounds very interesting!

stay tuned there’s more to come!