Will a new lure created in his bedroom by a Texas fisherman take the coast by storm?
The few that have tried the lures from Skinny Water Arsenal think it just might.
Henry Stokes, an electrician in San Antonio, lives in Von Ormy, but has been a kayak tournament fisherman on the coast for 8 years.
“It was frustrating — you were pitching top-waters and the treble hooks would catch the grass and spook the reds,” he said.
Inspired by his father, who died four years ago, Stokes decided to try to do something about it in August, 2010.
“I grew up fishing with him at Rockport,” he said. “In the 70s, he was one of the first to create a livewell for shrimp and he had all sorts of fishing creations. He never would patent anything he created, though.
“I decided to try to make a soft plastic lure with action that had a slow sink rate and would stay weedless.”
The process involved a lot of trial and error.
“I looked at all the lures out there and saw what parts I liked and what was missing,” Stokes said. “I had never made lures before, so I had to teach myself. I learned about materials for the molds and the lures, and formulas to harden or soften the plastic.”
The hardest part was making the hard casts out of resin that you need to make the molds.
“They looked terrible at first,” he said. “It took until December before I was satisfied with them.”
Skinny Water Arsenal was born, with lures named the Stoker Twitch Tail and the Stoker Rat Tail in four colors: Airborn Assassin (purple), Bean & Cheese (brown/chartreuse), Gold Rush (shrimp with gold flakes) and Moon Glow. The Stoker ST (shrimp tail) lure is coming out soon.
Stokes took the lures to Dean Thomas, owner of Slowride Guide Services in Port Aransas and currently the exclusive dealer of the lures, for testing.
“It’s a soft plastic body with the hook rigged inside,” Thomas said. “It has a real natural action and swims very buoyantly.”
The weedless nature impressed Thomas.
“The trick is the shape of the hook and the wire — it rides with the point of the hook against the body of the lure,” he said. “People have been modifying lures for years to deal with grass, but hiding hooks in plastic costs you fish.”
The hook-up ratio passed the test as well.
“The hook moves like a hinge when the fish hits it,” he said. “The lure is grass free but the hook is exposed when the fish hits it. “We release a lot of fish, and this hook gets them right around the lips.”
Stokes tested the lures himself, but also sent them to Port Mansfield guide Ruben Garza, Jr. of Snookdude Charters.
“At first, I thought it was just another bait to try,” Garza said. “The first day, I fished with Dean and we caught trout 28, 27 and 26 inches long and good numbers of 4- to 5-pound trout. The next day a customer caught a 28-incher and I caught a 30-and-a-half inch trout that weighed more than 9 pounds.”
Garza said the lure is truly weedless and durable.
“There were floating grass mats and I casted into them just to see,” he said. “The lure came back without any grass on it. And it’s very durable. I used one for several days and caught a lot of fish on it before it was too torn up.”
Most of the fish were hooked on the side of the mouth just like a circle hook, Garza said.
“And the ones that sucked it in, the single hook was easy to remove. I was able to release the 30 1/2-incher and it had swallowed it.”
Stokes said new equipment will allow him to make more lures in his free time and hopes their success could eventually replace his day job.
Thomas, though, was waiting on Stokes to ship him more lures.
“We can’t keep them in stock,” he said. “There are cars sitting here with people waiting to buy them when we pull up.”
Capt. Ruben Garza, Jr. (832) 385-1431
Slowride Guide Services (361) 758-0463