Talk to 100 different anglers about the benefits and disadvantages of hand-poured versus injection-moulded soft-plastic lures and you’ll get 101 different responses.
Every angler, it seems, has an opinion.
But what are the facts?
Are hand-pours always better or is there a role for injection-moulded soft-plastic fishing lures? To find out the answers, I went straight to the experts, good friends Mike and Mary Nabulsi, who have made a big name for themselves and their BASS MAGNET and WATER WOLF Lure companies by manufacturing some of the finest soft-plastic baits in the country.
“The majority of soft-plastic fishing lures are made from plastisol, which is a vinyl plastic,” Mike says, “You can make lures as soft or hard as you like by simply manipulating the ratio of resins and plasticizers to change the plastic’s durometer.” Both hand-pour enthusiasts and injection machine operators use a variety of plastisol formulas to create baits with different degrees of hardness and softness. So, a hand-poured drop-shot bait can be as soft as an injected Senko-style stick worm. It simply depends on the type of plastisol that you work with, he explains.
Interestingly, Mary told me while raw plastisol is a liquid, when you heat it up to 320ºF it catalyzes and become a solid as it cools.
“Hand-pouring takes a bit longer than hand injecting because you’re actually pouring the plastic into open face moulds,” Mary says. “We often hand-inject to speed up the process using the very same plastic. We add the colorants and glitter before we pour the baits and dip the tubes. After sitting in the moulds for about ten minutes, we remove the baits and let them cure for at least 24 hours.”
Of all the lures that the Nabulsis make, tubes jigs are one of the most demanding. And while they can make them using the injection process, the Nabulsis prefer to dip them by hand.
“It’s the same process the pioneers used to make wax candles,” Mike says. “Once we build up the walls to the proper thickness, we cut the tails with a pneumatic press and then carefully package them. A lot of anglers fail to appreciate that soft-plastic lures can take on a new shape if they are not stored properly. If they become bent they will take on the new shape and remain that way, so we take great care to package them properly.”
Still, I wanted to know the answer to the $64,000 question. Are hand-pours better than machine made or hand-injected soft-plastic baits?
“There’s no one secret bait that catches fish under every condition,” Mike says with chuckle. “That’s why manufacturers offer such a wide variety of lures. While the manufacturing method will often have a bearing on how a specific soft-plastic lure fishes when you put it in the water, it’s not so much a case of being better as it is different.
If that is the case, then, why do so many anglers believe that hand-poured baits are better?
“It go backs to early 1980s,” Mary explained, “when injection baits had not fully evolved. Back then it was probably true that hand-poured plastics were better. But, today, both methods can produce equally soft baits.”
Listening to Mike and Mary explain the nuances associated with soft-plastic lure making reminded me of something that Dr. Keith Jones, the inventor of Power Baits once told me. You can actually make a lure that fish find too soft.
“It’s true,” Mike confirms. “Certain soft-plastic lures require firmer plastic to achieve their action. A swimbait, for example, needs a firmer tail section so that it has the resistance in the water to roll back and forth as the tail shimmies from side to side. If you use plastic that is too soft, the tail will roll back and forth and the lure will have no action.
“On the other hand, if you use plastic that’s too firm, the swimbait’s tail will be too stiff and the lure will roll over onto its side. That’s why it’s so critical to choose the correct plastisol in order to obtain the optimum action for the lure.”
Mary was quick to point out, as well, that the texture of a soft-plastic bait is important. A soft stickbait represents a nightcrawler, she said, whereas a firmer tube bait typically mimics a crayfish. When a bass or walleye picks up the lure, it will often hold onto it longer if it feels like the forage it is feeding on.
Finally, with so many soft-plastic lures on the market these days, how do Mike and Mary counsel anglers in terms of keeping up with the steady stream of new arrivals?
“It can become overwhelming,” Mike says, “but I always tell anglers to read magazines such as Outdoor Canada and to use the internet to find articles on the soft-plastic lures that anglers are using to catch the species of the fish that interests them the most. Then keep it simple. Pick a couple of proven lure styles and a few different colours.
“And spend time fine tuning your terminal tackle. Experiment with different size and shape hooks and weights to find what works best with your lures. When you do this, your catch rate will soar, along with your confidence.”