As you guys know, I’m a topwater striper junkie and that means I have to try out every new bait that comes down the pike. There are, of course, tons of great surface baits out there (I’ve been a huge fan of the good ol’ Pencil Popper for decades), but I recently had a chance to try out one that already has me making permanent room in my box for it: The 5″ Striper Squirrel by Aiden James Lures
These lures are really cool — they are hand-carved out of poplar, which is a nice change from all the plastic and particle board stuff currently out on the market. But that doesn’t mean the Striper Squirrels don’t have some modern technology built in. They feature an internal rattle chamber that makes lots of noise and weight transfer system that enables you to cast ‘em like bombs. Squirrels also have a tough UV finish and a marabou tail.
But do they catch fish?
On a recent run to the Delta, I had John Rutherford out on the boat…the man behind Aiden James and the guy who builds these baits one at a time in Napa. The objective was to put his Squirrels to the test. Now, before I get you too confused here…the Striper Squirrels were originally called “Bass Brats,” a name I struggled to remember all afternoon. So, throughout the course of the day I called them everything from “fuzzy ferrets” to “striper squirrels” and everything in between. By the end of the trip, John humored me and said he was gonna start calling them the latter. They are still called “Bass Brats” on his website though…
Anyway, I was immediately impressed with the action of the bait. You can easily walk the dog with it and, due to the density of the wood, the Squirrel glides further than do plastic lures. I was able to walk it with the classic zig-zag pattern but I thought it was a bit more erratic than a Spook — an attribute I feel is really important. In my mind, the more unpredictable the action, the better the fish like the bait.
In my testing, I also found that the Striper Squirrel can also be fished in a straight forward splashing fashion — kind of like a popper. What’s really cool, however, is how you can get a combo action going — a little walk the dog with some spitting and sputtering mixed in. The results of that great action were immediately apparent. As soon as we started tossing these things, we experienced a blitzkrieg style topwater session that included lots of doubles and even a couple triple hook-ups.
What was interesting too was that the water was pretty choppy that day due to high winds…but the Squirrels had enough attraction radius to pull stripers in without a problem. But how would the fare in calm water upriver?
Well, I found out two days later when I did a trip in the Sacramento River. The first cast of the day produced a boil and a miss and then the Squirrel got inhaled on the very next cast. And then it was off to the races from there, with the lure getting eaten several more times.
I’ve only been using these lures for a week or so now but I’m in love! On the boat that first day, I gave John some feedback that he is currently putting into action. While the Owner hooks that come standard on the lures are sharp, I felt like they were a little too light wire for prolonged striper fishing (though I’ve yet to have any issues). He’s going to offer the lure with extra stout hooks in the near future. I also noticed that the marabou tail, while super cool looking in the water, takes a beating when you are removing the rear hook from fish with pliers. So, John is considering throwing a couple extra in when you order a bait.
Of course, I also really appreciate the fact that Striper Squirrels and all the other lures John sells are handmade by him, right here in the good ol’ USA.