Word on the Bite – Smart Lures Rock

smart lures rock

Word on the Bite – Smart Lures Rock

I hesitate to label any game product as a game changer before it’s stood the test of time, especially if I haven’t yet given them a thorough try myself. Then again, that’s the banter going around about a couple of relatively new entries on the block right now so I figured they might be worth a look. It is, after all, “show time” here in the Northeast and most anglers are ready to add a new wrinkle or two to their gear as a new season draws ever closer. These two items seem especially versatile and worthy of consideration.


Who can resist the smash of a fish on a surface popper? For many anglers, it doesn’t really matter what species is striking as long as it parts the water with fury. After just about a year on the market, that seems to be the standard reaction from big predators chasing down Tactical Anglers’ CrossOver Poppers and Stalkers.

“Everything has been hammering these lures,” said Alberto Knie, founder of Tactical Anglers. “Even I can’t believe how productive they’ve been. We’ve had bull redfish, huge snook, peacock bass, stripers, bluefish, tuna, pike and even largemouths already. It’s really been something else.”


Knie and his pro staffers have been banging big fish all along the Florida coast this winter but the feeling is these lures will rattle up Northeast species come spring. There’s absolutely no reason they shouldn’t considering the quality of construction and all the features worked into what Knie describes as the company’s SMART LURES line.

For starters, all CrossOver Poppers and Stalkers are through-wired for extra strength, feature internal rattling chambers for added fish attracting noise, use an internal weight distribution system to improve casting distance and balance, and sport large, recessed diamond eyes to provide maximum light reflections. Flashy red side gills are cut into the side of each lure just behind the head and are actually reversed to disperse vibration and push up more water as you work it across the surface. The Popper profile is nice and thick even though the 4-inch lure weighs just shy of an ounce. The 3⁄4-ounce Stalker has a slimmer, slightly longer profile and also features bleeding red hooks to imitate a wounded baitfish fleeing an ambush site.

CrossOver Poppers have a cupped face, of course, while the Stalkers are designed to be fished similar to a Zara Spook with a walk-the-dog style retrieve. The finishes on both models are also top shelf with life-like looking sides that appear fairly similar from pattern to pattern but with a different prominent color swath across the top and splashed across the rear sides of each lure. Knie is keen on the bunker imitation and hot candy versions.

Tactical Anglers CrossOver Poppers and Stalkers are available at TackleDirect.com and at many tackle shops across Long Island.


Even though many anglers take great pride in showing off different rod and reel combinations matched perfectly to a specific species or type of fishing, the thought of having one reel to do it all has always been a dream. For me, the idea is driven home during show season as I lug three, four or even five rod and reel combos to each seminar for explaining how to deal with different sized fish, different situations and different bait or lure presentations.

While I think there is still a long way to go before the need for only a single setup is required, Josh Fuld at J&H Tackle (JandH.com) in Oakdale has found a reel he thinks can get most anything done on the inshore scene.

“It’s the Maxel Hybrid, HY-20,” revealed Fuld, recently, “and I’ve never seen such a powerful, compact yet versatile conventional reel for such an affordable price.”

Hype aside, Fuld does make a strong case for this being the primary if not only reel you might need when fishing local inshore waters. It weighs just 13 ounces, accommodates 330 yards of 30- to 40-pound test braid, and has 28 pounds of fish stopping power with its top of the line carbon star drag system. It also features a thumb bar design that allows you to easily engage the reel – not something normally found on reels this strong. At $279, it’s very affordable when compared to reels with similar features. A left-handed version will be available in March for $299.


“This was the most popular reel in the shop last fall during blackfish season,” revealed Fuld. “We’ve had guys using it for anything from porgy to fluke, blackfish to sea bass and even cod or stripers. If you can catch it inshore here on Long Island, this reel can get the job done.”

It is quite an amazing piece if you take a good look at it. The HY-20 comes in black or silver and is built to the specks of a lever drag jigging reel. It fits easily in the palm of your hand and can be used to jig, cast or crank a big bulldog off the bottom. The reel also features an exceptionally sturdy extended handle for extra leverage and has a 5.8: 1 gear ratio.

That’s pretty impressive for such a small package. Then again, with rod technology advancing so rapidly and fishing sticks getting lighter and lighter every year, reels have been playing catch-up for some time. With its small profile and high torque capability, this one is built specifically for braid and certainly worthy of more investigation.

“It’s perfect for the angler who wants to lighten up on his gear and take full advantage of braided lines to get down quickly to the bottom without using a ton of weight,” says Fuld. “This is the future of fishing; it’s like going from a cell phone to an iPhone or VCR to digital. Spool it with 30-pound test Daiwa J-Braid and you’re ready to go.”

Pick one up during March, and you’ll also get a free pair of Mustad pliers o sweeten the deal.
It will be interesting to hear about how well this entry holds up this summer. My first impressions are that it will do quite well. Later this spring, J&H will be getting in some newly designed Sloopster rods suitable for a wide range of inshore species. Called the Dark Matter series, it’s likely they’ll be a great match for this little powerhouse conventional reel.