Let’s Look Back: “You Gotta Make ‘Em Talk” – Part 2

The late Blackie Lightfoot travelled all over the United States showing bass anglers how to use lures the people he represented were selling. Out of all the different hard baits he fished, the one he holds here was his favorite. It is a Cordell Red Fin. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

The late Blackie Lightfoot travelled all over the United States showing bass anglers how to use lures the people he represented were selling. Out of all the different hard baits he fished, the one he holds here was his favorite. It is a Cordell Red Fin. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

I wish the words I want to share in this column were easy for me to write, but they aren’t.  They will deal with the bass lure I told about in my previous Let’s Look Back column.

The lure, of course, is the Cordell Red Fin.  I detailed how my Texas friend Blackie Lightfoot once traveled the whole country showing writers and guides in different areas how the lures being marketed by the PRADCO people were best used.

As it turned out, after fishing all kinds of baits all over the place, Blackie’s favorite hard bait of the whole bunch was the Cordell Red Fin.  What he personally showed me on fishing trips we made together from Washington State to California wound up revealing why he felt as he did.

Please remember that the Cordell Red Fins I’m writing about were those that were available decades ago.  You can still find those that are presently available from PRADCO.  I do know that the exact colors Blackie favored have been changed.

As far as I know, the lure itself has not been altered.  The one Blackie used exclusively when I fished with him was the Model CO8.  It was 4-inches in length, had three size 4 treble hooks and weighed 3/8ths of an ounce.

If you look at today’s Cordell lure catalog you’ll find the Red Fins are available in several different styles and colors.  The Model CO8 is one of those listed.  I’ve not used any of the new models but I very much hope the lures still come so you can still get them to deliver the action and the sound that my older models do.

As I mentioned in my previous column, I’m convinced it’s the sound you can get a Red Fin to make when you twitch it just right that is so darned important in making the lure give you the same success it did Blackie Lightfoot.

You must listen as well as watch once you get the lure out there next to the cover you’re fishing.  I had my own Red Fins long before I met Blackie.  I’d cast them, trolled them and tried most everything I could think of.  I doubt I’d caught a half dozen bass on them before Blackie came along.

So what made the difference?  It was what he did with it once he got it out there next to the cover he was fishing.  Let me endeavor to explain.

Blackie Lightfoot often put a strip of red paint on the belly of his Cordell Red Fin lures. That's what he's doing here. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

Blackie Lightfoot often put a strip of red paint on the belly of his Cordell Red Fin lures. That’s what he’s doing here. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

With most lures you eventually discover it’s just as important to know what you shouldn’t do with them as what you should.  This is especially true of a Red Fin.  Avoid, for example, overpowering the lure.  That’s the most common mistake you can make with it.  I know because it’s what I was doing with my Red Fins until Lightfoot corrected me.

If you hanker to learn just what a Red Fin can do when bass are eyeballing the surface, cast to or beyond the cover you want to fish.  Once the lure splashes down, point your rod tip toward the water.

You don’t want to have the lure pointing right at you.  Endeavor to have it lying at an angle as you start work with it.  Don’t be in a big rush to get going after the lure splats down.

Once things have quieted down, start bringing the bait back with short, sharp flips of your rod tip.  Pause between flips.  Listen ever so carefully to the sound you’re getting with those flips.  Do your very best to remember what sound you had made with it when that first hit comes.

Don’t be in a hurry.  Slow down. Don’t use big sweeps of the rod tip.  The twitches have to be sharp, but the rod movement has to be short.  Try to make the lure do its thing without moving toward the boat.  Use a rod that has a fast, flexible tip.

Like Blackie, I always favored a rod of no more than 6-feet, sometimes even shorter, for my Red Fin fishing.  Don’t forget you’ll be working the lure with your rod tip pointed toward the water’s surface.  That’s much easier to do with a rod of less length.

Also always remember you don’t want the lure looking right at you once it lands.  It’s far easier to get the sound you’re after if your rod tip twitch is made while the lure is lying at an angle.

I’ve had excellent success fishing this bait with 20- to 30-pound Power Pro braid on my reel. If the water is on the clear side I use a leader the length of my rod along with it.  If the water is murky I tie direct to the braid.  I’ve also done about as well using 12- to 14-pound monofilament.

As I’ve already mentioned, if you have these fine lures, don’t just throw ‘em out there and crank ‘em back.  Do so, as I did far too long, and you’ll get the same sorry results I did in the beginning – no takers.  But it’s dynamite once you develop the proper sound-producing technique.

Once Blackie Lightfoot showed me how the Cordell Red Fin had to be handled to catch fish I started doing well with it myself. You can still see a Red Fin pinned to the mug of this nice fish I took out of a lake in Oregon. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

Once Blackie Lightfoot showed me how the Cordell Red Fin had to be handled to catch fish I started doing well with it myself. You can still see a Red Fin pinned to the mug of this nice fish I took out of a lake in Oregon. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

Blackie Lightfoot’s favorite color was gold.  It was his number one choice wherever he fished around the country.  He’d often run a strip of red paint along the belly of these lures.  Another of his favorites was a silver shade and he also favored silver with a blue shaded top.

I must have first ran into Blackie Lightfoot about 30 to 40 years ago.  PRADCO has changed its lure production and procedures over time and neither of the exact shades Blackie liked best are still available.  You’re not usually going to go wrong if you select a shade that matches the color of the baitfish in the waters where you use it.

Sure action is important in a surface lure, but so is sound.  Follow these procedures I’ve detailed for fishing a Cordell Red Fin.  Sooner or later you’re a cinch to discover just how true that is.