Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Luremaker loves proving the power of plastic artificial baits

TIERRA VERDE — The cold weather had the fish hunkered down and unwilling to bite.

"I am sure we can make something happen," Eric Bachnik said. "We just have to give it a little time."

Bachnik, whose family manufactures a line of popular artificial baits sold under the brand named MirrOlure, had something to prove.

"I am telling you, they really do work," the 41-year-old luremaker from Largo said. "I know the fish are here."

The red and white 52 M11 MirrOlure, which perhaps has been the best-selling artificial bait in Tampa Bay for more than 40 years, sets the standard for all hard-plastic, slow-sinking plugs.

But on this cool April morning, Bachnik was demonstrating MirrOlure's latest product, a soft-plastic bait. Some might believe MirrOlure's venture into the already-overcrowded jig market a foolhardy endeavor.

"We think we have a superior product," Bachnik said. "We think the fishermen who try it will agree, too."

Family tradition

Bachnik comes from a long line of tacklemakers. In 1937 his grandfather, Harold LeMaster, built his first lure, a bass plug, in Illinois.

Ten years later, after moving to Florida, LeMaster saw a fisherman using a homemade lure that flashed in the sun. That is when the proverbial light bulb went off over LeMaster's head.

LeMaster started making saltwater lures. When retrieved through the water, LeMaster's plug flashed just like a baitfish. What separated his lure from other artificial baits was an internally mounted mirror, which didn't scratch or wear off even after it had been hammered by two or three snook.

The luremaker eventually came up with so many designs, he needed an easy way to keep track. So LeMaster developed a numbering system instead of racking his brain for a bunch of silly names such as "Snook Slayer" and "Trout Terror."

The company's 52 M11 soon became one of the most popular-lures in Florida. Today, the Largo-based L&S Bait Company sells its products all over the Southeast, as well as Central and South America.

The jig wars

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, soft-bodied plastic baits, commonly referred to as "jigs" by the angling public, made great inroads into the artificial bait market.

These soft-bodied baits, which resemble everything from shad to shrimp, quickly became the kings of the midwater depths between the grass beds and the surface.

Florida companies such as 12 Fathom, Cotee, Love's Lures and D.O.A. do brisk business with inshore anglers in search of snook, redfish and spotted seatrout.

Bachnik, who has a business degree from the USF, realized that his company was not fully serving its legion of loyal customers.

"We put a lot of thought into it," said Bachnik, who loves the "field research" part of his job. "I am a fishermen, and these work as well or better than anything else out there."

So far, the company has come out with four styles — a 5-inch soft mullet twitchbait (available in 12 colors), a 4-inch soft minnow split tail (10 colors), a 4-inch soft shad paddle tail (14 colors) and a 3-inch soft sardine paddle tail (10 colors.)

But the big question was do they work?

The field test

To help with his demonstration, Bachnik enlisted his 36-year-old friend from St. Petersburg, Dean Pickel, whom he nicknamed the Grand Master Angler, G.M.A. for short, because of his two-year winning streak at local flats tournaments.

"We fish hard," he said. "We cover a lot of ground … constantly casting."

Bachnik and Pickel started firing off the new MirrOlures. They worked off the bow, literally like clockwork — casting to 11 o'clock, 12 o'clock, 1 o'clock, 2 o'clock — covering the entire grass bed.

They soon started catching ladyfish. Then a big bluefish grabbed a bait.

"The thing I love about these lures is their durability," said Pickel, unhooking a small trout. "You can catch six fish and still not have to change out the tail."

Pickel caught a few more trout, including a couple of keepers, but Bachnik was not satisfied.

"I want a redfish," he said. "I know they are here."

Several times, the anglers spotted a school of reds moving across the flat, but the fish were hanging in shallow water, just out of reach.

Then Bachnik changed his strategy. He stopped, pulled up the trolling motor and let the fish come to him.

It took a few minutes, but his patience and persistence paid off. A 3-inch soft sardine, pinfish color, twitched a few times in the grass bed, then the line went tight. A few minutes later, Bachnik had his red. "Now this is what I was talking about," he said.


What does it cost?

MirrOlure's new soft-plastic baits are available at most tackle shops for $4.49 a package (eight or 10 count). Go to

Luremaker loves proving the power of plastic artificial baits 04/30/09 [Last modified: Thursday, April 30, 2009 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Thursday's Rays-Yankees game

    The Heater

    The 10 strikeouts look flashy, but RHP Chris Archer was not his sharpest Thursday. He allowed three runs on seven hits, including three straight in the two-run second and a Gary Sanchez homer in the third, and lasted only six innings, throwing 102 pitches.

  2. Rays fall to Yankees in 11 on Brett Gardner homer (w/ video)

    The Heater

    NEW YORK — The front office did its part Thursday, making two trades to bolster the roster in a push for the playoffs. But the Rays didn't follow up in a frustrating 6-5 11-inning loss to the Yankees.

    Rays reliever Andrew Kittredge stands on the mound and can only watch as the Yankees’ Brett Gardner starts to circle the bases after his walkoff home run leading off the 11th inning.
  3. Believe it! Rays are buyers, trade for reliever Dan Jennings and 1B/DH Lucas Duda

    The Heater

    NEW YORK — Dan Jennings' ability to render lefty hitters useless with a sinker that gets beaten into the ground and Lucas Duda's power to blast baseballs off and over outfield walls should make the Rays better.

    Lucas Duda
  4. Bucs' direction is decidedly up for first time in several years


    TAMPA — If you want to see a team give the Heisman Trophy stiff-arm to expectations, check out the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    Tight end O.J. Howard, left, the Bucs’ first-round draft pick this year, was brought in to give QB Jameis Winston another big-play option.
  5. Rays at Yankees, 7:05 p.m. Friday, New York

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Yankees

    7:05, Yankee Stadium, New York

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Austin Pruitt (50) in the dugout during the ninth inning of the game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays on Opening Day at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, April 2, 2017. The Tampa Bay Rays beat the New York Yankees 7-3.