This lure can prove to be the great Equalizer

OUTDOORS

May 09, 1993|By PETER BAKER

A balky boat engine had delayed the first rockfish trip of the season for three days, but by Monday evening the fuel and ignition problems had been sorted out, and the rods and tackle had been stored aboard in preparation for the following morning.

The season was new, the boat was new (to me, at least) and the tackle box was stocked with traditional silver or white No. 21 Tony spoons and a newcomer, a fat, white lure called the Equalizer Bunker spoon.

On Tuesday morning, two rods were rigged with big Tonys, one silver with reflector prism tape and the other solid white. Each was trailed behind a 16-ounce, in-line sinker and went deep immediately, pumping the rod tips lightly.

The Equalizer, purchased from the Offshore Angler catalog on a whim over the winter, went into the waters of Chesapeake Bay, causing the rod tip to pump deeply and slowly.

Fitted by its builder (Reliance Manufacturing) with a four-ounce keel weight, the Equalizer was rigged directly to a snap swivel and 30-pound monofilament. Before the spoon settled, it could be seen rhythmically swimming from side to side -- the enamel paint easily visible in the lightly stained waters east of Horseshoe Point.

By the time the new boat, the new lure and the old standbys had trolled their way across the bay to within 500 yards of Bloody Point Light, the morning had turned grim. No fish had taken even a swipe at any of the lures, and none of the fishermen on the couple of dozen boats encountered had been seen to catch a fish.

But as the turn was made to head back toward Annapolis, the Bunker spoon took a hit, the rod bowed deeply and the reel gave up line as if it had snagged bottom. Hard.

It was indeed a fish, a big fish vigorously shaking its head and BTC running off more line in 80 feet of water. Perhaps 10 minutes later the fish,almost certainly a trophy striper, was close to the boat, coming toward the transom and then running in toward the prop from the starboard quarter.

As one hand went to the shift lever to put the engine in neutral and still the prop, the other lowered the rod tip and the striper was gone -- having never been seen.

Now, this becomes just another fish story -- you know, you should have seen the one that got away, and all that.

And the Equalizer becomes just another hunk of lead and steel.

But on Thursday morning, again west of Bloody Point, the same three rods were deployed and a 12-ounce in-line sinker had been placed ahead of the Equalizer to make it run a little deeper.

Again, the Tonys did not draw a strike. The Equalizer drew one, a 38-inch striper that was measured, photographed and carefully released.

Two three-hour fishing trips certainly do not constitute a thorough field test, but two strikes on two trips from trophy fish went a long way toward convincing me that the Equalizer might be worth considering when stocking up for next spring.

There are several differences between the Equalizer and the Tonysor the Crippled Alewive spoons. Perhaps the most important to me is the keel weight.

The idea of the weight is first to keep the side-to-side motion under control. But the weight also is adjustable fore and aft, depending on trolling speed.

In my case, a 20-foot center console with a V-8 inboard trolls almost too fast for stripers. By adjusting the weighted keel on the Equalizer all the way forward, the spoon can be trolled at faster speeds without spinning.

The Equalizer, being especially broad at the head, also presents a bigger profile than either the Tonys or the Crippled Alewives.

All three spoons can be purchased in about the same length, in this case 9 to 9.5 inches. But while the Tony does not have a trailer hook, the Crippled Alewive and Equalizer do.

Here, too, in terms of hooking efficiency, the Equalizer grades out a little higher. The Crippled Alewive has a single hook trailer, the Equalizer trails a large treble.

The Equalizer loses out on price, running almost $17 from the catalog. Tonys and Crippled Alewives are considerably less expensive.

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