Featured Lure: Panther Martin BigFin

striper fell to a paddletail BigFin

Pictured above This striper fell to a paddletail BigFin fished near the bottom in deep water on a three-way rig.

Panther Martin is known across the world for producing a wide array of freshwater lures including its famous series of inline spinners that catch everything from panfish, trout, salmon and bass to pickerel, pike, walleye and muskie. Just about every angler has tried one of their lures at some time or another. The company is, after all, marketed as: “The Greatest Fish Catcher of All Time!”

You might not know that this Port Jefferson, New York, company was also the first to bring soft-plastic swimbaits to the United States. The design, a bunker-shaped lure called the Vivif, which the company’s founder, Cecil Hoge, Sr., devised nearly 60 years ago, was based on a similarly shaped but much stiffer lure he uncovered while traveling in France.

With its focus on fresh water and the explosion of soft-plastic baitfish mimics across the globe in recent decades, Panther Martin eventually allowed the Vivif to slip into the history books. Over the past few years, however, they’ve released several new lures designed to target snook, redfish, stripers and other game fish with the goal of reentering the saltwater market. These have included the Sonic Sizzle Tail, a saltwater spinnerbait; the WeedRunner, a weedless in-line spinner that works in both fresh and salt water; and the Fluke Train, a rig that clicks and clacks across the bottom to railroad doormats.

Panther Martin Bigfin

Their most recent addition on the saltwater front is the BigFin 3-In-1 Weedless Swimbait. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I helped design this bait.) It comes in both paddletail and eeltail versions. The paddletails are available in 1-ounce, 5-inch and 2-ounce 7.75-inch versions. The eeltail sizes weigh the same, but measure slightly smaller.

With a long and slender profile like a spearing or sand eel, the BigFin gets its name from the tall dorsal fin that gives it a high enough profile to also approximate bunker, herring and other large baitfish. The fin is positioned far enough behind the head to serve as a weed guard into which the hook point can be buried, allowing it to swim effortlessly across grassy flats or around significant structure like docks, bulkheads, jetties and boulder fields. The fin is splashed with extra color, essentially putting the hook point right in the center of a bullseye.

Originally designed with stripers in mind, I’ve also used the BigFin for false albacore, fluke, blues, weakfish, snook, redfish, jacks, sea trout, sea bass, mahi, and bonito.

On one trip last year aboard the Orient Point, New York, charter boat Nancy Ann, I was having a rough night targeting stripers. Fishless at the midway point, I replaced the bucktail on my 3-way rig with a black 2-ounce BigFin and finished as both the high-hook and pool winner.

Although there’s no guarantee a cocktail blue can’t chomp off its tail, the BigFin is exceptionally durable. One 5-inch body stood up to 128 fish, including stripers to 36 pounds and several bluefish weighing 12 to 16.5 pounds before needing replacement. A second body this spring also broke the 100-fish mark before it finally tore apart.

Casting and retrieving a straight-tail BigFin around structure
Casting and retrieving a straight-tail BigFin around structure is a good way to target stripers after dark.

The BigFin comes in white/red, chartreuse, bunker, mullet, black, and translucent pearl. It features a sturdy 5/0 or 7/0 Mustad hook paired with a cut-face style jig head. Panther Martin sells the lure packaged as one rigged swimbait with two replacement tails (the tails have built-in channels for easy rigging). I like white/red best for most situations and chartreuse in discolored water. The black lure, deep and rich in color, is absolutely evil at night.

While I knew as soon as I saw its tight, wiggling action that the BigFin would slam stripers, I was surprised by how it absolutely infuriated false albacore. In fact, retrieved 4 to 6 inches below the surface, the 1-ounce paddletail version is the single most effective artificial I’ve ever thrown for Fat Alberts from both boat and beach. That it casts a mile and catches bass like crazy only sweetens the deal.

You can jig or retrieve both styles of the BigFin like any other swim shad. Work it fast, work it slow, snap jig, or bounce it along the bottom; it’s all good. The snagless nature of the lure, with the dorsal fin covering the point of the hook, doesn’t impede hooksets except, perhaps, with stripers measuring less than 14 inches. Choose the paddletail style for most calm to moderate conditions; use the eeltail version to cut a little more quickly through strong currents.

For More Information On the Panther Martin BigFin Checkout: panthermartin.com

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