In the United Kingdom, France, and Spain swims a close relative of the striped bass, the European sea bass. To know what one looks like, imagine a smaller striper, and remove the stripes. Much like the striped bass in the Northeast, the European sea bass is the most popular and sought-after species in the countries where it swims. Also not unlike the striped bass, the European sea bass fishery has been poorly managed, and commercial netters have been allowed to target spawning aggregations, sending the population into freefall. European surfcasters hoping to catch this beleaguered species have become extremely particular about their tackle and lures.
Two of the European sea bass lures that have passed muster with both fishermen and fish are the Xorus Patchinko and the Xorus Asturie. These have been the bestselling topwater lures in Europe for 10 years running and, thanks to Patrick Sebile and the Striper Cup, they’ve been making their debut on our side of the Atlantic this season.
Sebile is distributing the lures under his company, A Band of Anglers. He began his business with the goal of bringing together like-minded fishermen and tackle designers to produce innovative and effective lures and tackle. His first offerings were under the Ocean Born brand of long-casting plugs and jigs. In the intervening years, A Band of Anglers has introduced new designs from Sebile like Hyperlastics (incredibly tough soft plastics), Up ‘N Downs (vertical baits), and Engage (twitch baits). The company has also begun distributing lures such as Spooltek and Xorus which, though not designed by Sebile, have gained his stamp of approval.
In his native France, Sebile fervently pursued European sea bass. He says they are similar to stripers in many ways, but whereas a school of striped bass may number in the hundreds, overfishing of European sea bass has resulted in schools that may number fewer than 10, which means pickier fish. A school of several dozen stripers may get competitive over a lure, leading one to strike before one of its schoolmates can. Without that competition, European sea bass can afford to be finicky.
“Any lure can catch when the fish are biting,” Sebile told me one recent afternoon on a Cape Cod beach, “but only the best lures can trigger an inactive fish to bite.” And that’s what he loves about Xorus Lures. He proved his point by bringing three stripers to the surface under difficult conditions.
The Patchinko is a small, slender lure that has the appearance of a shrunken pencil popper. It dances in much the same way, and its snappy cadence creates a tight walk-the-dog action.
The Asturie is larger in both length and profile and, according to Sebile, is one of the furthest casting floating topwaters on the market. This bait’s profile, especially the tapered nose, reduces turbulence and allows it to cast longer. The Asturie works in both a tight walk-the-dog action and a wider, side-to-side glide. Sebile changes up the cadence through the retrieve until the fish let him know what they’re looking for. On a straight retrieve, the Asturie will actually dive a few inches below the surface and swim with a subtle action, almost like a needlefish plug.
Both lures have a low-frequency rattle that gives off a fish-attracting sound during the retrieve. Both are available in multiple sizes, but the largest models are of the most interest to striper fishermen. The Xorus Patchinko 140 measures 5 ½ inches and the Asturie 150 is just shy of 6 inches, though Sebile says that even larger sizes are on the way.