Tease Them to Please Them
there is such a thing as tradition on the striper coast?
I think that there is. Therefore, traditionally, the very best
teasers are made from "strung saddle hackles" of the
highest QUALITY grade (so important!). What that means is that
the feather merchant sets aside the softest, longest, supplest
feathers, which are then strung onto a long line by a laborer
using needle and thread.
Expensive teasers? Yes, but worth
it to some striper nuts including myself. You want the grade of
strung hackles which are very long to start with, between
6-9" LONG. Although your strung saddle hackles measure up to
9", you really only will be able to make teasers that max
out about 6". This is because when you actually make the
teasers, you will clip off and discard the fuzzy part, called the
"hurl," which covers about one-third the length down
near the butt end of the "quill." You will be tying
only the neat, gauze-like webby filaments that cover two-thirds
the length of the feathers towards the tip.
Sources for the feathers. Only
problem is that high quality "strung" feathers this
long are darn hard to find. In fact, it can be very hard to find
a source for the quality and length of hackles required for good
teasers. You will probably have to buy bulk if you can even find
it - and it is expensive. And you will probanbly want to go down
and hand-pick the strings (which are rolled up into coils) that
you will buy. But if you are a striper nut, it's definitely worth
your while to find a good "strung" hackles. These high
quality feathers plump up in the water like ballpark franks on a
grill! They exhibit what I can only describe as a living, supple,
fleshy kind of appearance and action when wet.
Please don't ask me for my source, okay?
I won't make it easy for you that way. If you want to use this
stuff, you will have to get off your butt and find sources for
it, just like I had to find it, okay?
Don't settle. Now if you decide to
take the easy way out and settle for the "loose" stuff
that you usually see jumbled into plastic bags at tackle stores,
you will still be able to wrap and catch fish with this stuff,
but the "loose" feathers this long get rough, dull and
brittle, and tend to lose desirable qualities at this length
(suppleness, sheen, glossy webbing, etc.).
Hooks to use. Apply a 4/0 or 7/0
depending on the size of the fish you encounter. A 4/0 is a good
size for school fish; a 6/0 is good for teens and low twenties
with high surf gear, and 7/0 for chance encounters with the cows
above 25 pounds. Above all, avoid using too many sizes and styles
of hooks - you will never learn to master setting the hook with
any one of them that way! Stick with extra strong O'Shaughnessy's
whenever appropriate...absolutely must be FORGED...anything else
is a rubber hook.
I use only the stainless steel Mustad forged O'Shaughnessy
hooks. This hooks has an attractive strenght-to-weight ratio;
it's a strong hook relative to the wire diameter. That's a good
reason to prefer it over other hook patterns. I think it is model
#34007 or something like that. I'm not too sure. Since feathers
hold moisture, non-stainless hooks not such a good idea. Any
non-stainless hook will rust more quickly than stainless rusts.
Stainless is far more expensive, but insurance against wet
teasers rusting overnight. Also, stainless doesn't hold a point
well. It is better to use one of those electronic gizmos to put a
little conical hone to the point AT HOME, rather than the
triangular filing that is most effective with tinned hooks.
Wrapping tips. Hold the hook bend
in a table vise or pair of hand-held needlenose vise grips. Use
white size D rodwrapping thread in a weighted bobbin, which keeps
tension on the thread when you let it hang down. Take the string
of hackles, and snip the center stem of about 6 to 8 hackle with
a very pointy scissors. Snip right where the fuzzy marabou-like
part of the feather gives way to the webbed filaments. You do not
want to tie using any of the fuzzy, frizzy part at all...so use
your fingers to strip any last fuzzy piece and/or strip a few
webbed filaments off the stem, just enough to give you a bare
stub of stem to wrap under the thread, okay? Now, start wrapping
the longest feathers first. Right side, left side, right, left,
right, left... for 6 to 8 feathers...wrap the longest ones first
and the shortest ones last. Never wrap on the top or bottom of
the hook..and it is perfect if there a gap from top to bottom
between the two halves - it creates water flow, enhanced movement
and vibration. Overall, you are looking to wrap a pennant-shaped
What more do you need to know? Well,
it would have been pretty sneaky of me not to say that the
"inside" of the feather MUST BE WRAPPED FACING THE
INSIDE of the teaser. A flytyer recently who told me that this is
the "praying hands" method of feather-tying.
Finished wrapping all the feathers? Now
just put the slighest amount of superglue on the wraps closest to
the hook eye. The superglue will wick back into the other threads
just fine. But be very careful it doesn't wick up into the
feathers. Do not build up a bulky thread head, Do not use a glob
of epoxy to build a "head n' shoulders". The only thing
a big head does is dampen out the desirable movement that water
flow gives to the the teaser the way I recommend you tie it. But
you can cover the white wrapping thread with red or whatever
color nail polish to give the fly a little color contrast and
eye-catchig appeal. Remember, a sparse teaser and less thread is
often better than overdoing it. That's it! That's all there is to
tying a feather teaser.
Colors are basic black and white. As
far as the color of a teaser, itís really not too important
relative to the other desirable qualities - action, shape,
movement, water displacement, breathing. Usually, the color is
neither the attraction nor the trigger, It is the material and
tying technique that provides the allure, the attraction, the
Most of the time, I only use all white or all black teasers
and do fine. Yes, there are days when certain prevalent bait
species or other factors make certain colors work better. For
instance, when baby weakfish become a significant presence in
late summer/early fall, I will take about 5 white and 3
fluorescent chartreuse hackles, and wrap the chartreuse on first,
then wrap the whites over them so that the whites kind of
overshadow the chartreuse, thereby imitating a baby weakfish. But
mostly THE BASS THAT I CATCH COULD CARE LESS, and I mostly use
the all white or all black feather teasers.
When not to use them. The only
time when NOT to use them is when blues are around! Most often,
you see people using teasers ahead of plastic-lipped swimmers.
But this seems to be some kind of "rule" fishermen
follow. As far as the bass go, they will slam teasers ahead of
anything you throw at them - leadheads, tins, plastic lips, metal
lips, darter, bottles, needles, poppers, pencils, live
eels...anything at all!
The biggest bass I ever caught on a feather teaser was 49.5
lbs. fished ahead of a Charlie Graves J8 tin. The tin also had an
identical-looking white feather tail that I tied on the tin's
Siwash tail hook. I have also caught more than a few thirties up
to mid-forties on white teasers fished ahead of white bucktails
and pork rinds in the surf. Why did these cows prefer the feather
teasers over the feathered tins or the bucktail/pork rinds? Did
the feather teasers look more life-like and natural than the
metal tins and leadhead jigs? Who knows or who cares. I am just
glad I was using those teasers at those times!
World record bass. Also, a
gentleman named Tony Stetzko used a black feather teaser like
we've described here to catch a seventy-something bass from the
Cape Cod surf that held the world record for a few seasons.
Three ways to attach them to othe line.
First, people traditionally use a terminal leader from 2' to 4'
long, with a snap for the main lure, and a barrel swivel to
connect the leader to the running line, and also to connect the
teaser to the barrel swivel via a short trace of line between
3" and 9" most often.
A second option is an in-line "butterfly clinch"
that creates a stubby loop sticking out from the heavy leader
line. The loop needs to be only big enough for you to pass the
eye and length of the teaser hook through it after you tie the
knot. Too hard to tell you how to tie this knot in print here.
But, the streamlined nature of the "in-line"
presentation with a butterfly clinch works nicely where long
distance casting is essential to reach the bass, and, for
instance, in front of a pencil popper.
Third, and you are lucky I am telling you this...make a TEST
TEASER! Actually two of them - one black and one white. This is
just a short trace of line with a teaser tied to one end and a
heavy black Coastlock SNAP tied to the other end. Just snap these
on and off the barrel swivel of your terminal leader whenever you
feel like doing it as you fish a spot. TEST TEASE THEM ANYTIME,
ANYWHERE! If it doesn't work, unsnap it. If it does work, you
passed the test, and you should tie on a teaser!
What else? Feathers are also the
best material to use on tail hooks for tins and for certain
topwater plugs that require dressed tails. Replace the hooks on
your tins with a stainless Siwash, and keep the feathers long on
tins (and as long as practical relative to the size of a topwater
plug). Tie exactly as described above - on the left and right
sides of the hook and facing inward. Try long feathers on both
the tail and the front treble of a big slow-rolling surface
swimmer barely moving in quiet waters - just enough to make the
feathered trebles swing and sway. It's not the meat...it's the
motion...you won't be disappointed.