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Tease Them to Please Them

By Russ Bassdozer

Is 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 teaser.

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 seductive come-hither.

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.


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