Say Hello to Teddy Cat… The History

By: Captain Ted Peck

            I have been a fan of blade baits since the early 1960’s when walleyes below the Bellevue dam on Pool 13 slurped in Sonars on fishing trips with my Dad.

            We used to fish ‘em on braided Dacron line—the granddad of today’s superbraids. Monofilament was untested technology. Fluorocarbon wasn’t even dreamed of yet.

            About 30 years ago tackle pioneer Mert Wolf conceived a blade bait which gained notoriety as the Zip lure. It is still manufactured under a couple of different names. Wolf calls his the ‘Dude’.

            In 2011 firefighter Justin Blanchar and his Dad, Rob, turned the bladebait world upside down with the introduction of the Echotail, a hybrid blade with a Kalin grub tail.

Pro angler and long time friend Ron Barefield got a couple of Echotails into my hands shortly thereafter, hooking this bladebait junkie—and hundreds of walleyes since.

            The Blanchars put me on their prostaff. Once muskie legend Josh Tiegen and walleye pros Tony Kobriger and Jesse Quale felt the Echotail vibe, they came onboard as prostaffers, too.

            Besides putting on clinics for those who share our boats and envious others all Vibrations Tackle prostaffers offer input on color and design changes for all 11 Echotail sizes.

            Back in 2014 I went on a rabid tangent about walleyes pure hatred of a little bullhead called the willocat. Walleyes and willocats are like crows and owls. When a walleye sees a willocat minor considerations like spawning or survival go out of focus. They need to kill that willocat!

            Willocats are hands-down the best walleye bait on the Mississippi where I work full time as a guide. Two factors keep them from being the perfect bait. Both involve a sting.

            At about $2 per willocat these little bullheads are extremely expensive bait. They are tough, mean little critters. You can sometimes catch two or even three walleyes off of a single, feisty little willocat.

            The second sting comes from those littlkpe horns on the top and both sides of the willocat. Toxins from these horns are amazing. I now wear leather gloves when baiting up with willocats.

            Five years ago I got “horned” in the tip of my middle finger. A half hour later my arm hung at my side, totally useless, with pain beyond description. A year after that I had a client in the boat from Arizona who insisted on baiting his own hook. He got horned. He said the willocat sting was worse than the time he got stung by a scorpion!

            Cautionary tales like this matter not to walleye nuts. We would use rattlesnakes or brown recluse spiders for bait if they caught fish.

            Perpetual whining convinced the Blanchars to come out with a willocat pattern Echotail. Like all Echotails the prototype had five holes as points for snap attachment to vary lure action in various presentations.

            Most of my blade baiting on the Mississippi is a vertical presentation, often in deeper water and/or heavier current.

            The half-ounce Echotail was the ideal bait profile, but more weight was needed to stay vertical in front of fish. It took considerable tweaking, but the Blanchars finally perfected a mold to create ¾ ounce baits on a half-ounce bait profile.

            Getting the colors just right took almost six months. There aren’t many photos of willocats available. Google ‘willocat’ and a photo of a walleye with a smile on her face pops up.

            Conversations with Justin Blanchar on the color pattern were sometimes heated. I felt like I was trying to describe a rainbow to Stevie Wonder. Justin and I are both firefighters.

After considerable debate in language proven to produce optimum results for firefighters, the final willocat color scheme was perfect when tipped with a Kalin pumpkin/chartreuse tail. We’re also plan on supplying a Jr's Jig Tail to provide another option.

            Because the biggest walleyes often linger in the heaviest junk, we went to a single treble hook positioned to make the lure virtually snagproof, however, the line sometimes gets hung up on the treble. Dual split rings solved this problem.

            A full year after the first belly cramp of inspiration Vibration Tackle’s ‘Teddy Cat’ is born.

            One is always rigged and ready on a St. Croix Avid series rod, kept in the rod box of my Lund Alaskan until ready for use because I’m afraid walleyes will charge up and dent the boat trying to get at the Teddy Cat if they see it before the net is ready.

            Blades are most effective when fished with a snap. To achieve optimum presentation with the Teddy Cat, try the second tie-hole behind the head. The middle hole will also work, especially if you use a smaller snap than the one which comes with the bait.

To be a consistently successful blade-baiter you need to feel the ‘vibe’ before the bite. My St. Croix rods and Shimano reels are spooled with 10 lb. Northland walleye braid, with an 18-inch fluorocarbon leader between the barrel swivel and the snap.

The signature series Teddy Cat is available on the Vibrations Tackle website; www.vibrationstackle.com and at Capn. Hook’s bait shop in Genoa, WI.

Is the Teddy Cat the best walleye lure in the history of the world? Maybe not. A lure is only as good as the angler at the other end of the line. Keep your line in the water with the Teddy Cat on the business end and you’ll catch fish. That’s a fact.

 

Justin Blanchar

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