Taking it to the max

Alex Coolman

In the aesthetically rarefied world of fishing lures, there are

different schools of thought.

Some prefer the minimalist works--the dainty flies with hand-crafted

precision that almost elude comprehension.

For the big-fish hunters who need immediate impact rather than subtle

nuance, there's nothing quite so satisfying as maximalism.

In a strange, lure-oriented grotto at Bongos Sportfishing shop in

Newport Beach, maximalism reigns supreme.

The truly massive pieces are suspended from the ceiling, where the

only illumination comes from a creepy blue light overhead and the air is

filled with the sound of twinkling chimes.

They are squid or, at any rate, squid-like in form.

Bulbous and rubbery, with clammy, florescent tentacles, the lures hang

like so many perverse salami in some twisted version of an Italian deli.

One of the squid is imprisoned in a plastic bag. Its rubber flesh is

flecked with gold and purple glitter flakes. The label on the bag reads

"B2 Squid. High-Tech Hootchie."

What can be the possible justification for these creatures?

"They're used primarily for shark fishing," said Bill Gorham, captain

of the boat Tailchaser, which is one of the vessels that takes Bongos

charter customers out for fishing trips. "They're also used for bluefin

tuna."

It turns out, Gorham went on to say, that there is an extensive body

of theorizing behind the gross matter of the lures themselves. Men have

been wracking their brains for years to determine how, exactly, a bunch

of rubber and dye can be made to simulate vigorously flipping marine

life.

"There's two basic theories," Gorham said. "One theory is you try to

match the ambient light conditions. The other theory is you try to

contrast."

Gorham is in the camp of the contrasters. He likes to use bright

lures, like the fluorescent squid, on dark days and black lures when the

sun shines.

But perhaps more difficult to fathom is the psychology of that strange

creature, the lure-buying customer. The best lure in the world won't

catch any fish if it does not first attract the angler's gleaming Visa

card.

Gorham stated it most clearly: "The guy has to look at the lure and

say, 'If I were a fish, I'd eat that.' "

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