Hard-bodied lures aren’t as popular as they used to be, with many anglers getting swept up in the soft plastics rush. However, those anglers who are fixated on plastics probably aren’t catching as many fish as they could be if their lure arsenal included a few hard-bodies.
On top of that, the hits from fish on hard-bodied lures is something else! A jack or barra taking a soft plastic rarely gives you the massive adrenalin rush that you get when they slam a hard-body.
When it comes to travelling in barra country I always take some C-Lures. They’re still handcrafted and the range of models and colours fills almost every need for anglers afflicted with the barra or jack bug.
My first introduction to the C-Lures range was about 15 years ago when I first went barra fishing. The C-Lures deep diver (I can’t even remember the model) outfished a Rapala Shad Rap 9cm in the Daintree River, and the guide assured me that was a good sign.
Later in life when I moved up to Queensland, and with my love for hand-made Australian timber lures, I came across the 2002 version of C-Lures. The company had changed hands and Dominic Fry was now at the head of C-Lures. He had tinkered and improved the lures a little and changed a few of the models. One model that really appealed to me was the Barra Pro. It was small enough to attract the attention of jacks, flathead and trevally, yet still large enough for barra see it as just the ticket for a quick snack.
Primarily used as a snag-bashing tool, the Barra Pro has just the right buoyancy to probe the cover of mangrove roots and other haunts favoured by barra and jacks. The idea is to get the lure deep into tiger country and then seductively work it back out again. Lots of pauses and twitches gets the job done.
The first time I used the new Barra Pro was in some tropical creeks north of Weipa. Admittedly, Weipa isn’t the best test bed for a lure, because there are so many fish that almost every lure works. However, on this trip I found that two lures stood above almost everything else: the Barra Pro in orange and a bright green Barra Pro with a yellow belly. These lures pulled fish out of just about every drain I cast them to, not to mention the fish that came from the snag piles.
My favourite way to fish the lure was to cast upcurrent of the target, crank the lure down about a metre and jiggle and shake the rod tip while the current pushed the lure into the snag. The lure is only slightly buoyant so it doesn’t take too much rod work to keep the Barra Pro in the strike zone, wiggling and jiggling around like a wounded baitfish.
The barra loved it, as did the jacks and a few cod and groper. That trip cemented the lure in my must-take list for any northern safari.
As opposed to many of the imported lures on the market today, C-Lures have always been designed with tropical tuggers in mind. Firstly, they are timber. Timber lures have always been my favourite lures, in spite of timber’s design limitations. The wood absorbs the beatings of sharp-fanged fish like jacks, they rarely split down the middle when they are made from one piece of timber, and they don’t blow up from heat in your tacklebox. Timber is where lures started and they’ll always be my favourites.
The eyes and ringlets are all made on-site from stainless steel wire. This is labour intensive but it’s worth it, ensuring a tough, no-nonsense end product that won’t let anglers down in the field. The wire is formed by a press and the eyelets are glued into predrilled holes with super-tough 24-hour adhesive. Dom Fry says he’s never had one pull out yet, and neither have I.
The hooks were chopped and changed for a few years, but Dom has now settled on the popular VMC trebles. They are tough, ready to use and stand up to the pressure that barra inflict on them. Replacing the trebles affects the lures’ slow float rate, which is one of the best attributes of the Barra Pro, so I don’t change the hooks until they are so blunt or so mangled they are hard to recover.
I recommend that users flatten the barbs if they plan to release their fish. Crimping the barbs also protects unfortunate anglers who pin themselves or their fishing buddy, and makes it easier to retrieve the lure from the inevitable snag.
The large polycarbonate bib provides pretty good insurance against foul hooking snags, but the occasional annoying mangrove root will still get in the way. But as the old saying goes, if you’re not getting snagged you’re not in the game. Most times you can coerce a Barra Pro through pretty thick timber without hanging up; it’s the overhanging branches and leaves that get me every time I do a bad cast.
There’s no real limit to the fish you can chase with the Barra Pro if you’re an estuary angler. Up north, just about everything eats them – barra, jacks, threadfin and blue salmon, trevally, queenfish, cod, groper, pikey bream and fingermark, just to name a few.
The lures’ real limitation is in offshore waters, where bigger fish can really make a mess of the lures. Mackerel, trevally and tuna will eat a Barra Pro, but after a few encounters I have put the C-Lures away in favour of purpose-designed lures. Barra Pros aren’t a great offshore trolling lure at speeds likely to attract mackerel and trevally, but if you’re probing the depths of a river (to about 4m) on the troll, the Barra Pro will produce the goods.
In the freshwater rivers the Barra Pro is still attractive to fish, but it’s the bigger fish that really get excited by it. At about 9cm, the Barra Pro is a bit big for most jungle perch and sooties, and for freshwater barra and jacks, but saratoga and bigger barra are happy to whack the lure if you’re casting it around in the freshwater.
I have found the snag resistance on cast lures to be excellent, but trolled lures are a little less efficient. That said, it’s probably more my fault than the lure’s as I am a hopeless troller at the best of times.
The 9cm size also limits the lure a bit for southern use. While it would be great for flathead, there aren’t too many bream, bass or estuary perch that would take on a Barra Pro. That’s OK though, because the lure wasn’t designed for them.
The action is probably a little tight for cod and golden perch in the rivers and lakes down south, but cast it around the lakes up north and you can expect to catch barra, mega sooties and oversized bass.
All in all, the C-Lures Barra Pro is a must-have for anyone thinking about heading north. Whether you’re a Victorian or New South Welshman heading up to chase barra or you’re a confirmed Queensland barra nut, you’ll do well to grab a handful or Barra Pros.
If you’re interested in getting hold of some C-Lures, check out your local tackle store. If they don’t have them in stock they will be able to get them for you.
HISTORY OF THE BARRA PRO
The C-Lures Barra Pro was born and bred in Cooktown, in the heart of barra country.
After the business was moved to the Sunshine Coast in 1998 the Barra Pro was further refined, taking particular interest in the requirements of snag bashers. The current shape, weight, finish and action will remain the same from now on.
Available in over 40 standard catalogue colours, plus a large selection of gleaming chrome finishes, the Barra Pro is firmly entrenched in the hearts and tackleboxes of diehard snag bashers, particularly in North Queensland.
The Barra Pro is very castable at 16g, and this can be very important in windy situations. Constructed from plantation timber, each lure is hand made, hand painted and tank tested prior to despatch. Eyelets are also hand made from top quality stainless steel wire, and the split rings are also the best stainless product that money can buy. Due to angler preference, these lures are fitted with size 2 VMC trebles.
Body length - 90mm
Weight - 16g
Approx. depth - 4m
RRP - $15