Powerbait: Creation of a New Bait

Developing a new bait is a painstaking process. Here’s the science behind it.

Angler casting from boat

A bass’ survival, and more so, its capacity to flourish, is dependent on its ability to locate food. Nature has equipped bass with five powerful survival senses to aid in this process: 1) sight; 2) hearing; 3) smell; 4) taste; and 5) feel. A bass’ ability to utilize these senses depends on the environment in which they live. Environmental factors such as turbidity (water clarity), for instance, can affect the degree to which one sense or senses are relied upon. As such, they must constantly adapt to their surroundings to maximize their efficiency as predators.

Much like a bass, an angler too must adapt to its surroundings to be consistently successful on the water. Fishermen utilize their angling skill set to locate and catch bass much like a bass finds its next meal. This skill set includes the ability to: 1) locate fish on sometimes expansive waterways; 2) choose an appealing bait style (i.e., worm, swimbait, tube, etc.) in an appropriate shape, size, and color which sufficiently appeals to at least one, if not more, of a bass’s survival senses; and 3) present a bait/lure in such a manner that it triggers a bass to strike, whether in a reactionary manner or due to hunger.

No matter how attractive a lure or bait is to the angler, it must appeal to a bass, and likewise, one of its senses. Many a bait has been designed, built, and sold with the express purpose of appealing to fishermen, ignoring fish along the way. The old adage “that bait catches fishermen, not fish” comes to mind.

So, how does one set out to develop, design, and build baits which appeal to bass and not just the angler? The soft plastics research and development team at BerkleyÒ have been using advanced science and testing to create the best baits for decades. Here’s an insider’s look at how they do it, from start to finish.

FROM A BRIGHT IDEA TO REALITY

Two men sitting at table discussing lure

Developing baits which consistently out-fish others’ baits doesn’t occur by happenstance. Nor does it happen with a sketch on a cocktail napkin. Berkley, an 80-plus year-old company, began in earnest, building their exhaustive PowerBaitÒ line up in 1985. In the decades that have followed, the Berkley research and development team has perfected the process

Berkley realized early on that assembling a strong, passionate resident development team was critical. So they recruited and retained a large group of professionals with formal educations (undergraduate, masters, and doctoral degrees) in chemistry, fisheries biology, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, design engineering, and computer aided design (CAD). It’s this dream team, along with an incredibly versatile support staff, which puts Berkley at the forefront of the bait development battle.

STEP 1: THE IDEA

Two men sitting at table discussing lure

Any great new product begins with an idea, and building the perfect bass bait is no different. Ever wonder where the idea for a new bait originates? The Berkley soft plastics team taps into an extensive group of industry professionals for ideas. These professionals represent all aspects of the fishing industry.

First and foremost, the Berkley team relies on its internal team when developing ideas for new baits. This team has literally hundreds of years of experience developing new baits for the market. For instance, Berkley biologists have multiple sources for new product ideas. As scientists, they keep current with the research being performed at universities and other venues across the United States. It is this research which provides them with trending data into bass behavior. It also provides an insight into any trends occurring in ecosystems which may affect the way we fish. This information is used to develop new and innovative product ideas which are responsive to biological trends.

In concert, Berkley product managers log trending data of a different sort. These professionals monitor what is happening across the country in retail outlets, tapping into an army of retailers who report the trends they are seeing at the customer level. Retailers also provide insider information on what is selling in their geographical areas and, of course, what anglers are catching fish on. Additionally, the product managers keep tabs on what specific fisheries are doing and what is successful there. This too, provides information on possible new baits.

Berkley’s expansive roster of professional anglers also participates in the generation of new bait ideas. These ideas are the result of their decades of on-the-water experience. Berkley’s pros spend their days on the water, staying in tune with what works and what doesn’t. They provide insider information on what is actually catching fish while on the various bodies of water they visit on their respective professional tournament trails.

All of this information is gathered, complied, crunched, and deciphered by the Berkley team. New bait ideas are generated, distributed, and discussed. Once a bait concept is solidified, the development process moves into the physical design of the bait.

STEP 2: KOL review on idea/concept for shape

Digital rendering of bait

Once a preliminary decision on a shape for a new bait has been made, it’s passed along to industry key opinion leaders, or “KOLs.” KOLs are professionals from across the fishing industry, representing a cross section of the fishing public.

This KOL team includes professional tournament anglers, retail representatives, dealers, professional guides, academic researchers, and product ambassadors. Each team member has been selected because of his or her fishing skill level, contributions to the fishing industry, level of education and training, and ability to contribute to the process. Each KOL provides the Berkley research and development team with feedback on new product ideas and designs.

Once a preliminary product idea has been evaluated by the KOLs and green lighted, the process moves onto the next step.

STEP 3: Design & Prototypes/Testing stage

Rack of baits

Resident Berkley engineers are now tasked with developing the preliminary soft plastic bait shapes using design parameters outlined by the research and development team. The team has at its disposal powerful computer-aided software on which to draw the new bait.

Once designed, the engineering team evaluates each shape using fluid mechanics and fluid dynamics software modules. These software programs reveal how a bait’s shape will move underwater, offering early insight into its performance.

It’s at this stage that Berkley biologists provide natural forage. Their expertise on fish anatomy and physiology plays a key role in developing new product ideas. They contribute biometric and biomechanical data for shape design, ensuring designs mimic naturally occurring forage.

Once designed, rapid prototype molds are machined in Berkley’s in-house CNC center. This world-class machining and tooling facility allows the soft plastics team to move quickly. Baits are molded, poured, and in-hand in a matter of hours, versus months or years at other companies.

The bait then moves to the initial testing stage where it spends hours in a laminar flow test tank in the lab. This tank will evaluate the bait’s shape’s interaction with varying degrees of water flows and angles of attack (i.e., various retrieves). It is here tweaks to the design are made, molds re-machined and modified. Modified baits are then remolded and go back into the laminar flow tank for more testing.

Once satisfied with a design, production-prototype baits are poured and readied for formal field testing. Prototype baits are passed along to Berkley’s professional angling team who test them on the water, determining if they will catch fish outside of the lab.

STEP 4: Production/Validation

Bait box

Product testing and validation is critical to all Berkley PowerBaits. Once final prototypes have been approved (after numerous changes and modifications), final product testing begins.

Product testing occurs over months, and in some cases years, as Berkley vets a bait’s ability to catch fish in any number of wide-ranging conditions. Baits are given to KOLs who test them in the field, under every imaginable situation.

The resident Berkley research and development team continues testing baits, both in the laboratory as well as in the field. Laboratory tests establish a bait’s efficacy. Measures include a fish’s triggered feeding response to the new designs, along with functionality, durability, usability, and form function. Baits are scored by all involved and it’s here that a bait either makes the grade or returns for more refinement or redesigning. If a bait enters into the redesign/modification process, the entire process begins again.

Baits that pass testing and are validated both in the laboratory and on the water are then passed along to the production and manufacturing team for manufacture and distribution to the fishing public.

So, there you have it! Now you know, when you catch your fish with PowerBait, it’s because that shape is packed with our science!