One of the most interesting new fishing lures to hit the market this fall comes from Lunkerhunt, which has produced a number of unique baits over the past few years.
The company’s newest hollow-bodied topwater lure, the Phantom Spider, caught my eye as soon as I saw a video debuting the lure this summer. Evidently, it caught the eye of other anglers, as well, as it was voted the Best in Category winner for freshwater soft lures in the New Product Showcase at this summer's International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades, or ICAST, in Orlando, Fla. — and against some strong competition, to boot.
But the question remained — is this lure as good as the voters say it is, or were they simply drawn in by a gimmicky lure meant to catch anglers instead of fish?
Thanks to Lunkerhunt, I got a chance to test out one of the Phantom Spiders early and make an assessment on the bait. And, perhaps shockingly to some, I can say for certain that it will get bites.
Whether or not you can get a hookset or not, however, is a little more of a challenge.
My first time using the lure was in a large pond that was new to me, but was known to have some big bass in it. However, it was an exceptionally hot, cloudless day — the heat index was 111 degrees Fahrenheit — and August fishing is difficult even during the best of conditions. We headed to a part of the pond where a creek flowed into it, delivering cooler water and perhaps some food and nutrients.
We fished the area pretty hard with a variety of lures, ranging from bass jigs and spinnerbaits to a Ned rig — which was the only one to catch a bass, a 10-inch dink.
As the sun started to set, I tied on the spider and gave it a chuck. At first, I thought the lure was going to be a dud. The legs didn’t seem to move nearly as wildly as they did in the video, and the lure took on a surprising amount of water for a topwater bait, causing me to have to squeeze the water out of the body of the spider nearly every other cast.
I honestly thought for a second it was nothing more than an expensive Halloween decoration.
However, the longer I fished it, the more naturally the lure’s appendages seemed to move as I twitched and popped it across the water. Pretty soon, I got a bite that I wasn’t ready for and missed the hookset. Then, I got a couple more.
Eventually I was getting bites consistently, on just about every cast, including a few big blowups, but was still having a hard time getting a hookset. The bass seemed to either hit the lure and then spit it out real quick or hit it defensively with their mouths closed. I think they were testing it a bit, as it was undoubtedly something completely new to them.
Upset I missed out on some big fish — but pleasantly surprised by how well it attracted bites even in the tough conditions — I took the lure home and examined it a little more. I decided the problem was the hooks weren’t exposed enough along the abdomen of the spider, and I used a pair of pliers to bend them out far enough that when I ran a finger across the back of the spider, it would get pricked by the sticky-sharp hooks.
This is pretty common with a lot of frog-style hollow-body lures, especially ones that are bulkier on the back end or have a thicker plastic body with less give. It’s a good practice in general when using these types of topwater baits to bend the hooks up and out to get a good contact point, which dramatically helps increase your hook-up ratio. Waiting two to three seconds before setting the hook also is a good idea, as it allows fish time to dive under and get a better grip on the lure with their mouths. Some of my misses were either from being too early or too late on the hookset. I’m a bit out of practice on frogs, to be honest.
My second time out with this test lure ended up being my last, unfortunately, but it wasn’t for a lack of excitement. I was fishing a different pond this time, hoping to get some good topwater action in an area where I knew there were many smaller bass that would be hungry. This is usually my test pond for new lures to try to keep the variables to a minimum.
It being August, however, I couldn’t even buy a bite from a bass, and ultimately ended up settling for some crappie fishing instead, as they were the only species that seemed interested in eating.
However, before I started targeting slabs, I once again took out my trusty Phantom Spider and began throwing near the edges of vegetation. The pond was in an interesting phase after being treated for weeds, where the surface vegetation that had been matting up was mostly gone, but there was still a ton of vegetation underneath the surface that was tangling up our lures pretty bad. Perfect topwater conditions.
I threw the spider into the weedy area, and this time it didn’t take on nearly as much water as it did in the open water, so I was happy about that. After several minutes of tossing the lure, I got a big blowup and something actually seemed to be taking off with the lure.
I hammered back the hookset, but something unusual happened — the 10-pound braided line snapped up near the middle of my rod as the fish dove into the weeds. I've never had this brand of line snap on me before.
The line flew off the rod and into the pond and floated there tauntingly. However, I was able to snag it after a couple casts with my crappie pole and tried to reel it in by hand. I could feel the heavy tension of something big hung up in the weeds, and kept trying to pull it to me. Unfortunately, whether it was the suction of the thick weeds or the power of the big fish, the lure finally snapped off of my fluorocarbon leader.
My best guess is it was a good-sized catfish that hammered the frog and then got tangled up in the weeds, maybe even diving under a big log or something underwater to prevent me from pulling it through the weeds. I’ve never had that happen to me before, so I’m not really sure what happened. But at least it was an exciting way to say farewell to my test lure!
Overall, I’d have to say I’m cautiously optimistic that the Phantom Spider can be a solid topwater lure. I don’t think it’s as big a game-changer as some of the other unusual topwater baits are — such as Westin’s Danny the Duck or some of the rats and snakes and other odd critters that bait companies are producing these days — but I like it and I think bass and other fish will hit it consistently, if for no other reason than it is something different than what they’re used to seeing.
I also was surprised at how small it was — just 2 inches long and a fourth of an ounce in weight — as it looked a lot bigger in the video I saw. However, despite its small size, it actually casts really well on my 7-foot, light-action Berkley Cherrywood rod.
I like the color options that are available, too. The lure I was sent by Lunkerhunt was bright yellow with black legs (the color pattern is called Poison), but there’s also a more subtle yellow and black option (Six Spot), as well as brown and black (Dock), green and yellow (Leaf), White Wolf and a black widow pattern called Widow Maker. I’m going to order a black widow pattern and see how they bite on a more native-looking spider. The lures retail for $8.99 and can be purchased at http://www.lunkerhunt.com, as well as other online retailers and in stores.
It’s a fun lure to throw and something that I think can be effective with a few slight modifications and the right retrieve. The spider profile itself seems to be a pretty attractive target for bass, and it will be interesting to see if Lunkerhunt adds bigger or even smaller size options in the future. If you like throwing frogs, this is a good changeup lure to have in the arsenal that can get you some extra bites on a tough day when none of the usual stuff seems to be working.
And if nothing else, take the hooks out and it’s a pretty entertaining cat toy.