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Lure Review

As lifelike as plugs get, the Bettencourt "Real Fish" Bluegill

Date: 11/30/05
Tackle type: Lures
Manufacturer: Bettencourt Baits
Reviewer: Zander

Total Score: 8.75

It’s been a couple of years since we started fishing Bettencourt’s handmade custom lures. In this time the company’s offerings have gone from intriguing to downright beautiful. The latest offering, the “real fish” really are the company’s most lifelike yet. We take a look at the Bluegill version to see just how believable the “real fish” really is.

Bettencourt Baits "Real Fish" Bluegill Specifications

Type Plug
Material Wood, hair, leather tail
Length 5.2"
Colors/Patterns 1 available
Weights Available 1 1/4oz (floating),  1 3/4oz (sinking)
MSRP $39.95

I think at this point we can state that Nathan Bettencourt is a master lure builder. The lures he crafts are not only works of art, but they catch fish. Up till now most of the Bettencourt Baits have relied on action more than visual realism. The “Real Fish” series is where realistic look and feel and convincing swimming action intersect. On initial inspection the RFB (what we have nicknamed the “Real Fish” Bluegill) is the most realistic plug type bait we have ever examined. The finish is photo-realistic and encased underneath a thick layer of protective gloss armor. The upper and lower fins are constructed out of soft hair, while the tail is a realistically shaped and painted piece of leather. Adding to the realism are 3D eyes that protrude from the body, yet are still encased beneath the same thick gloss coat for protection. We hoped that this lure would deliver action that matched the convincing profile, if it could this just might be the bluegill imitator we have all been waiting for.


The latest Bettencourt work of art... the Real Fish Bluegill

Real World Test: Seems like a debate as old as fishing itself…do bass eat bluegill? Some anglers argue that the spines on bluegill prohibit bass from engulfing these panfish. Others argue that if Bass can take out a full grown crayfish they can handle just about anything. I for one became a believer years ago when I was fishing for Crappie one summer afternoon. While tossing tiny tube jigs for Crappie I would sometimes hook into bluegills in the process. I’d always know when a BG was on the end of my line simply by the way they fought, and whenever I had a BG on I’d crank them as quickly as possible to pry them off my jig. I stopped cranking them in so quickly after I witnessed a 5lb bass not only follow the hooked BG, but actually grab hold of it no more that 10 feet away from the boat! While I didn’t land that particular bass it was then and there that I knew I could get Bass to take a bluegill or BG patterned lure for that matter.


The Real Fish's hair fins come down to complete the profile of the bait when retrieved

Since then I have fished a number of bluegill imitating baits including the Castaic hard heads and the Jerry Rago. While these plastic baits do work they always became damaged after time, and they lacked the ability to be fished slowly in the middle or top of the water column like a diving plug. Enter the Bettencourt “Real Fish,” this is exactly where the RFB could really meet our dream bluegill bait requirements. We tested the RFB on largemouth in lakes that we could confirm were inhabited with scores of bluegills as well as local stocker lakes where we knew only bass and trout resided. We paired this rather hefty little bait up with a GLoomis MBR783C and 14lb mono line to ensure we wouldn’t lose this lure before we had a chance to adequately test it, plus the fact that each one of these bad boys costs near 40 bucks a piece!


Complete Rig for testing the Bettencourt Baits "Real Fish" Bluegill

Rod GLoomis MBR783C
Reel Shimano Chronarch 100A
Line 14lb. Trilene Big Game

With a lot of the monster plugs and swimbaits out there bass anglers are either using their flipping sticks or inshore saltwater rods to toss these hefty lures. The RFB is only about half the overall size and weight of the average plug and can be cast with just about any medium-heavy bass rod. The RFB is available in two configurations, floating or sinking. The sinking model has added weight put in at the time the lure is manufactured. Regardless of which model you toss both will cast a good distance effortlessly. If you want to cover more open water then you will want to arm yourself with a full-bodied 7 foot heavy rod.


This lure is signed and dated like all of Nathan's signature lures


Retrieving: After casting the lure as far as we could as well as experimenting with short casts by lobbing it alongside downed trees it was time to focus on actually generating strikes. The RFB floating and sinking models are fishing completely differently. The floating model is more like a traditional plug and thanks to the triangle lip is able to dive down to just over 3 feet in depth with a brisk retrieve. Left alone the lure can be tugged lightly to give the appearance of a wounded sunfish.


The tail section is on a joint like many other wooden plugs


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