Castaic Soft Bait Company Re-Enters the Hard Bait Market With Their New, Platinum ROCK HARD!
Quality Issues: Back to some of the less inspiring news about this bait and some of the issues we had with initial quality. Early versions of this product were slammed left and right on internet message boards where reports could be found of the baits falling apart and
individual sections pulling free from one another. This was the first thing we checked when our group of three baits arrived and at first, we found no issues while pulling and torquing all three baits, one by one, in our hands. They all seemed solid. What a relief.
This screw eye on the rear of the bait came loose after several weeks.
But then, one day, while pulling the rainbow floater out of my Lakewood A048 swimbait box, where the bait was stored in a hanging position for several weeks, I noticed the rear section of this bait was hanging a bit crooked. A closer look revealed the top screw eye at this
joint was coming loose. I contacted Castaic Soft Bait company immediately with this problem and Jason Scott himself answered my inquiry.
An email into Castaic Soft Bait company came back with the suggestion to pull the section further apart, and fill the hole with SuperGlue before pushing the sections back together.
He was apologetic over the incident but suggested a quick solution if I cared to try. He said to pull the sections further apart, as far as they would go without too much
difficulty, and shoot some superglue into the hole where the screw eye had come loose. He reassured me this should resolve the problem, but if not, he said I could send the bait back for repair or replacement. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and tried his suggested fix. Though I was skeptical, it actually worked and worked quite well. Since that time, the bait has held up remarkably well.
I did as suggested and let the bait cure over night. It's been perfect ever since.
Another issue came with this same bait, a month or two later while retrieving it in the water, I noticed it was getting stuck and not swimming correctly as if something was wrong with the very first joint. Upon closer inspection, I found something was up - one of the screw eyes was crooked and not properly aligned to allow free, left to right movement of the connected sections. A twist with a pair of needle nose pliers corrected this problem. The bait, again is fine now.
If you look closely, you will notice the joint to the left is not in the same alignment as the joint to the right. This was easily corrected using a pair of needle nose pliers, but is an example of the inconsistent quality with these baits.
Durability: Despite the quality issues with that one bait, it and the other two in my arsenal have held up just fine over the course of a few months. They've held up surprisingly well to a few not so intentional, but purposeful, wind assisted casts up against the rip rap lined levee walls along the California Delta, and they've held together through a couple of fish.
This bait fell victim to an overcast right up into a rock wall on the California Delta. The only evidence of this mis-cast? The blemish on its cheek.
I intended to see how well one of these baits would hold up to a voracious striped bass, but was unable to get any to commit to the bait while fishing it in the California Delta. That would have been a very good tests for the joints on this bait, but unfortunately, the fish were not cooperative.
On separate occasion and aided by a gust of wind at my back, my Blue Shad version of this bait sailed into a similar rock wall on the Delta and landed with a sickening "clack" between two rocks. I managed to retrieve the bait thinking it was shattered but was happy, surprised, and relieved to see only a single broken fin on the bait.
Effectiveness: On one very bizarre morning on Clear Lake, JIP, Zander and I had ventured out on one of our many field testing fishing trips. Forecast for the day was light winds and mild temperatures. When we arrived at the lake it was cold cold cold! The light winds had already started, but nothing too severe. We launched and headed out to our first spot. When we stopped, the water was rocking and rolling as if we were out on the ocean in the middle of a tidal change. There was little to no wind, but the waves were undeniable. It was bizarre!
After about a day's use, paint does begin to wear at the joints.
I had on deck, several big bait outfits as this was, of course, right in the middle of our swimbait rod wars, but of course, I also had the Castaic Rock Hard tied onto one of the few, non-swimbait rods in the boat. I reached for this bait first wanting to see how the He711TXHC would handle the bait. I was very pleased by how natural this particular bait felt on this rod and reel combo - so much so, I didn't bother with picking up any of the other rods to get the line wet in preparation for the day. I just fished.
The bait is not without its highlights. The detailing at the front section of the bait is very good.
We were making our way around this one tule clump when off to the side, I saw a branch sticking up out of the water. It was about two or three inches in diameter and coming up at an angle. Zander and JIP were busy working the tules, so I thought, "what the heck", and made a cast over past the branch. As mentioned before, the water was rough so I was only half concentrating on fishing distracted by the need to constantly correct our course with the trolling motor. I made four or five turns of the handle when I got, what I thought was a snag. I figured I caught the branch underwater. I half heartedly swung and the snag pulled back!
The tail section is also very nice.
"Got one!" I said, and Zander immediately asked, "Net?" I acknowledged letting both of them know I was throwing a swimbait. The fish flashed and I told Zander to take his time, "looks like a four or five pounder" I said. My Superman outfit handled this fish easily as I was able to bring it right to the boat. Zander wasn't quite ready with the net, so I swung the fish from left to right, back and forth in the water to keep the tension on the line until he was. I do not like practice of swinging fish into the boat.
The Rainbow Trout pattern is well executed.
The waves continued to pound me up at the front of the boat while I was dancing with this fish and finally, Zander dipped the net in the water and I pulled the fish right in. As he swung the fish into the boat, I returned my attention to the task at hand of controlling the boat when all I could hear in the back was the hooting and hollering of my fellow editors. I could not, for the life of me, understand why they were so darn excited over a four or five pound largemouth. I guess maybe it had been a long winter?
But again, quality is inconsistent as this bait could use some sanding and/or a cleaner environment during the painting process.
I actually shushed them because there were a couple of boats in the area and I still wanted to work the spot a little more before being crowded out of it to which JIP responded by sticking the net in front of me. I looked down into the net and said, "oh wow, that IS a nice fish, isn't it?"
A molded and painted eye means there's nothing to fall off, but unfortunately, it also means its less realistic.
I pulled her out of the net, and we took some quick shots of this fish, and then, put her on the Lipper to get the official weight before releasing her back into the water. The verdict? Hardly the four or five pound fish I had predicted upon seeing her flash in the water. She weighed ten pounds even on the analog scale of the Lipper. My first official double digit swimbait fish thanks to Castaic Soft Bait Company's Hard Rock!
One last look at our three Hard Rock baits.
Availability: Pre-orders for this bait started in August of 2007 and full on production was continuously delayed until the company could address the initial quality issues mentioned above. The baits are now in full production and shipping to tackle stores across the country. Our three baits were part of the latest production run yet one of the three had some lingering issues. We suggest you check your baits closely after receiving them to make sure they are sound.
Castaic Softbait's Rock Hard Platinum Series Swimbait Ratings (?/10)
||Joint issues with one bait, painting issues with another.
||Action in the water is very good
||Easy for someone breaking into the technique to get started with these baits
||Decent detailing but not very intricate paint schemes
||Light for their size making them easy to throw
||Three different versions to cover the entire water column but still skeptical over long term use against big fish
|Ratings Key: Ratings Key: 1 = terrible : 2 = poor : 3 = lacking : 4 = sub par : 5 = mediocre : 6 = fair : 7 = good : 8 = great : 9 = excellent : 10 = unbelievable!
(For a detailed explanation of the ratings go here)
Pluses and Minuses:
|J Very Affordable
||L Quality is still questionable
|J Good swimming motion
||L Are they too light? The bait feels fragile for some reason.
|J Easy to acquire
|J Light and easy to throw
Conclusion: My final thoughts on this bait are a bit mixed. I like and appreciate the fact a storied company like Castaic Soft Bait now has an affordable hard bodied bait. I really like the action of the slow sink version and I love how it can sit on the bottom balancing on that rear treble. I remain bit skeptical that the baits will hold up given my experience with the one troublesome bait, yet the hits two of my baits have taken along the levee walls in the Delta were pretty intense. I full expected them to come back in pieces after each accident, but they held together. That's confidence inspiring. I also really like how easy these baits are to fish together with their relative low cost. Those two factors alone almost make this bait a no brainer.
It didn't look that big in the water, nor does it look that big in this picture, but this is my first, double digit swimbait fish coming in at an even 10 pounds according to the Lipper... I'll take it!
The finishes aren't that great, but as that fish pictured above proves, what we like in a finish doesn't matter as much as what the fish like. So in a nutshell, there's some give and take with this bait. If you can take all of the positives and are willing to overlook some of the bait's negatives, you will have an absolute blast fishing this bait. Its action is very good and it is the easiest eight inch hard bodied bait in my box to throw. On the other hand, if you are uncompromising for quality and willing to pay top dollar to get it, then this product is probably not for you. In the end, the Rock Hard may not be the end all and be all of big baits, but if you're looking to sample the craze and aren't sold on spending top dollar to try things out, this is one bait very worthy of consideration.