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Swimbait Review


Let's Get Real! - Sly Guy Lures Replica Gill Swimbaits (continued)


The Real-est?: I often talk about double checking my knots with custom swimbaits, and the Replica Gill is one of those baits where I did my diligence. These baits are hard to come by, and truly fit the classification of a "fishable work of art." The profile of the baits fits what you would expect from small to mid sized bluegills, and 3D features molded into the resin body include detailed fins, gills, scales. Even the angle of the eyes adds to the genuine looking design, but it is the paint work that really brings the appropriately named Replica to life.


The 5.9" Replica Gill isn't just a smaller version of the 7.5" and when you compare the baits side by side you will notice that the dimensions between the sections, fins, and especially how the bait taper's down to the tail is different. The 7.5" Replica has a larger more traditional platter style gill profile, which also causes it to swim quite differently. I noticed right away that the 7'5" Replica has a smoother more genuine looking action while the 5.9" seems to thump as it swims side to side, delivering a more erratic action.


It didn't take long for me to start appreciating how fish react to the Replica Gills


In most cases I found that I preferred the smoother, and more consistent action, of the larger 7.5" bait but there were times during the summer where bass were actively feeding near the surface that the 5.9" would not only draw more follows, but would get absolutely crushed. It is hard to tell whether this was because of the different action, or if the smaller bait better matched the hatch. Either way the bass seemed eager to key in on what they perceived to be a genuine bite-sized bluegill.


Compared side by side you can see that the 5.9" Replica is not just a scaled down version of the 7.5" and it has a completely different profile


With most swimbaits I feel that the clearer the water the more important it is that the bait look more realistic, or better match the local forage. I reached out to Clayton to find out more about his approach to the design of the Replica Gills and his ultra-realistic looking finishes.


"Seeing fish follow a bait only to have them refuse my offering made me question everything about the bait and its design. One of the questions I found myself asking the most was “Is it just not realistic enough?”. I wanted to have ultimate confidence in what I was throwing and so I began a more scientific exploration into creating and developing a bait for myself that mirrored the forage foods that bass prey on so frequently. While the overall paint scheme of a bait seems to be of incredible importance, we only have an idea of how bass see colors. Do they see things the way that we do? With that question in mind, my approach to realism is more holistic. I wanted the profile of my baits to match the forage perfectly. When bass look up and see a silhouette against the sky, does it tell them exactly what that “fish” is? Bluegills are tall and relatively thin, with the thickest part of their body directly behind the gill plate. For me to have confidence in what I was throwing I needed to know that my offering matched  by look, as in paint, and in profile. As far as realism is concerned, I weigh those two aspects evenly. Accurately sized eyes, fins, scales and tails are of next importance to me. While they might be secondary, I do believe that in clear water, if a fish has enough time to inspect a bait they may use any one of those metrics to determine if a “fish” is real or not," Clayton explained. 


The 5.9" Replica is narrower and swims more erratically than the 7.5" which looks more genuine in the water


Which brought me to my next question, when it comes to his bait design philosophy I asked whether he viewed action or realism as more important, and whether he prioritized one over the other when creating the Replica Gills? Clayton responded, "what is it that draws a bass in to examine all of these realistic features? It’s the action of the bait of course! For me, the most important aspect in design is the action of the bait. Bone and chartreuse is one of my favorite colors to use in the Delta and there’s nothing realistic about the look of that. So, why do I catch so many fish on that color? Action. Action can absolutely trump realism any day of the week. Knowing that, I strive to make sure that every single one of the baits that I ship out is a bait that I would put in my own personal arsenal. Each version of the glides that I make swim a little differently because their profile is different."


Even bait thickness is key and the head is the widest part of the lure and impacts swimming action


This also explained why the 5.9" Replica Gill swam so much differently than the 7.5" version, and why there are likely to be minute differences between each custom bait. The fact that Clayton test swims each bait to ensure that they meet the standards of his own arsenal is something we have seen from other custom bait makers as well, and an aspect that I find appealing about handmade baits. They may not have the exacting consistency like mass produced lures, but they are more distinct, and much like every real bluegill swims differently, each of these baits will also exhibit a slightly unique character. Tuning these baits and making sure they meet these rigid standards also lends itself to why it takes so long to produce, and validate, each lot before they are made available to anglers.


Even on colder days late in the season the Replica Gills continued to perform


Over the course of the season each time I fished both Replica Gills I was impressed by how fish reacted to them, and also how well the paint finishes have held up. There are times when fishing them slowly, like most swimbaits, was the ticket. However, during the hot summer months there were also periods that I could crank down on my 8.0:1 speed reels, and even rip both 5.9" and 7.5" Replica Gills, and it didn't seem like there was any speed that was too fast for the bass to chase them down. These baits were responsible for some of the most exciting swimbait strikes that I enjoyed last season.


Overall the 7.5" is the more consistent and lifelike swimming bait, but there are times in the warm months that the smaller and more erratic 5.9" gill performed even better

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