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Event Article


 

For the Culture – 7 Takeaways from Toxic Day 4

 

Date: 6/25/23
Location: Bethel Island, CA
Admission: Free
Manufacturer: Various
Reviewer: Zander






 

 

Introduction: Toxic Day 4, or TD4, is the creation of Ceasar Chavez, the head honcho at Toxic Baits and is an event that brings together custom lure makers and anglers from all over the country. Originally created as a local swimbait show the annual event has grown and transformed into something much greater, and yesterday brought together nearly 50 vendors with an enthusiastic crowd of anglers that were excited to have an opportunity to pick up some exclusive drops, meet up with their peers, and even talk shop with some industry pioneers and legends.

 


Toxic Day 4 is an annual swimbait oriented event hosted by Toxic Bait's Head Honcho Ceasar Chavez


7 Takeaways from TD4: This year Toxic Day 4 took place at Russo’s Marina here on our home waters of the California Delta. Many of the custom bait makers call Northern California home, but there were also some builders that traveled across the country to be here, and some came all the way from Japan! As I walked around the show I ran into many builders and anglers that I knew well, made some new friends, and enjoyed meeting many of our readers in person.

 


Like many of the other attendees I stood in line to talk to the builders, learn about their newest designs, and purchase some of their exclusive drops. Even the time in line wasn’t wasted as I was able to talk to other anglers. One exchange that made me laugh was with an angler that walked up to me introduced himself saying “I just wanted to say that my wife is really mad at you! I’ve spent so much money all these years reading TackleTour!”

 


Ceasar painted Gillie to welcome everyone to TD4

 


Toxic Day 4 is growing in size each year with more vendors and attendees

 


A look at one Ceasar's own special patterns on the Whippersnapper

 


Long lines for Pizz and DRT swimbaits at TD4


I started thinking about how far swimbait fishing has grown over the last few decades, and have 7 takeaways from the event:


1. Going Big and Going Small: The term “swim-bait” has expanded over the years and no longer just means a class of “big baits.” Both garage builders and large manufacturers are taking some of their proven designs and either up-scaling or miniaturizing them to expand their effectiveness across varying conditions. Sometimes a smaller bait is necessary to coax a bite when the fishing is tough, and I am constantly amazed by the range of fish that are willing to commit to a bait of mammoth proportions. I’ve had largemouth that are smaller than the bait I was fishing try and eat giant rats or gills. You have to love the tenacity of fish, and sometimes throwing baits on opposite ends of the spectrum and mixing things up can pay off immediately.

 


Alex of Clear Lake Outdoors shows us the best kind of DRT a rashed up one that has caught multiple fish


When it comes to creating effective baits both small and large builders like DRT and UFO are masters of this. I first fell in love with DRT swimbaits fishing the Klash 9 but I’ve caught a lot more fish on the Tiny Klash, or TK as most anglers call it.

 


DRT had their own booth this year


To demonstrate just how much DRT celebrated TD4 they even introduced a unique pattern for the event called the “Liquid Gill” and made it available in their largest and smallest baits. The company’s founder Tomoya Shirakawa is a legend in the swimbait industry, both in Japan and the U.S., and was on hand meeting with passionate anglers and showing some his latest handle, rod, and bait designs. There is an attention to detail and refinement that is unique to all DRT products and is a perfect expression of JDM design and quality. After talking with Shirakawa-san and the DRT team I had to make sure to add a Liquid Gill TK to my arsenal.

 


The legend himself, Shirakawa-san, the founder of DRT shows us a TD4 exclusive pattern, the Liquid Gill

 


The Liquid Gill pattern was available on all of the DRT baits, big and small

 


DRT makes some of the most refined handles, rods, and baits in the game

 


The Liquid Gill TK and K9 baits were very popular


When you look at the deck of my boat there are typically two baits that I always have tied on, an Illude Rad Rat and UFO swimbait. Eric at UFO makes one of the most coveted true big-baits in the game, the massive Mothership. I fish the Mothership early and late in the day and he personally calls it his confidence bait. I’ve fished with Eric a few times where he has caught fish from 2 pounds all the way up to 6 pounds on both constant and twitch retrieves with the Mothership.

 


My favorite rat of all time, the coveted Illude Rad Rat was in the Bad News Bass booth and given away in a raffle

 


Eric of UFO swimbaits shows us the UFO Mini next to the Mothership

 

This large bait takes dedication to sling as it is 9 inches long and weighs 7.5ounces. The “Ship” is truly an enthusiast bait but one UFO that every serious swimbait angler needs in their arsenal is the much easier to throw 6” gill.

 


The UFO Mini featured the highly realistic Reelest Imaging paintwork


This TD4 UFO re-introduced their smallest wake, the UFO mini, which brings the same type of action in a lipless wake, just with a bite-sized profile. This bait with the company’s super-detailed Reelest Imaging finish and hand painted details sold out quickly at the event.

 


I put the UFO Mini to work right away. All the UFO swimbaits are super fishy for me

 

2. The Art of the Swimbait: It isn’t a stretch to call custom swimbaits functional works of art, and garage builders are artists. There is technical expertise required to create baits that deliver fish catching action, and I believe this understanding of fish behavior, triggering mechanisms, and creating baits that get bit regularly is an art in-itself.
There were revered OG builders on site like Jerry Rago that were some of the first to experiment and understand what it took to create a bait that is truly “fishy.” I still have some of his original hard and soft-bodied baits that have held up well over time and continue to see duty. Some of his newest soft body designs showcase new profiles and patterns that look more refined than ever.

 


The OG maker himself Jerry Rago

 


Jerry's newest baits feature his signature design and attention to weighting and action

 


Another highly respected maker who has been in the game a long time, Josh of JSJ shows us both his latest soft and hard bodied offerings

 


I haven't had the opportunity to fish a Rafa custom swimbait yet but was impressed with the profile and artistry on the glides

 


Rafael shows us one of his custom glides made exclusive for TD4

 


When one thinks realistic swimbaits Mattlures always comes to mind. We have been reviewing Matt's baits for nearly two decades and are still amazed by the detail in each lure

 

Then there is the painting side of the business that is also art. Many builders have roots in design and art ranging from painting on canvas to tattooing on skin and apply that artistic creativity and skill to paintwork on baits. Swimbaits are natural 3D canvases and paintwork ranges from artistic patterns with rattle cans to ultra realistic airbrushed finishes.
Swimbait Underground and their Underground Supply Co. has partnered with many bait makers to create ultra-realistic finishes that look incredibly genuine in and out of the water. Some excellent examples include finishes on 86 Baits and Toxic Baits, and there were multiple exclusives at the show, as well as some that will be made available via drops in the coming weeks with these patterns.

 


When it comes to attention to detail and refinement Matt at 86 Baits is always pushing the envelope. They not only look great they swim great

 


The Underground finishes are amazing. The Sentinel in Black bass looked amazing in the sunlight

 


New for this TD4 is the exclusive cross tail

 


Exclusive Passenger in shad pattern. This bait has been available in Golden Shiner before and exhibits an incredible tight swimming action

 


I've always liked the paintwork on Jeto Lures, and there were a number of special pattern Highliner glides at the event

 


Jeromy of Jeto lays down some sick paint and shows us a TD4 exclusive pattern on his Flatliner wakebait

 


A closer look at the exclusive TD4 pattern. Beautiful.


Walking the show at TD4 is like walking through an art gallery when it comes to creative works on full display. The paintwork on these baits looked incredible in the sun, and it was easy to experience sensory overload. Some of my favorite works include the always artistic Jeto Lures, Deltadood, Clickbait Customs, Sly Guy, and of course Pizz. All are artists in their own right.

 


Deltadood has quickly become both a popular luremaker and painter and collaborated with brands like Throwback and Illude

 


Deltadood's waking gill with a glossy paint finish

 


The real-est, Sly Guy lures are pure eye candy

 


Nobody paints quite like Clayton and his baits are ultra-realistic

 


Clayton with his newest gill. I've personally been fishing this bait with success


3. Garage Innovation: While large manufacturers can create very consistent products there continues to be a lot of innovation that occurs at the custom bait level. Garage builders must create unique offerings to compete in an increasingly commoditized industry, and based on what I saw at TD4 there is certainly no shortage of innovation in today’s swimbait landscape.

 


DRT continues to innovate and their new sock baits wrap a soft cloth body around a hard core for a unique profile, ultra-realistic finish, and unique action

 


These new baits have been in development for years and nearing release

 


After 10 years of production Trap Bass swimbaits has updated their House Mouse with a new profile

 


The team at Trap Bass continues to build some great baits and introduce new profiles

 


One profile getting releases in the Duck Jr. V2

 

Many builders are embracing technology to up the game, either with digital aided design for their next profiles, or incorporating new materials and techniques. We are increasingly seeing use of new materials to create baits with different characteristics.

 


I wanted to get a shot of the new Chickadee walker but they sold out in minutes. I did get a chance to check out Mob Walkers painted by BNA and Wood "Papa Mob" Walkers

 


One of the coolest rat-class swimbaits is the wooden Bad Bunny. The Volk Outdoors equipped carbon lipped dark Bad Bunny had an amazingly loud clack

 


Throwback Swimbaits makes some very cool wood and resin baits and offers them in a wide range of sizes. I've wanted a Bad Bunny for quite some time and bought two at TD4

 

Examples of this include KDS baits using new silicone blends to alter both translucency and action, Throwback Baits using different woods and carbon fiber lips to create baits with different pitched knocks, and Big Nasty Baits thinking outside the box and using electricity to burn one-of-a-kind patterns into the surfaces of their baits.

 


KDS swimbaits feature slender bodies and soft silicone to generate a realistic wag even on the slowest retrieves

 


Danny shows us some of the latest KDS soft body silicone swimbaits

 


Gabriel Nahas of Bigg Nasty Baits shows us his newest rat

 


The unique pattern was created by shocking the bolt with electricity. Each bait is truly one of a kind


Some manufacturers are even pioneering new baits that blur the lines between bait classes. One such garage builder, Ebisu Tackle Company, was at TD4 showcasing their innovative Itza Vibe hardbait. The Itza features a trap-like profile but is a line-thru swimbait that can be jigged quite unlike most traditional swimbaits.

 


The Ebisu Itza Vibe blurs the lines between bait categories

 


The Itza may look like a trap but this resin bait is actually a line-thru!

 

This bait acts more like a jerkbait than a trap and can be effectively used to target fish in and around soft cover, or at the very bottom of the water column. It is designed to be just as effective for stripers and halibut as it is for largemouth. The unique design brings a truly different erratic action and yet the artistry is on full display as each resin bait is beautifully hand painted. Like so many other great swimbaits on display at TD4 the Ebisu Itza was born right here on the shores of the California Delta by some of the great guys associated with the Black Dog Bait Co. crew and it is cool to see the innovative design come to life.

 


The team at Ebisu showcases both innovation and artistry with their hand poured and painted baits

 


Jeremy Anderson is an OG in the swimbait game and his newest Punkers are made of wood like the original


Another swimbait maker that lays down some of the most beautiful paint in the business and is driving innovative new actions enabled by design is Click Bait Customs. To get down deeper Click Bait created ultra long lipped Dredgers, and we have been fishing the new Sonar which is able to swim downwards versus just sinking parallel like most baits. The effect is an extremely lifelike tail whipping dive that allows anglers to target fish deeper and makes the bait deadly effective for targeting suspended fish with LiveScope. This TD4 Clickbait brought a complete arsenal of their Mini Shore Bangers which are easy to throw measuring 5 inches and only weighing 1.4 ounces, and is still designed to wake aggressively. This bait was on my list of must-buys but was sold out before I even made it to the booth. Smaller baits like the Click Bait Shore Banger and UFO Mini were hot this year.

 


Click Bait Custom swimbaits have some of the best paint and also feature innovative designs

 


The Mini Shore Banger is designed for bank anglers looking to crank along the shoreline. Basically a squarebill of swimbaits


4. Collabs: There is an art to a good collaboration and the swimbait community knows how to do this well. When the sum of the brands equals something greater and more desirable then the collab was successful. With so many talented builders and brands there seems to be an endless stream of collaborations. The most common collab comes from a builder that partners up with another painter to lay down a custom pattern.

 


Ceaser of Toxic Baits also collabs with Underground Supply and the TD X Swimbait Underground OG Hogg was available at the event
 


Chuck Baits builds some very cool gills with both flat and angled joints for varying swim action and sound

 


Matt Nieman of Chuck Baits shows us some of his great looking Gill wakebaits

 


Does this pattern look familiar? This exclusive Chuck Baits collab with Pizz sold out quick


Another popular collaboration we saw on full display at TD4 was collabs on limited releases or drops. While this often results in a highly desirable limited bait/pattern combination it doesn’t have to be limited to just swimbaits. Examples include collaborations on merch, apparel, wraps, rods, and even artwork. Who doesn’t love a good collab?

 


Aki of Bad News Bass with the Orca collab with JDM crawler maker Monka Lure Works

 

Pizz swimbaits and Merch are always popular

 


Collabs don't have to be just swimbaits. Chris of Fishsox has collaborated with many makers including Swimbait Culture, UFO, and Toxic Baits


5. More than traditional "swim"baits: While most swimbait anglers will tell you that they would prefer to catch fish on big-baits, and while there are some of the “dedicated” that will go out armed with nothing more than a pair of swimbait setups most anglers are not opposed to switching things up to catch fish. At the end of the day, it is always easiest to give fish what they want and swimbait anglers are among the most adaptable.

 


Dropping at TD4 was the Toxic Muskrat. Bait makers are branching out with new profiles showing fish something new


Swimbait anglers are using both hard and soft baits to target fish throughout the water column but for the days that fish are not chewing traditional gill, shad, or trout profiles many builders are creating baits with new form-factors to mimic different types of forage. Doing so enables anglers to better match the local forage, target fish that are holding deep or near structure, or simply present a lure that fish haven’t seen before.

 


Joseph of Bass Union makes some of my favorite jigs and was at the show with his hand tied creations

 


Boondock Baits makes some very nice hand tied jigs that pair nicely with trailers from Mondo

 


Feed the fish what they want. When a swimbait isn't on the menu a jig will often get it done. I was impressed by the quality of Boondock Baits and will be giving them a try in the future


Examples include more refined jigs that can pair with a variety of new trailers and expand the types of profiles. There was a time when rats were considered avant-garde, and today there are countless hard bodied rodent makers that build knock rats, slosh rats, and crankdowns. The same is now happening with a greater variety of forage and profiles including carp, lizards, frogs, and even killer whales.

 


I'm pretty sure Bass haven't eaten Orca before but baits like the Monka trigger strikes with unique action and sound. I've crushed with the Killer White version of this bait

 

While Orcas may not typically be on the menu for any bass or stripers that I know of using them on patterns like the Monka Lure Works and Bad News Bass crawler is ridiculously awesome. I’ve personally caught a bunch of fish on the Monka Killer White Shark patterned crawler, and this is just another example of why sometimes presenting fish with something that looks and sounds different is the ticket.

 


Black Anchor Fishing Co. has upsized the RT-FKR rat

 


Sometimes going big is what it takes to draw the strike. The Beast RT-FKR also shows fish a unique profile and sound

 


Jimmy Rigz frog swimbaits feature genuine looking bodies and segmented legs

 


Eli Haak of Expedition Baits continues to refine his craft and is laying down some great paintwork on his Lizards and Sallies

 


The paintwork on these lizards is on point!


I was excited to see so many vendors designing products beyond traditional trout and gill profiles, and even those that were focusing on the traditional silhouettes are continuing to raise their game by leveraging new materials, altering action with new joint and lip designs, and more detailed paintwork. There are levels to this game and there are several builders that are constantly raising the bar.

 


Jeto lures Flatliner with a new bent diving lip from Volk Outdoors. Builders like Jeto utilize a variety of lip designs to alter action and fishable depth and Volk is known for their precision and quality

 


Kyle Gracely of The Gracely Baits is known for his finesse gills and is now introducing larger profiles. I enjoyed meeting Kyle in person and have had success with his baits as fish sometimes just want a smaller bait

 


Kyle is working on new diving baits and had some prototypes on hand

 


A glide is also in the works. Kyle, like many garage builders, is constantly working on new designs and actions


6. Tools of the Trade: As swimbaits have continued to grow as a segment of their own so have the tools that enable anglers to be even more successful at employing them. Rod makers, big and small, are creating new actions that are designed to launch specific types and classes of these baits. There were a few rod builders on hand at TD4, including Stealth Stixx that incorporates multi-material carbon to create rods with a smooth power progression that is designed to enhance both casting feel and sensitivity.

 


As swimbait popularity has grown so has the number of application specific rods like those from Stealth Stixx

 


Levi of Leviathan is a great rodsmith that has created very specific models for different baits


One of the rod makers that I am very familiar with, and employ on my own personal boat, is Leviathan rods. Leviathan makes use of North Fork Composite (NFC) blanks to create some of the most popular swimbait rods for hardcore swimbaiters. At the show they quickly sold out of their custom rods, including the do-it-all Omega swimbait casting rods which can handle a wide range of baits. The Omega XH can launch swimbaits from 2-8 ounces and the XXH is able to send baits all the way up to 16 ounces!

 


The ever-popular Omega lineup is based on NFC blanks and capable of launching giant baits like the UFO Mothership

 


Checking out the Leviathan Alpha SoftSwim


Levi and the team at Leviathan are seeing the need to specialize their rods further and now offers a three-piece travel rod with a lure range of 2-6 ounces and is appropriately called “The Daily.” They also have created a swimbait rod specifically tuned for fishing soft bodied swimbaits based on Gary Loomis NFC blanks capable of fishing ½-5 ounce plastic swimbaits called the Alpha SoftSwim.

 


Jared of Fall of 74 makes some exceptional wraps to protect your investments

 


These wraps are a great blend of style and functionality

 


Leather Deadpool red Fall of 74 wraps dropped at TD4


With some custom swimbaits retailing up to 500 dollars there is also a need to protect these valuable baits during storage, transport, and out in the field. Jared Kiernan at Fall of 74 makes some of the very best wraps in the game and brings just the right amount of form and functionality with his custom wraps. His Velcro and zipper wraps are lined with hook resistant padding to protect baits, and the exterior materials vary from Cordura nylon to high-end leathers. At the show he debuted some slick new patterns and colors, including ostrich leather Deadpool wraps. I personally use his wraps to store baits in my rotation or whenever I travel to fish.

 


TD4 represented an opportunity to talk shop with builders and have an opportunity to purchase some very hard to find baits

 


It was also an opportunity to meet other anglers in-person and talk shop. I really enjoyed meeting long time readers in person and hearing their stories

 


The culture is strong in this community and artists like Kyle (Gooniewolfe) painted a mural live to celebrate the event


7. The Culture: When swimbaits first came out the community was small, and many swimbait anglers were secretive about their baits and techniques. These large baits were so different than traditional lures and fishing methods and, in many ways, early swimbait anglers were viewed much in the same way as skateboarding pioneers. As the market matured and has become mainstream there has been an incredible amount of openness and the culture that has surrounded swimbaits and this community has blossomed.

 

Gooniewolfe has collaborated with many in the industry including DRT, Toxic, Illude, Swimbait Culture, Jeto, Sneaky, and even us here at TackleTour with our logo refresh five years ago

 

The man himself, Nick of Cast and Crank Podcast streamed live from the event


For any sport or segment of the community to grow it must bring in new generations of participants. That is where I think swimbait angling has changed over the last decade. Once viewed as rogues, those dedicated to the craft of making baits and the ones that have put in the work to fish them have now become ambassadors of the sport. The best ones are bringing down the walls, welcoming a new generation of anglers to the segment with open arms. Caesar of Toxic Baits is an example of this and has opened his doors many times at Toxic HQ for events, Cast and Crank podcasts, panels, and Toxic Day 4 brought together so many legends and soon to be legends in the making, all with a shared passion for fishing and swimbaits.

 


Yes, Toxic Day represents an opportunity to bolster your arsenal but it is so much more than that...

 


... events like TD4 are a place where the culture of swimbaits is on full display. Thanks to Ceaser of Toxic Baits for another amazing event.


Today the swimbait community is more open than it has ever been. It is a celebration of slinging a bait where each cast represents the opportunity to make a memory that will last a lifetime. I enjoyed talking to both builders and anglers and felt more optimistic than ever about the segment with what I saw and heard. These are some of the warmest and most genuine people that you will ever meet, and to all those builders that showed me their latest designs or to the anglers that took the time to walk up to me and share a personal story, you are all real ones. Swimbait anglers are always hungry to learn and add to their arsenal, and garage builders are still finding ways to innovate and refine their craft. Toxic Day 4 was not just a showcase of the culture that surrounds swimbaits, it helped advance it.

 

   

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