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Lure Review

Small in Size, Big in Stature, Bull Shad Swimbats' New Balsa Bull! (continued)

One of the notorious difficulties with a balsa wood bait is the difficulty in casting the lures with casting gear. That was my reasoning in fishing this bait with the Daiwa's Pixy SPR. It's specially designed to cast small plugs and cast them well. Even so, the Balsa Bull is a surprisingly easy bait to cast thanks to a very back heavy weighting system that serves to put all the bait's momentum in the direction of your cast.

Here's a close look at the baits finish. It's more modest than intricate, but nice nonetheless.

This same weight system results in a very nose up position of the bait in the water. The bait practically sits perpendicular to the surface as it floats in it's own rippling wake splashdown. For this reason, we replaced the back hook on this bait with a feathered treble to tempt followers into striking the bait at rest.

These baits come stock with Mustad KVD hooks in size 4.

With the bait's position in the water, the natural conclusion is this bait is going to be difficult to walk, but thanks to the extreme buoyancy of it's balsa wood body, just the slightest twitch from your rod tip is enough to get this bait walking with ease!

Not really having the opportunity to test durability over long term with this bait, we took it to the lab to form our impressions. After several tests, we think this bait will hold up above average out on the water.

While the Balsa Bull has been out for several months, only now has it just started warming up enough for us to test it on the water. As a result our evaluation of the bait's durability is based on expected performance not actual performance. From what we can determine, the hardware and finish of this bait are top notch so we expect durability to be above average at the very least. Be careful with the body around rocks though as the balsa wood will likely dent if hit too hard against rocks or metal docks.

Performance Ratings for Bull Shad Swimbait's Balsa Bull

Castability (1-5)
Ease of Actuation(1-5)
Quality of Movement (1-5)
Position at Rest (1-5)
Durability (1-5)
Rating (= Tot/Pos * 10)

We'd love to see this bait ship with a spare rare hook in the package - a compatible feathered treble.

Features: The Balsa Bull, as with most baits, are pretty bare bones when it comes to features. There are no spare parts in the packaging, its weedlessness is average for a bait of this type and there are only two available finishes for now. A hand tied feather treble option would be a nice extra for future consideration.

Features Ratings for Bull Shad Swimbait's Balsa Bull

Internal Harness (1-3)
Weedlessness (1-3)
No. Finishes (1-3)
Miscellaneous (1-3)
Rating (= Tot/Pos * 10)

Here's how the Balsa Bull broke down in the lab.

Design/Ergonomics: We only had one of each color in the Balsa Bull to test, and knowing the inconsistencies that sometimes follow balsa wood baits, it wasn't a great sample size to determine bait to bait consistency, but our two baits fished the same. Weighted at half an ounce this bait is supremely easy to cast and fish. Realism is average for a bait of this type and there is only one size available at this time.

Design & Ergonomics Ratings for Bull Shad Swimbait's Balsa Bull

Bait to Bait Consistency (1-5)
Weight (1-5)
Realism (1-5)
Available Sizes (1-3)
Rating (= Tot/Pos * 10)

Thanks to Bull Shad Swimbaits, those of us who never had the opportunity to experience the magic of the Ichiban Minnow can now do so with the Balsa Bull.

Application: The Balsa Bull is easiest to work in calm conditions or with minimal ripple on the water. Once the surface becomes to disrupted with wave action, it's difficult to find the proper rhythm with which to work the bait, but such is the case with any bait of this type. Aside from that, under docks, under tree canopies, in and around visible structure or out in open water above submerged weed beds or rock pilings, really anywhere you think a bass might be waiting to ambush prey is a good spot to work the Balsa Bull.


Bull Shad Swimbait's Balsa Bull Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality Solidly built but finish could use a little more refinement 8
Performance As easy to walk as they come 9.6
Price A very fair price for a wood bait of this quality 6
Features Not really much to speak of other than a very stout internal wiring harness 5.83
Design (Ergonomics) Good bait consistency and weight 7.78
Application A very good walking bait 7

Total Score

Ratings Key: 1 = terrible : 2 = poor : 3 = lacking : 4 = sub par : 5 = mediocre : 6 = fair : 7 = good : 8 = great : 9 = excellent : 10 = unbelievable!
For More Details of the updated rating system visit our explanation here


Pluses and Minuses:


+ Balsa wood walkers are tough to find - Only two available colors
+ Recreation of a coveted bait  
+ Excellent build quality and hardware  


Conclusion: Is there anything more thrilling than a topwater strike? No matter the size of the fish, the sudden eruption beneath your lure fuels pure adrenaline. Mix into the experience, the availability of a throw back product with a legend inspiring backstory and you have the ingredients for some very memorable days out on the water.


This review might be finished, but unlike the majority of products we write up, we're not done fishing this bait, and that's no... wait for it... bull.


It is opportunities like this that inspires our passion for tackle and gets us excited to go fishing. Mike Bucca, went through painstaking efforts to recreate every last detail of what made the former Ichiban Minnow/Balsa Pro bait unique both internally and externally. Not having an original with which to compare, but fishing the Balsa Bull on its own merits, we can assure you this bait casts far and is super easy to work. This review might be finished, but unlike the majority of products we write up, we're not done fishing this bait, and that's no... wait for it... bull.


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