Black Label Balsa Wreck Crankbait Review
Longtime fans of balsa wood lures have mourned the discontinuation of WEC’s classic Ed Chambers lures. Bassmaster Classic champion and tackle expert Cliff Pace decided to bring this bait back to life, at least indirectly, with his own creation – Black Label Balsa Wreck Square Bill Crankbait. Many know Cliff Peace as a talented professional angler, but he may be even more talented at building a catch. Here’s a look at a very nicely made square balsa nib.
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A nod to the classic balsa taste
I’ll admit that I personally haven’t had much experience with WEC baits. These things were common a little before my time, and had become rare and expensive by the time I feigned a little interest in them. But for balsa wood enthusiasts, these lures are as sought after as an old-school wart in the mountains of Missouri.
Cliff Pace had such a longing for this classic lure that he chose to replicate it to the best of his ability in Black Label Wreck. And just based on the fact that the materials and processes available to manufacture lures these days are much superior to what they were about 20 or even just 10 years ago, Pace may have outdone himself and outdone even the original. Again, I can’t personally speak to whether or not this game is as good or better than WEC, but I can speak to the quality of Wreck in its own right.
Most durable balsa crank
What I liked most about the wrecker was its durability. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a huge fan of balsa flavor, simply because of some bad experiences I’ve had over the years. One time in particular I remember paying $20 or so for a bait that I had to have. It was the best bait around, according to reports. After I cast a couple, I reeled it in some grass, raised it to the surface, saw a strand of grass on one of the triplets and gave the bait a quick slap on the water, only to watch my $20 bait split into two worthless halves in front of me. Apparently, hitting a balsa bait on the water is a big no-no.
This is a lesson I learned the hard way, a lesson that brought me back to the more durable plastic baits I’ve long relied on (and for a long time) and caught a lot of fish with. Now, I’m not claiming that balsa wood grafts are unnecessary. There are much better anglers than me who swear by their effectiveness in getting bites when other hard baits can’t. But I personally stayed away from them for most of my life. So, when testing this lure, without even thinking about it, I instinctively went back to hitting the water with it, as I do with hard plastic lures.
The first time I touched the water, my stomach jumped to my throat. I was certain I had destroyed the only book I had on hand to review. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the wreckage had withstood the blow. Before I could catch myself, I’d accidentally slammed this thing into the water six times now to free it from tangled debris. It has yet to break on me, proving that it is the most durable balsa bait I have ever used or even heard of.
Durability isn’t just about the quality of the balsa wood or the direction of its grain (two key elements to creating a long-lasting balsa bait). The bill is also made of Lexan, a thicker material that Bess likes to use in place of a circuit board for a crankbait he intends to overpower and take off the heavy cover. This material makes the bill more durable, according to the 2013 Champion Classic. The thicker bill does a better job of avoiding getting stuck in crevices, too, says the craftsman who makes each of these baits.
Using a 45-step process, each Black Label lure is hand-carved, painted and fine-tuned. The stainless steel hardware is top-notch, with Mustad Triple Grip treble hooks adding the finishing touch to these masterpieces. Laser-sharp trebles make this lure so sticky that it can be held in the palm of your hand; But it still comes through the hood shockingly well.
Specifications on the wreck
At 2 inches long and weighing 3/8 ounce, the Wreck is a quality square nib that sits in the size range of many of its plastic competitors. This lure has the wide wiggle and high float you would expect from a round balsa wood lure like this. Although the official specs show a diving range of 2 to 3 feet, Pace claims the lure can reach 5 feet on 12-pound line, and I’d say that’s a fair estimate based on my experience with it.
It’s an easy-to-pour bait at 3/8 ounce, comes through the cover well and the lure I tested required no fine-tuning. It put fish in the boat and took a fair amount of abuse – more than I thought it would. At $17.99, for a high-quality balsa wood bait, it’s reasonably priced. When you consider that none of these lures reach the consumer without a Bassmaster Classic champion carefully examining them and giving them the final stamp of approval, this is a lure every balsa lure lover should try. Which is something those on the fringes like me could benefit from adding to their tackle box as well.
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