Sometimes I just want to leave it all behind… head out to California, meet up with a couple West Coast buddies and launch big swimbaits for monster bass… kicking back to some authentic illegal immigrant Mexican food later that day before heading out the next morning and doing it again… and again… and again… only stopping for a brief second to quench my thirst with a refreshing coconut water. I’m not hard to please.
There is an honesty about the whole California bass scene… which is apparently comprised of the only sane people remaining in the state. There is a philosophy lived out in the most sincere fashion, unyielding to the pressures of conforming and following the rule book of Tournament Fishing 101 (East of the Mississippi Publishing, 3rd edition, foreword written by Trip Weldon, prologue written by KVD).
Some guy in California just said to himself… “Who is Trip Weldon?”
It’s pure. No, not pure as in Pure Fishing, the mega tackle manufacturing giant… just pure fishing.
It’s organic… as in, it starts small, in a garage, somewhere south of the Sacramento Valley… a sunny drive’s distance to Clear Lake or the Delta.
It’s inspiring… not in a way derived necessarily from the pursuit of fame or fortune, or the chance to whore one’s self out for the latest greatest sponsor, but out of the passion and love for the sport that can only well up within the kind of angler who is in it for the pure, untainted love… not patches, jerseys, “deals” and ego.
It’s a special scene that not only produces world class fishing and great fishermen, but honest-to-God craftsmen like Clayton Bryant. Clayton runs a small, California-style boutique tackle business called Cl8Bait Quality Lures, where he produces his own Made in the USA line of what FishStrong has termed, “Cadillac tackle”.
His company may be small — built upon the bedrock of a cell phone, a simple website, and garage — but his products yield big results in the form of big baits and the XXL-sized bass they tempt into savagely striking.
“I started building them a long time ago. I started shaping them out of wood just for fun. I enjoyed bringing them to life. I liked the whole idea of catching fish on my own bait. I probably go fishing 1-2 times per week and fish my own baits 90% of the time.”
Not long after Clayton started piddling and tweaking on his creations, he started giving some out to friends for field testing purposes. The feedback started rolling in and the word started spreading as he continued to hone his product to perfection
“Things started to progress… I started pouring them into plastic molds and the baits began to look even better, so I figured I could start selling them.”
Clayton tells me that the whole process, from his first whittle-wooded creation to being market ready, took a little over five years! Now that is a labor of love! Since then, he’s been in business for about four years.
The CB series
The genesis of Cl8Bait can really be traced back to the CB9… a 9″ triple-jointed swimbait that comes in two sink rates and a floater. Not long after the famed CB9 came the CB5 and CB7, which are 5″ and 7″, naturally.
Clayton has designed some real innovations into his lures. As in most things related to fishing, it’s the finest of details that make the difference… details such as strategic hook hiding.
“I designed the fins to where they cover some of the hook. For example, on the CB9”, I hide the hook up in a channel and it’s held in place by a magnet. I wanted something that didn’t just have treble hooks dangling from it. I wanted something more compact. A lot of R&D led me to a frog hook. It’s already strong and just seems to fit really well.”
How trick is that!!
Clayton also built in a certain amount of customizability to his baits. For example, the frog hook on the CB7 is removable and a treble can be added in its place when it suits the conditions and fishing application.
“I recommend using the frog hook for slow rolling because the fish has more time to see it. The frog hook blends in with the bait really well. But if you want to burn it, I think you can get away with the treble hook.”
Clayton uses a specially formulated plastic of a very specific density in order to increase durability.
“The majority of hardbaits out there are exactly that… hard. It makes them brittle. The material I use in the CB series can absorb impact better than other plastics.”
“My baits don’t fall out of adjustment. The paint is super sturdy. I use automotive grade paint with two clear coats for more luster…. My philosophy is to make a quality product that is durable… something that will catch fish and hold up well. That’s my goal.”
The components on all Cl8Bait lures are very strong and of supreme quality. His baits feature either Owner or Gamakatsu hooks and the hardware is top notch, such as Owner split rings and Spro swivels.
The CB series may have been what really kick started Cl8Bait, but some of the newer products are equally cool! Though Clayton is a fan of all his baits, and routinely fishes them in tournaments, he was dripping with excitement when the subject of his Clacker came up.
“The Clackers are a slow sinking bait, so when I’m burning it real fast, it comes up to the surface. The blowups I get on this bait are super exciting! I fish it on 55lb braid so you really feel it. It’s super ferocious. It’s like a tuna coming up on it!”
The 5″ Clacker is the “tournament sized” version that excels with smallmouth and those with a “get a quick limit” mentality. Translation: Those who are to wuss to throw the larger ones. But seriously, the 5″ may be better for numbers, but you can still get size on it.
Not a bad smallmouth in my book!…
Not a wuss?… Cl8Bait is on the verge of producing a 9” Clacker!
“It’s a 3 piece, double-jointed hard bait with three treble hooks.”, says Clayton. ”The third hook is on the very back of the tail to get those fish that just come up and nip on it.”
Don’t be afraid to throw some of Cl8Bait’s bigger offerings. The guys in California’s hardcore swimbait culture understand that we often underestimate the size of prey bass can consume. Need evidence?…
See the first picture up top showing two bass that fell victim to Cl8Bait’s 16″ Possum!
Also, Listen to FLW star JT Kenney in this video…
Nocturnal Creatures and Disgusting Rodents
In addition to fish-imitating lures, Cl8Baits has figured out how to make some sick rodent baits. Pictured below is a the Water Vole… a rodent style bait that can be waked or even sloshed around on the surface like a walking style bait.
And here are two more views of the Possum, which come in a 12″ and 16″.
Cl8Bait products are Cadillac Tackle at its finest! Purchasing Cl8Bait lures not only leads to catching trophy bass, but it’s a vote for preserving a lure making heritage that goes way back in this country… all the way to the days of old time innovators like James Heddon. It also supports one of our own — a hardcore bass fishing addict/small business owner who would probably make these awesome lures regardless of whether he sold them or not.