It’s Not Just a Barra Lure – By Curtis Waterman

I’m not sure if you’d believe this or not, but working for a lure company has its perks! We like to use the phrase “someone’s gotta do it”, and this year “it” was a trip to Australia’s Northern Territory to do the filming and testing for the brand new Halco TBarra 80. Like proud parents to lots of children, we like to think we love all our lures equally. Each one holding its own in whatever fishery it was designed for. Some catch thousand-pound marlin, some catch 25cm bream, but we love them all the same. However, in saying that, sometimes you get the odd lure that manages to stand out amongst the pack. The last time we had one of these was the sinking stick bait we released a couple of years ago now, the Slidog 105. The larger Slidog sizes had been very successful lures in their own right, but that 105 size just hit the absolute sweet spot. In our testing of it we caught an unbelievable number and range of fish, from pink snapper, to cobia, to giant wahoo and monster tailor. It proved itself as a dead set go-to.

This fish for Tim came off a bank edge as “Biggles” slow rolled his lure back to the boat.

This fish for Tim came off a bank edge as “Biggles” slow rolled his lure back to the boat.

Within a morning of testing this brand new TBarra 80, we started to think we might have another stand out performer on our hands. The story behind the TBarra is similar to the little TB55 that we released last year. The Tilsan brand and lure designs were purchased by Halco off the original owner and designer, Til Martinello, in 2001. At Halco, we continue to manufacture the four Tilsan designs to this day, being the Tilsan Minnow, Bass, Barra and Big Barra. However, as it has become increasingly harder and harder to acquire timber of a consistent quality, the move was made last year to redesign the Tilsan Bass in plastic, and so the TB55 was born.

The problem with the inconsistent timber was mainly the buoyancy. Traditionally designed as suspending lures (in freshwater) the modern timber Tilsans often have differing buoyancies. You could pull two straight out of the packet, one would float like a balloon and the next would sink like a stone. Even for the occasional weekend angler, let alone anglers fishing tournaments, this inconsistency isn’t ideal. So, by creating a lure with all of the exact dimensions, behaviours, buoyancy, action, weight etc but out of plastic, we can have the best of the timeless Tilsan designs on a consistent basis with every single lure.

The new TBarra 80 is the continuation of this process, being the plastic version of the Tilsan Barra. The TBarra 80 is 80 millimetres long, dives to 3m (10 feet), is completely silent and suspends in freshwater. The action of this plastic lure is identical to that of the original timber version. It is built tough, is extra snag resistant, and comes with a set of ultra-sharp 4xx BKK trebles. This new lure is also available in 13 different colours with a healthy combination of some classic Tilsan patterns and some modern Halco favourites. It weighs 13 grams, casts great, is incredibly stable on the troll with some of our early testing having models hold up to 12 knots in the right conditions and is overall just an absolute little ripper.

We were extremely happy with the first batch of lures that made their way to our headquarters in Fremantle straight out of our factory. They did their job in the testing tank here and ticked every box. However, no Halco lure will ever make it to the shelves of a tacklestore, let alone your tacklebox, before being put through a rigorous testing program in the field.

So, to put this lure through its paces, we headed to arguably one of Australia’s harshest fishing environments, the Northern Territory. I was lucky to get a guernsey on this trip because I had never even seen a wild barramundi before,much less caught one! We hopped on a plane to Darwin and were picked up by ex-fishing guide and NT local, Carl Hermiston. Carl and his great friend Marcus Carlson had four days of fishing planned for us on Marcus’s 6m Stabicraft, all around the mouth of the Daly River and the rest of Anson Bay.

It didn’t take long on our first morning to nail the first fish. Any time we go testing a new lure, there’s a bit of quiet competition to catch the first fish, and our sales manager, Tim Carter had the win this time. A small mangrove jack came out of a snag and crunched his lure. We were on the board! We had four days at it, and the boys had informed us that, with the way the tides were, the fishing was likely to only get better as the week went on. I managed to open my own account and catch my first wild barramundi in our very first session! Although only a little tacker, the way that I caught him was epic. We were up a really tight little creek and up under the snags you could literally see the barra sitting there waiting for a feed.

So,I flicked my TBarra no more than a metre and a half from the boat, twitch twitch boom! I saw with my own eyes how good that suspending lure works when you can put it on their nose and let it sit.

Action ensued for the next few days and that local knowledge was spot on; the fishing got better! There were three main ways we ended up targeting barra on this lure. The first was casting the snags. The tight little creeks in this part of the world have some of the gnarliest snags I have ever seen, and casting your brand new lure deep into the twigs is always a love/hate action. Because the TBarra suspends perfectly in freshwater, it has a delicious slow rise in the salt water that we were fishing. So casting deep into the snags, giving it one or two cranks to get down and in the business zone, and then letting it sit and ever so slowly creep towards the surface, before another twitch and crank proved an extremely effective method of enticing a barra bite. We caught plenty of smaller fish by using the lure this way. I’m sure we got some bites from some bigger ones as well but when you’re balls deep in a snag and a big one eats, all I can say is good luck. One saving grace for this method is we found the TBarra 80 to be extremely snag resistant. The slow rise means if you bump some timber, give it a pause and most of the time the lure works its way through the danger!

The next method that worked a treat for us was slow rolling the TBarra 80 over banks and drop offs, especially around moving water, eddys and tide lines. This is how we caught the majority of the fish on the trip as one particular spot really fired on our last two days. A few kilometres up a creek there was a Y junction that had an arm split off from the main creek. At high tide the arm was full and as it turned and rushed out, the fish came with it. So we parked the boat up in the creek, turned the spot lock on and peppered the junction and surrounding banks with cast after cast. I was most amazed to witness how the fish flicked the switch. We would spend over an hour casting the same spot for not so much as a bump on the lure, and then when the switch flicked it was on for young and old. The fish were seemingly coming down in waves, and that resulted in double and triple hook ups on really nice fish! The cherry on top of the trip was the 90cm model that Marcus managed to put in the boat, an absolute ripper!

The last method that I must mention is of course trolling! In some of our earlier testing of the TBarra 80 we had it holding sturdy on the troll at 12+ knots with the right conditions and tackle. That is an amazing speed for a lure of this size. Now you’re never going to need to troll it at 12 knots but what that does mean is that at 5-8 knots, you can have complete confidence that the lure is going to hold. We had great success fishing this lure on the troll whilst fishing the creeks as well, especially once the sun got a bit higher, the water movement slowed down, and the action had come off the pedal a bit. Slow trolling the TBarra 80 through structure and drop offs, and past our trusty “magic stump” produced heaps of fish.

The subject of trolling leads me nicely into my next point, possibly the most important point of this article.

Although this lure is called the TBarra, it is certainly not just a barramundi lure!

Whilst on pursuit across to the far side of Anson Bay, we hooked around the end of one of the islands and found birds working the tip of the reef. This is where the TBarra 80 showed how versatile it’s going to be as a blue water lure as well as a barra lure. We put four out in the spread and trolled them amongst the birds along the edge. They were super stable on the troll and got absolutely swallowed by some the biggest Queenfish you’ll come across. Double hook ups on meter Queenies, which proceeded to jump and run and spin and twirl, was epic fun. Pass after pass the TBarra battled these big fish over and over again.

Toss in the odd blue salmon and some big mangrove jacks coming off the fringing reef to stomp the lure as well and we had put together a ripper little blue water session!

Our team of expert anglers, that we rely on for brutally honest opinions and tough product testing when releasing a new lure, more than confirmed the huge scope of versatility that this lure holds. We sent samples all over the country and there were little fisheries and applications that guys were saying “oh man this would be perfect for that” that we never even thought of. One great example was some of our team in northern WA who troll very light line class for Spanish mackerel in game fishing competitions. They were excited to see a lure that could hold its own trolling in those waters, at those speeds and be built tough enough to handle those big fish, but in a shape and size that you can troll on 3 and 4kg tackle.

The response amongst our team has been super positive and we couldn’t be more stoked with feedback like this:

“A tough, true casting, versatile depth range that has a perfect buoyancy for snag casting and an action that doesn’t require an experienced fisherman to use effectively.” – David Hodge

“Every now and then, you put a lure in the water and just know it will catch fish. The TBarra 80 ticks all the boxes, allowing you to fish with total confidence.” – Jason Ehrlich

Like I said, we love all our lures equally, just some we love even more equally than others! And I must say this TBarra is shaping up as one of those! We are so excited to get this lure out into everyone’s tacklebox so you can see what all the fuss is about and catch some epic fish for yourself.

To see more about the process that we go through to rebuild classic timber lures into modern plastic masterpieces, jump onto our YouTube channel @halcotackle and check out the video “Tilsan DNA: Creating the TB55”.