Mattlures Ultimate Bluegill
Author: Rob Belloni
Our first glimpse of the Mattlures Ultimate Bluegill came in late 2006. If the Mattlures Bluegill was a Suburban, you can think of this bait as the Escalade. More bling, with a slightly higher price tag. The Ultimate Bluegill comes in seven color patterns, with five members of the Lepomis genus represented, along with a crappie and tilapia version. Each bait is hand painted and features a Mustad Ultrapoint hook on the back with a wire loop on the belly for those of us who like to add trailer hooks. The Ultimate 'gill retails for approximately $23, measures 5" long, and weighs 1.9oz.
Click on the pictures above. Look carefully at the detail. Once you've done that, I won't need to shower you with adjectives describing the paint jobs on this lure. Simply put, they are wonderful. I like to collect photographs of bass forage to study the subtleties of fish and crustacean coloration. When I look at the Ultimate Bluegill, I see so many shades and hues that are not captured in any other lure. What this says to me is that Matt has taken the time to match his paints to what the fish actually look like. The results are aesthetically pleasing not only to the fisherman, but to the fish.
Part of what makes the Ultimate Bluegill "ultimate" is the unique flared fins. The fins come laid flat, parallel to the body, but the Mattlures web site has detailed instructions explaining how to flare the fins. Take a minute to review the steps and make the modification if you want the flaring action. If you're bed fishing with this bait, it's practically mandatory. California big bait makers continue to lead the way in lure design concepts, and I admire Matt for taking a risk and using a flared fin that requires a little tweaking out of the box.
Another detail worth remark is the taxidermy style eyeball used on the Ultimate Bluegill. I believe that big bass focus on the head of their prey as they strike, and aim to crush any forage fish by smashing its head. The eyes on this lure give the illusion of life from close range, a real bonus when momma bass is about to commit. Note that the bluegill eyes are backed with a rusty amber color while the tilapia and crappie patterns have a silver backing. I need to email Matt and see if I can find out where he gets those eyes so I can put them on my other baits!
The tail on the Ultimate Bluegill incorporates a top fin section to offer a more realistic side profile. Typically fish don't come from the side as they attack, but for bed fishing I think this is a nice feature, especially when your lure is laying on its side on the nest. This top fin also yields a different action than the straight boot-tail on the original Mattlures 'gill; more of a rolling thumping action vs. the typically brisk boot-tail action. You can definitely run this bait slower than the original.
On a medium retrieve, the Ultimate Bluegill runs with its nose down. The tail gives an appearance of buoyancy as it wags back and forth. You get a little body wobble on the retrieve but nothing exceptional. The best word to describe the action is fluttering. The lure looks best with a little ripple on the water and a medium slow retrieve just under the surface. That's when it says hurt bluegill the loudest.
Writing the cons for these reviews is always twice as hard as writing the pros. The garage guys like Matt who make these baits put their heart in to each one, and along with the heart goes a lot of pride. Unfortunately it's my duty to report that neither of my Ultimate Bluegill's swam true out of the package.
If I was strictly bed fishing with these baits, this would be a non-issue. But for cast and retrieve fishing, I'm a stickler when it comes to straight swimming lures. I've put in enough hours with crooked swimming baits to know that they just don't get bit as well as their straight swimming counterparts - if they get bit at all. I was really amped to try my Ultimate 'gills at the California Delta, but when I made that first cast I wanted to drop a tear when I saw that the bait sat sideways in the water as it plowed along.
If you spend enough time with nail weights, worm corers, boiling pots of water, and scissors you can make most lures swim. But for a $23 bait my expectations were that it would swim out of the box. I know it's tough for the manufacturers because they want to use a soft plastic that yields great action, while at the same time combating tail kinking in the package, or in the end users tackle box. Unfortunately, there are going to be a lot of Ultimate 'gills that don't swim, whether they didn't swim out of the box or they got kinked somewhere down the line.
Because of the swimming issues you're going to get mixed reviews on this bait, as evidenced by the reviews you can read just below this one. Some guys are going to get perfect baits that swim true and get mowed down by the bass. Other guys are going to wind up disillusioned by crooked swimming baits. I know one very good fisherman who buys the Mattlures baits in bunches and just chalks up the poor swimming ones as part of the price you pay. He catches a lot of fish on the baits. It's part of the game, you just have to decide how serious you are about getting bit on bluegill imitators. If it's part of your attack, you owe it to yourself to buy these baits. There's money baits out there.