The Rago Tool became available in the fall of 2005 after a considerable period of R&D and testing. This hand made hardbait measures 13” inches and weighs in at a whopping 13.5oz. The body is molded from a composite material and the tail is soft plastic. The baits come stock with some seriously magnum sized 7/0 Mustad treble hooks and the hardware is all x-heavy including screw eyes and split rings. The production version of the tool is lipless but there are also some models floating around out there that have a removable lip. For this review we’ll discuss the production version only.
When I got the Tool, I took some time to talk with lure maker Jerry Rago about the bait and what it does. He described the Tool as a swimming deadstick bait, and that really is the most accurate description of the lure I can think of. Most floating swimming baits are not designed to be twitched on the top, and most deadstick baits don’t swim, so the Tool hits an interesting mid-point there between lure styles with its ability to go both ways.
As a deadstick bait, the Tool can be left to bob on the surface in a light chop or gently twitched to move the bait left and right. Because the lure has two joints, it will curl into an open C shape when you twitch it and with a little practice it’s easy to make the lure spin 180 degrees in either direction. The lure also has enough resistance in the water that it doesn’t move toward you too much when you work the rod. This can be nice when you are trying to keep the bait away from the boat for long periods while still moving the lure occasionally. Straight deadstick baits have a habit of wanting to glide toward you which can be frustrating when you want to keep the lure out there for a while.
When you look at the Tool, it doesn’t really look like it would swim at all because the head is basically an exact mold of a trout’s head, but surprisingly the bait does swim back and forth with a very nice swimming action on a steady retrieve. The action isn’t a perfect trout action but because the bait is churning up the surface as it swims I really don’t think it matters much. Each Tool is hand tuned and I found that I could burn the bait to the point where it was practically jumping out of the water without causing it to run crooked. Keep in mind that this lure does not dive at all, it stays on the surface no matter what the speed. The faster the bait moves, the more the head starts to point up at you and it really is humorous to look at the lure as it’s coming toward you with its mouth open. It’s almost like a trout screaming for help as it runs.
A last fishing method to consider with the Tool is long line slow trolling. This can be especially effective in super clear water when you need to get the lure way way back of the boat. The Tool is so buoyant that when you let it back and start turning the boat slowly back and forth, it will pick up speed on the turns, and then slow down as the boat straightens. It’s really a killer looking action when you fish the bait this way.
Construction wise the Tool has some interesting points to discuss, the first of which is the fins. Each fin is molded from a composite material and they are quite substantial in thickness. Two small metal springs are used to attach the fin to the body of the bait which allows the fins to flex up and down. You can push them back and forth easily with no fear of breakage which is good from the standpoint of hooking fish and from the standpoint of not breaking off the fins. It’s really an ingenious design, one that I have never seen on a fishing lure before.
The hinge system on the tool is a standard metal eye system and appears very solid. The line tie is a metal eyelet inside the mouth and you definitely want to use a snap on this bait. The tail is glued on and appears to be very secure. I haven’t had any problems with it peeling up. Durability wise, the question comes up; could you cast the bait on to the shore or a dock and break it? I would say that anything is possible but I have not heard of any broken baits so far and the Tool just doesn’t feel like a bait that is going to give up easily. The Tool has the high dollar taxidermy eyes and they compliment the paint schemes nicely.
The last but perhaps most important topic to discuss is the paint job. The Tool is quite simply a masterpiece. If you had a den room or a cabin, you could put the Tool on a pedestal and people would think it was part of the decoration. Each bait clearly requires a great deal of hand work to make them look as good as they do. I know when I got my bait I turned it over and over a hundred times just checking out every inch of it, they look great. From a fishability standpoint, I’ve thrown my Tool quite a few times now and there’s barely a scratch on it. There is no need to add any type of clear coat to this bait.
I mentioned putting the Tool up on display as a joke, but from a collectors standpoint, this bait is really worth your consideration. The hand crafted detail, the taxidermy style head, and the fact that the lure is simply huge, it all spells collecting to me. The fact that Jerry hand makes them also means that there will never be any volume of lures available. I would hazard a guess that even if the Tool becomes popular, only a couple hundred will ever be made.
If you’re at all familiar with the Tool, the first negative aspect to the lure will be very obvious… the price of the lure is $300. No, that’s not a typo, it’s $300.00 US. Swimbait fisherman may pay $200 for a rod and $350 for a reel but when it comes to lures, this kind of pricing puts the bait out of range for all but the most serious enthusiast. Debate will doubtless rage online about the price but the bottom line is that the price is what it is, and for some guys that will be something that they want to have both for fishing reasons and for collecting reasons, and for other guys it just won’t be an option.
From a fishing standpoint, there is only one thing I don’t like about the Tool, and that is the tail. Although the tail is affixed very securely, if you did lose the tail during the day, you’d wind up sitting in the bottom of the boat working on replacing it for at least 10-15 minutes, then waiting for it to dry. The other thing I don’t like about the tail is the fact that it just doesn’t match up that great with the coloration on the rest of the lure. In low light this is no big deal but in direct sunlight with the sun shining through the soft plastic tail, it just doesn’t look quite right to me. The body of the lure is painted so well, it’s disappointing to see the tail looking awkward like that. Other than that, the Tool is really an impressive bait.