By : Mark Hicks
Todd Castledine managed to keep the Hybrid Hunter a secret for over a decade. He explains its origins and how he likes to fish it.
Secret baits don’t stay secret for long in this age of intense internet bass tournament scrutiny. Despite this reality, Texas bass ace Todd Castledine managed to keep one of his hottest baits to himself for more than 12 years.
Castledine is renowned for catching heavy tournament limits on Rayburn and Toledo Bend. He has also consistently done well competing in other states. He credits his secret bait for putting bass in his livewell just about everywhere he has fished a tournament since he discovered it.
Fortunately for bass addicts everywhere, Castledine’s secret bait has been revealed. It is called the Hybrid Hunter and Strike King has made it available to everyone.
The reason Castledine was able to keep the Hybrid Hunter a secret for so long is that he was practically the only angler who could get his hands on it. He discovered the bait in 2008 when he was sponsored by the Taiwanese Strike Pro lure company.
“They would send me hundreds of baits to experiment with,” Castledine said. “One of the baits that caught my eye would eventually become the Strike King Hybrid Hunter.”
Castledine had one of these baits for a year before he discovered how deadly it was during a February outing on Sam Rayburn. Two other anglers were with him that day. One was Strike Pro’s saltwater pro Billy Howell. The other was Andrew Upshaw, who had qualified for the Bassmaster Classic as a collegiate champion and now competes in the Bassmaster Opens.
“I was reeling it over grass just like you would a Red Eye Shad,” Castledine said of his secret bait. “It outfished everything we tried 10 to one. From then on I just started throwing it.”
The Strike Pro company was getting out of the American market and never produced the bait for the general public. They no longer make any lures under their brand for American anglers. However, they did make some of Castledine’s secret baits specifically for him.
He kept his stash of baits to himself for several years and caught bass with them from Rayburn to Table Rock to Florida. He even held his tongue six years ago when he became a member of the Strike King pro staff.
In January of 2016 Castledine decided it was time to unveil his secret bait. He took Strike King lure designer Phil Marks fishing at Toledo Bend. Marks, a good friend of Castledine’s, recently died of cancer.
“We caught over 30 pounds of bass cranking the Hybrid Hunter just over the grass,” Castledine said. “That was all it took to convince Phil that Strike King needed to include the bait in their line.”
Strike King worked out a deal with Strike Pro lures to make this happen.
The Hybrid Hunter excels when retrieved over submerged grass, but Castledine says it catches bass from other cover and in any season as long as there are shallow fish.
“It runs 4 to 6 feet deep,” Castledine said. “We named it the Hybrid Hunter because it hunts all over the place. It’s the loudest, most buoyant crankbait I own.”
Castledine added that the Hybrid Hunter has little in common with a square bill crankbait. It has flat sides and swims on a horizontal plane.
Because it is most effective when retrieved at a hot clip, Castledine slings it with a 7-foot, 6-inch, medium-heavy graphite casting rod sporting a Lew’s Custom Pro Speed Spool SLP reel with a 7.5:1 gear ratio. He spools the reel with 20-pound fluorocarbon line to withstand the hard strikes the bait triggers.
“You want to burn this thing,” Castledine said of the Hybrid Hunter. “I fish it hard and fast.”
He pointed out that typical colors for square bill crankbaits don’t produced well with the Hybrid Hunter. He recommends what he terms “jerkbait colors” in clear water and “Red Eye Shad colors” in stained water.