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Lure Review

Simple yet Deadly Effective, the Savage Gear Sandeel (continued)

Retrieving: With a narrower profile than most swimbaits the Sandeel delivers a lot more tail action than we expected. This really wasn’t something we were able to observe in the stained El Salto or Delta waters but in the crystal clear water of Lake Sonoma we were finally able to observe just how nicely the tail flutters during both low and high speed retrieves.

The Sandeel can be fished on standard heavy action casting rods

There are many ways to fish this particular bait and all of them can be effective depending on the application. For example when targeting largemouth we found that a slow retrieve alongside structure was more than enough to incite a bite. When fishing for Stripers we found jigging the bait up and down erratically or even a straight ripping retrieve got fish to chase and commit. One of the keys with this swimbait is to keep it moving as it has an exposed hook and if you are not careful it can snag up on the bottom.

Notice how the head surrounds the tail keeping it firmly in place

While this bait is great for freshwater applications it also is deadly for targeting saltwater species and can be used for jigging for seabass, seatrout or rockfish. In fact the lure has built up quite a following in Sweden and the UK for hammering saltwater species with light tackle right off the shore. Matching the hatch also helps increase the strike ratio, for example in lakes where we were targeting bass and we knew there were plenty of resident Kokanee both the Dirty Silver and Blue Silver patterns outfished the other colors 3 to 1.

A look at the paddletail

Durability: The Savage Gear Sandeel is quite robust and the plastic used in the tail on these lures is dense enough to be resistant to punctures and tears. The head on the bait is also quite durable and though you are guaranteed to get it scratched up if you fish the bottom and come in contact with structure, you can rest assured that even with plenty of battle scars this bait will remain thoroughly effective.

A largemouth tries to shake the Sandeel

That said the bass at El Salto proved that after a few violent strikes even this swimbait will take damage. The head is designed so the plastic attaches into the head seamlessly which helps to keep it pinned on, but if fish violently shake the bait or pull on the tail during the strike the plastic where the hook is threaded through can and will tear, resulting in a weak point which allows the tail to become loose. To avoid having the tail rip off or shake off during the next fish we found that we could cut off a portion of the front end of the tail, shortening the bait but allowing it to once again fit snugly against the jighead.

The head is actually quite detailed

Price & Applications: We found that end-to-end this was quality bait, and what we mean by that is both the jighead and the tails are both fish catching machines. Together the bait is no doubt deadly but we even found use for the baits in other applications.

Out of tails at El Salto I started pinning on other brands

For example when we ran out of tails in El Salto I eventually started pinning other tails from Keitch and Netbait on the jighead and I was able to continue fishing the exact same style and draw strikes. Out at Clear Lake when Cal saw fish chase his inline blade bait but fail to strike he added a Sandeel tail onto the lure and sure enough he started getting fish to not just chase but commit.

Cal pins a tail on a inline blade bait at Clear Lake...

Retailing for $7.99 for the most popular 6” and 7” sizes this bait is reasonably priced, we just wish that each pack came with two of these fantastic jigheads. Nonetheless the jigheads do outlast the tails, unless you lose one to a snag, and I have caught over ten fish per bait before the tail really was unsalvageable.  

...and catches fish within a few casts

Ratings: (We've re-calibrated our ratings standard for 2008 and have included a key at the bottom of the following matrix as a guide):

Savage Gear Sandeel Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality The Savage Gear Sandeel  features quality plastic tail construction and the jighead is both durable and painted with realistic looking patterns which help the bait transition nicely from the tail to the actual jighead 8.5
Performance Though this bait may not look like much it really delivered when it came to strikes from a variety of fish in a wide range of applications. It is no surprise that anglers from Europe to the Americas are having success with the Sandeel, this formula just plain works 9.5
Price Like other Savage Gear offerings the Sandeel is reasonably priced (we just wish they came with two jigheads per pack, that would be an "excellent" deal) 8
Features A well designed bait that may not have a ton of special features in the traditional sense but yet everything comes together perfectly. The jighead is well designed and the slender profile actually helps make the bait able to touchdown on structure without hanging up. The plastic tail, though durable, is still able to deliver plenty of tail kicking side to side action under varied retrieves 7.5
Design (Ergonomics) Easy to cast and retrieve and can be fished with standard casting rods with ease, no need for a big swimbait rod here unless you are fishing the 8" baits which weigh in at 5.3oz. 8
Application Fished slow, burned, or even jigged for deeper holding fresh and saltwater fish this lure is good for so many species and applications on both sides of the pond 9

Total Score

Ratings Key: 1 = terrible : 2 = poor : 3 = lacking : 4 = sub par : 5 = mediocre : 6 = fair : 7 = good : 8 = great : 9 = excellent : 10 = unbelievable!
For More Details of the updated rating system visit our explanation here


Pluses and Minuses:

                 Plus                                    Minus

+ A sleeper bait that performs a whole lot better than you might expect - Pack only comes with one head for two tails
+ Good for targeting multiple species  
+ Easy to fish with conventional tackle  
+ Both the heads and tails can be pared with other tackle to mix it up  
+ Reasonable price  

Conclusion: Savage Gear may not yet possess the same brand recognition in the U.S. that it enjoys in Europe but that will quickly change with offerings like the deadly Sandeel. Thanks to a partnership with Okuma the brand is now becoming much more widely distributed and many retailer and e-tailers are now offering a complete line of their hard and soft bodied baits. While it takes a little bit of imagination for big bait anglers to wrap their heads around the Sandeel the company is introducing more traditional swimbaits with trout profiles, called the Savage Gear Real Trout. These lures are starting to hit the market and like the company’s other offerings is reasonably priced at $6.99 to $9.99 per bait. While I have yet to fish these new swimbaits I am perfectly content to keep fishing the Sandeel for now. On bodies of water like the Delta where you get everything from largemouth and smallmouth to stripers and salmon it is good to know that you have a bait that can appeal to all these species.

Never judge a book by the cover, the Sandeel may not look like much at first glance but this is a fish catching machine

The Sandeel is one of those baits that really doesn’t look like much and something many anglers would easily pass on the retail shelf, never thinking twice about this seemingly simple narrow bodied swimbait, in fact saltwater anglers are more likely to pick up these lures for targeting rockfish or strolling for Halibut. But as we have learned time and time again there really is something to be said about lures that are designed for catching fish and not just fishermen and the Savage Gear Sandeel is one of those baits that will surprise you. It certainly surprised us with the lures effectiveness for so many different species and applications and where we once viewed this bait with one eyebrow raised we now see a bait with “Editor’s Choice” written all over it.

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