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Lure Review

Hand Crafted Artistry from the Deep South : Awesome Bait Company's Thundershad Crankbait (continued)


Presentation: The key with any bait is how well it behaves once in the water. The lore of the wood crankbait is no two are supposedly alike so, in theory, every time you throw a different hand carved, wood crankbait, you're presenting your quarry with something it hasn't seen before. Could we tell the difference in the action between our three test cranks? No. Were they effective at catching bass? Yes. Were they equally effective at catching bass? Well, considering we had three identical baits in three different color patterns, we cannot answer this question definitively. What we can say is these baits have a very nice, wide, wobbling action as pulled through the water with our test rig.

A close-up of the eyes on our Thundershad Model 175. Note the patched hole right between the eyes - evidence of the lure's hand made origins.


We found our most effective presentation was a slow, erratic crank with multiple pauses adjacent to structure. If burned too fast, our test baits tended to run off to the side and spoil during retrieve. On a slow to medium, steady crank, they dived down confidently and bounced off the bottom in roughly 4-6 feet of water. On pause, where we could see the bait in clear water conditions, our test baits rose very slowly in the water not rapidly as some other floating cranks tend to do.

Weedlessness: Thanks in part, to the smaller than typical hooks for a bait this size found on our Thundershad 175, this bait's ability to swim through weeds and is above average. It's ability to navigate through rocks and in and around branches, however, is a little less admirable. Because the bait has a relatively slow rise rate, we found it susceptible to hang-ups in any condition where the bill might catch in structure. It comes down to a case of give and take. On the one hand, the slow rise of the bait on pause is an effective triggering mechanism for catching fish. On the other hand, this same characteristic makes us less likely to throw the bait in conditions where we might hang up and disturb a potential fish holding spot.


The reflective surface of our Thundershad 175 in Citrus Shad.


Durability: The Thundershad is one crank that did not fair too well in our torture tests. After just one cast up onto the rip rap of the California Delta, our test crank came back with an impressive battle scar. The hard, multi-layer clear coat finish that gives this bait good durability to abrasion type wear, is rather brittle and susceptible to cracks and breaks on hard impact. What happens, with baits like this, is the wood underneath the finish is soft and gives on impact, requiring the hard plastic finish to move with it but to a degree that it is beyond its capability. The end result is cracking and chipping of the finish. A few more, lighter casts to the rip rap resulted in dents and cracks on the other surfaces of our crank, but nothing to duplicate the initial battle scar. We experienced no other, unusual wear characteristics from this bait and while interesting, we don't see the results of our torture test to show any cause for concern under normal fishing conditions.

Our Thundershad Model 175 did not fair too well in our torture tests showing predictable results when marrying a relatively soft material underneath (wood) with a hard plastic shell (multi-layer clear coat finish).


Application & Effectiveness: While we were leery of throwing our Thundershads in and around rip rap or into laydowns, we did find it a very effective bait in conditions of medium to sparse weed densities where the bottom was relatively soft. The digging action of the crank causes a good disturbance in the bottom and together with its slow rate of rise, the bait a good job of mimicking bait fish pausing to digest microscopic food organisms discovered while poking around the in soft bottom of the river or lake. We should note that it's not typical to fish a round billed crank in rip rap or laydown conditions anyway so perhaps these techniques are better suited for the Model 175's siblings - take the square billed Model 106 as an example.


One of the many victims during our trials of the Thundershad 175


Thundershad Model 175 Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality A well crafted bait with quality components and a nice finish 8
Performance A fine performing bait if used in conditions that compliment its action 8
Price A bit steep on initial consideration, but not bad considering you are buying a hand carved and painted bait. It is possible to get these baits online for lower prices but at retail they are a bit expensive 7
Features Gamakatsu hooks, oval split rings, hand carved and hand painted wood crank 9
Design A dizzying array of finishes, though only above average in actual detailing of the bait. The area where the lure falls a bit short is in the durability department 7.5
Application Great around weeds and areas with a soft bottom, less effective in rocks or laydowns simply because of potential hangups 8

Total Score


Pluses and Minuses:

                 Plus                                    Minus

J Hand crafted excellence L Pricey bait
J Very good castability L If you abuse your cranks, brittle finish is questionable
J Good action under water  
J Great selection of colors  
J Gamakatsu hooks & ovalized split rings

Conclusion: There's no question hand carved, hand painted cranks will always have a place in this editor's tackle box. These types of baits go to the very core of bass fishing. In today's world of the mass produced, mass marketed, can't miss lure of the week, it's always refreshing to stumble across vendors like the Awesome Bait Company whose products are rooted in traditional manufacturing techniques. Sure the Thundershad 175 had its limitations during our tests but none more than other round billed cranks we've used in the past. We also note that the Thundershad is available in 9 other configurations, at least one of which, is very likely to fill your particular cranking needs. So the next time you're looking for hand carved, hand painted craftsmanship out of a crank, but are having a hard time locating that specific color to fill your need, be sure to check out Awesome Bait Company's Thundershad - a long kept secret from the heart of Bass Country.











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