By Frank Sargeant
Balsa wood has been a favorite lure material at least since the original Rapala arrived in America circa 1960. That fascination with this lightweight wood assuredly won’t go away after last weekend’s Bassmaster Classic on Lake Guntersville in northern Alabama, when three of the top five finishers, including winner Randy Howell, used balsa crankbaits for much of their winning catches. Ott DeFoe, who finished fourth, and Randall Tharp, who finished fifth, also used the lures extensively.
The Rapala DT-6 was the bait that thousands saw Howell using when the GoPro video from his boat hit bassmaster.com, in one incredible run at Spring Creek Bridge on U.S. 431 when he caught fish after fish over 5 pounds, sometimes on consecutive casts.
The DT-6, like the rest of the DT line, is designed to go to a specified depth and no deeper, making it easy for anglers to fit the right lure to the right water depth. The DT stands for “Dives To”, and in the case of the DT-6, it’s basically a lure for depths of 4 to 6 feet.
Most anglers use crankbaits that run slightly deeper than the depth at which they’re finding the fish because part of the attraction of these lures is that they make crazy wobbles and flutters when they bounce off structure. A lure that hits a rock, tree or bottom regularly delivers an erratic retrieve that triggers lots of strikes.
Rapala’s Mike Iaconelli, who also was in the Classic field, was one of the designers of the DT-6.
“When the water’s cold, forage is cold and doesn’t really move quick,” says Iaconelli. “The DT’s have a slower wobble than plastic baits filled with air, and they also float up more slowly when paused because they’re weighted for neutral buoyancy. The bait just hovers there, rising ever so slowly. That often in itself, in the pre-spawn period, is the trigger of the bite.”
The DT line also features mid-pitch rattles, which may be helpful in cloudy water like that faced by Classic anglers after the big rain Thursday night before the tournament. It’s a surprisingly small lure considering the big fish it delivered in the championship-just two inches long.
Ott DeFoe, who caught most of his fish on rip-rap next to causeway bridges, took full advantage of the DT’s effective stop-and-go mode, grinding the lure against the rocks as he parallel cast the bouldered shores at depths of 3 to 6 feet, hesitating frequently after making hard contact.
And Randall Tharp, who mostly fished the points of humps just off the main channel, typically sat in 10 to 12 feet and cast into 4 feet of water, then cranked the DT6 down to rip through scattered strands of hydrilla.
The DT Series comes in models designed for 4, 6, 10, 14 and 16 feet, with weights from ¼ to ¾ ounce. Rapala spokesman Dan Quinn says the weight added to the lure, making it possible to throw the otherwise featherweight balsa long distances, is key to the ability to get deep fast.
“The farther you cast a crankbait, the deeper it will run,” says Quinn. “A good caster with the right gear can throw the DT-6 150 feet, and that gets the full benefit out of the design.”
Randy Howell’s winning color was a red-orange shade that’s always popular at Guntersville, but bluegill shades worked for Ott DeFoe and shad colors were key for Randall Tharp.
Rapala DT-6’s are priced at $6.99 to $7.59 depending on size. See more atwww.rapala.com.