Boobies and heavyheads

The innovative design of the English-made Booby fishing fly-lures allows fisherman to dredge the bottom of small lakes without becoming stuck. The Booby lures are versatile, highly maneuverable and can be used to catch, trout, bass or crayfish.
SO THERE I WAS–PROUD of myself for making country-mile-long casts with an old-style 30-foot shooting head and monofilament running line. Then I was handed a rod loaded with a custom-created line and a head that was rated three or four sizes too heavy for the rod. The bug-eyed “Booby” flies that we were using were also pretty cool. They looked like extras from a cheapo ’60s sci-fi thriller.

Something about the combination must have tickled both the bass and the trout in the little Cape Cod lakes, because we were catching them pretty well. The whole thing had started like this:

The Discovery

Saltwater striper guide Tony Stetzko from Cape Cod (see “Calm, Cool and Neglected,” September 1995) is a closet freshwater fanatic in his downtime. One slow day at a favorite lake, he realized he needed to be dredging bottom. But the only line in his tackle bag for the job was a 30-foot, 9-weight Wet Cel III shooting head he’d just assembled for stripers in the salt. “What the heck,” he figured, “if I `gentle’ my casts I won’t break this 5-weight rod.”

Not only did his light trout stick hold its own, but the line blasted out as though cannon-shot, dragging the mono section behind it. Score another point for modern rod design and high-quality graphite.

Now Stetzko could reach the lake bottom, but the Woolly Bugger he cast out 30-foot water, then worked up a slope and onto the flat where he stood, kept hanging up. Suddenly he remembered the Boobies he’d ordered from England. General-ly similar to a Woolly Bugger, the British flies add two closed-cell foam eyes encased in a bit of panty hose at the head. So effective have they proven over the past few years in the U.K. that some fisheries there now ban their use.

Their secret seems to be more a matter of action than of any exotic combination of materials. You creep the shooting head slowly across bottom, then pause (or give slack) and the Booby slowly rises, its marabou tail wiggling. The effect is that of a critter just emerging from the bottom. Give a quick little line strip and the fly dives back toward the bottom. “It takes me 15 minutes to calm down enough to fish it as slow as you should,” Stetzko says. Long leaders let the fly rise farther; short ones keep the Booby nearer the bottom. Different types of foam result in a quicker or slower rise or a near-neutral hover.

The concept isn’t altogether new–bass flyfishermen have used poppers and sliders on sinking lines for years, but those lures lack the instant response and reaction to the subtlest manipulation of the line. You can turn an ordinary Woolly Bugger into a Booby approximation by making a hole through a bit of foam with a hot needle and then threading the foam onto your leader. Snug the foam to the fly head. Stetzko has experimented with a wide variety of foams–from dense-foam lobster-pot buoys to some relatively open-cell stuff he filched from under his wife Laurie’s riding saddle.

The Control Issue

Of course, he experimented with the makeup of his overweight shooting heads once he saw how well they worked. Why use a mono-backed shooting head when outfits such as Teeny, Orvis and L.L. Bean now sell integral running/shooting lines? “Sensitivity,” says Stetzko. “Once that head’s down there and you tighten up there’s no belly; you have complete control with mono. You’ll get to where you can even feel it when crayfish grabs onto your line.”

A crayfish? “Yeah, for some reason they’re attracted to the head. I’ve had three or four on at once. Flipped me out.” I had a hard time buying this until a slight heaviness in my retrieve the next time we went fishing proved to be…a fat crayfish.

The 25-to 30-pound-test mono shooting/ running line also sinks with less resistance than the coated shooting section of factory tapers. And if you watch it carefully you’ll see it sag just like you would fishing a jig when the lure bottoms out. If the mono has been on your reel awhile without being used, strip it into a sink or bowl of very hot (not boiling) water, and stretch it before fishing. It will be far more manageable.

While the traditional 30-foot heads work, you’ll get better casting control with even longer heads. Orvis now sells a head that’s 38 feet, and I’ve cut down old Wet Cel II, III and IV lines to about 40 feet. With the longer head, 50 feet of mono shooting line is enough. The longer the head, however, the more line you tend to keep in the air while casting, which means you’ll be better off using a rod rated closer to the labeled line weight–a 7-weight rod, say, for a 9-weight head rather than a 5-or 6-weight rod. Keep checking on your ferrules. A loose ferrule on an overloaded rod can easily snap the rod.

If you want to switch between different sink-rate heads quickly, use a compact loop. Strip off two inches of coating from the head, exposing the braided core. Form a loop out of the core and, using a separate piece of 6-to 8-pound mono, tie a nail knot around the loop so that the knot just abuts the coated section. Then, with a second piece of mono, tie another nail knot next to the first one up over the coated head.

Stetzko is so enamored of the overloaded-head system that he’s now using it for much of his saltwater striper fishing. He throws Clousers or more sparsely dressed streamers on it–even in the surf. His largest fish to date? How about 30 pounds on the 5-weight. “It whips them so good,” he says, “I’m thinking about dropping to a 2-weight for fresh water!”


A few days after I’d fished with Tony he called to let me know he’d taken his 5-weight and the Booby he’d been using for trout and bass (it’s tied on a light streamer hook) back into the Cape’s saltwater marshes. He simply annihilated schoolie stripers on it. Fishing alongside a friend who used Clousers and baby bunker patterns, Stetzko outfished the other flies four to one. He thinks that the Boobies suggest worms of which the marshes hold good populations. Whatever, those stripers liked it fine.


Freedom to steer electric motors from anywhere in the boat sounded great in 1995 when MotorGuide’s Lazer electric was announced, but some fishermen didn’t like the electric foot control, especially when wearing insulated footgear. The company has now introduced the new Lazer II pedal for both ES (electric steer, using 18 feet of soft cable) and RF (radio frequency) models. It offers the heel/toe steering of traditional foot pedals but eliminates fatigue. The new pedal also has a variable-speed adjustment, momentary and constant run switches, plus a new forward command switch that returns the motor to the straight-ahead position.

The new pedal works with older motors after a do-it-yourself modification. Another easy modification allows the older pad to work with new Lazer II motors which naturally come with the new pedal. Finally, MotorGuide offers an exchange program for anglers to swap their old pad for the new pedal. Call 918-831-6989 for details. Lazer II pedals carry a suggested retail price of $169 for the ES, and $199 for the RF, models.–J.G.

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