Cedar Plugs Do It Again (Part 1)

WAY BACK in my young fishing life, I was thoroughly fascinated by all aspects of fishing. Much to my innocence, I would read about fishing whether it was about the east coast (where I have never yet been to), farm ponds (I didn't even know there were farms in California), quarry pits (are there quarries in California?), chalk streams (???), or even oxbow lakes. Fishing was fishing and somehow I felt everything was related. Along with all of the fishing articles describing how to fish in what seems to have been anyplace with water in it were all the references to the wide world of lures available to fish all these waters.

When I read about the effectiveness of cedar plugs in various references, I thought to myself, "This must be a very cool lure!" and sought them out. I mean, when several different articles by several different authors mention catching fish on them in several different places, I had to get one, right?

Well, it seemed that no one locally in the bay area had one to sell, and most shop owners (of which there were many in the old days) never even heard of cedar plugs, I suppose, since no one ever used one trolling for striped bass, salmon, or halibut around these here parts.

I finally found the legendary cedar plug when my cousin in Los Angeles took me to a shop down there in southern California. One look at it and all I could say was ,"This is it? THIS is what the fuss is all about?"

I held in my hand a classic cedar plug. It was a simple elongated tear drop shape, with a bullet shaped head made of lead, and a body of turned down cedar wood. It was simply rigged with a leader that went up the middle of the body with a big single hook drawn up into the body. It was so simple, not even painted, that I was reluctant to buy one.

But buy one I did, and it wasn't until many years later that I got to wet the thing aboard my first long range trip. I should not have allowed its simple shape and design with its unpainted body fool me into thinking it couldn't have any attraction to a fish. When trolled behind a boat, it had the smoothest, most seductive swimming action I had seen on any fishing lure. It was no wonder it was mentioned in so many different fishing articles.

Which brings us to the present. A while back, I wrote an article stating that plain old white was somehow the best color for lures used in the pursuit of striped bass. Somehow, this article got around and one landed into the hands of Dick Fincher, owner/operator of Phase II Lures out there in Westport, CT. He thought that I would be interested in a couple of lures that he hand carves, the Poppy and the Junior Poppy, both subsurface darters that came in … you guessed it, plain white.

And like the cedar plugs of old, I was not impressed with these plugs when I opened the envelope containing these two lures. Hand carved was right, these lures didn't look anything like the sleek Japanese wood lures I am used to looking at. There was nowhere near the flashy paint jobs I am used to looking at with those big swim baits guys are using for monster big black bass. It was downright homely looking.

Like those cedar plugs of old, I was not too enthusiastic about tying one onto the end of my line. One day, however, I decided, what the heck, I'll just tie one on and toss a few casts. It couldn't hurt.

Boy, was I wrong.

Next time: Tossing and working these Phase II lures and their unique swimming action.

Until then, you can look up Phase II lures at .

* STEVE "HIPPO" LAU is a regular columnist for the FISH SNIFFER, the leading West Coast fishing magazine. His current column is reprinted below with permission.

This is the first of two articles in The Fish Sniffer magazine by columnist Steve "Hippo" Lau on his experience with Phase II Lures – Junior (4", ¾ oz.) and Poppy (6", 1 oz.) darting swimmers.

Recent Posts