By Chris Shaffer | 07/21/2012
Roughly a year ago I stood in the cabin of Jerry Felluca’s boat, three miles offshore of Sandy Point, NY, and was mesmerized by the number of spoons he hoarded. Trolling for Lake Ontario’s kings, steelhead, Atlantics and browns, we didn’t deviate from hardware all day.
This was tough to swallow for a guy who runs a bait company.
“Hey Jerry, do you ever use bait? A lot of guys have been using our Nectar up here this year. Want to try some?” I asked.
Felluca shrugged his shoulders.
“You can send me some if you want,” he said.
Ironically, I enjoy spending time with guys like Felluca. Felluca, owner of Rebel Charters and Lake Ontario United, is the mad scientist type. A lot of captains are lazy. They’ll do the least amount of work possible to catch fish. Not Felluca. This guy tweaks everything. The phrase ‘If it ain’t broken don’t try and fix it” doesn’t work with him. He’ll tear lures apart to see if he can get in the fish’s head with something they aren’t used to seeing.
For those who aren’t familiar with Felluca, he’s a long time Lake Ontario charter captain and is always chasing big money in lake tournaments. And, he wasn’t a Pautzke pro staffer and didn’t even know what Pautzke was when we met. He was the perfect guy to send samples to. We’d get a true test, I figured, if he even tried it.
We sent a care package of Fire Brine and Pautzke Nectar from Ellensburg, Washington, to Western NY a year ago and didn’t hear a word from Felluca. Nevertheless, last week his wife reached out to me with a short email bragging about Felluca’s 33-pound Chinook they caught while fishing last weekend with his buddy who owns Son of A Gun Charters out of Oswego. That fish – and most of his catch – was caught ironically on bait brined with Nectar and Fire Brine. They placed Felluca at the top of the leaderboard in this summer’s LOC Derby (for our West Coast fans, this is a big deal in NY).
“A year ago if you asked me if I’d be running bait to get in the money I would have never said yes, but I’m willing to learn and try new things and this stuff, whatever it’s called…the Fire Brine and hold on let me look at the bottle…Nectar, has been incredible for me,” Felluca told me on the phone this week.
“Spoons will catch anything and everything, but nine times out of 10 your biggest fish is going to come off cut bait. And, I’m trying to catch the biggest fish to win the big money,” he said. “Everyone waits till fall to use bait, but I don’t. I’m using it now and I won a tournament last week on it.”
I figured Felluca was trolling Fire Brine/Nectar brined herring strips only. However, his fish came on an array of bait including herring, ballyhoo, smelt, alewives and other meat baits he wasn’t as eager to share with me.
“Honestly, I haven’t used bait (prior to this season) in a long time. The bait that has been available was poor quality. It would come apart. It was soft. In 45 minutes it got warm and wasn’t worth a damn,” explains Felluca. “I figured I’d try the Nectar and Fire Brine and see if it helped improve the quality of the bait.”
With no kickback from us at Pautzke and no conflict of interest, Felluca gave the scents/brines a fair chance and it’s paid off – literally.
“Now, that the baits available to use are better this stuff (Nectar and Fire Brine) makes the bait twice as good and last twice as long,” notes Felluca. “Most people won’t believe this, but honestly, I’m getting three-to-four fish on one bait now. And, that’s huge. The reason many guys don’t buy cut bait is because of the expense, but using Fire Brine mixed with the Nectar is making the baits last and saving me lots of money. In fact, I caught five fish on one bait this year. “
Felluca has rediscovered bait. While he’s been brining some baits in natural Fire Brine, thus far his go-to colors have been blue and purple Fire Brine, mixed with blue and purple Nectar, he says. Keep in mind, there’s no bite stimulants in Fire Brine, whereas Nectar is loaded with them. Meanwhile, mixing the two is a trick that many of our pros do out West. It’s slowly creeping its way to the Great Lakes.
“Lake Ontario has been extremely clear this year and I’ve been experimenting with more color. I’m convinced that it’s the scent and color that’s working. In fact, I’m not even using attractors right now. I’m sitting back here going ‘what are you kidding me!’ This actually works? When I first heard about the stuff I had no idea it would work this well,” notes Felluca. “It’s catching multiple species, too. I’m catching steelhead, salmon and browns on bait, which is odd. We don’t normally catch browns on meat.”
For the everyday fisherman, using the Fire Brine and Nectar is fool proof. Grab your bait place it in Tupperware, add Fire Brine and Nectar, let sit for 12-24 hours and your baits are ready to fish. The brine/Nectar combination does several things: tightens up the bait, prolongs the life, makes it more durable, scents it and brightens up the bait.
“Don’t be afraid to mix your products. Fire Brine and Nectar mix well together. It can be a simple as you want or as complex as you want,” Felluca added. “A lot of times when you are using baits you lose that color, but I’ve found the Nectar firms it up and brightens the color. Even when I troll these baits down 60 feet in cold water the bait doesn’t lose its color.”
I guess you can teach and old dog – or 30 year veteran charter captain – new tricks.
Editor’s Note: Chris Shaffer is the Director of Operations for Pautzke Bait Company. Shaffer fished a full day last July with Felluca without trolling a single strip of bait. Jerry Felluca is a veteran Lake Ontario charter captain who fishes out of Sandy Point, which is near Rochester. Felluca isn’t a Pautzke pro staffer, but might be soon. For more info on Felluca please visit www.rebelcharters.com