Bill Hurley's Striper Magnet
Commotion the Ocean or Piddle in a Puddle?
By Peter Budryk
My first cast with a Striper
Magnet provoked a powerful strike! Instantaneously the fish overpowered the flex of
the rod and the set of the drag, pulling the 14 lb test line off the reel on its initial
Turning the reel handle merely added more octane to the run so the line left the
reel even faster. Then, just as suddenly, the rod straightened and the line went slack.
Reeling in I could see that the line had been severed, so-like the fish- I was off! In my
case, I was off the knot-failure-hook.
Rather than continue this demonstration of competence and take the steps the cut-off
dictated, I immediately tied on another Striper Magnet, again without wire or a shock
tippet. I just had to get another lure into the water as soon as possible because I sensed
what was going to occur when I did.
Sure enough, the very next cast produced another jarring strike followed by a deep rod
bending and a blazing run! After several minutes of a see-saw battle of
line-out/line-in/line-out/ line-in the fish was close enough for me to identify- as well
as to see the lure pull free from the fish's mouth. Then a third cast, an immediate
hit,run,and, a few minutes later-a fish in hand! ( More about this first experience
Three casts with the Striper Magnet produced three consecutive violent strikes; one
lost lure; and one fish landed. An impressive debut for me by Bill Hurley's creation. This
is a creation that has a number of devoted users all abuzz and a much larger number of
potential users ignorant of its very existence. Have you heard about it?
This fast track success posed an
unanticipated problem for me. When I
first thought of writing on the subject, it occurred to me that a reader might think I had
a vested interest in making the lure sound good. After all, that is what always
seems to be the case with so many new product reports in magazines that sound like the
manufacturer wrote the piece. This is often payback by a writer for a trip, free
equipment, or other payola from the manufacturer. As the living legend, Lefty Kreh, says
about writers and equipment manufacturers,
"First as a writer, you hope you'll get a discount on equipment. Next, they give
it to you for free. Finally, they pay you to use it."
I had no reason to do a puff piece since I had never used the lure, met or spoke with
Hurley and, bottom line, I had a commitment to my own integrity as a writer. I simply had
some rave reports on the lure and I wanted to check it out myself. After tracking down
Bill Hurley for an interview, I paid him for some lures to field test. For better or worse
I'd report the results as they occurred, knowing full well that, in the final analysis,
the fishing community would be the arbiter of my objectivity. Would they believe what
happened on my first three casts? I had difficulty believing the results of my first three
casts. You be the judge and let me know what you think. I myself will always place more
trust in the views of a hundred fishermen over the opinion of a single angler, myself
included. I am, after all, merely Peter, a fisherman, and not Peter, The Fisherman.
So how did I discover the Bill
Hurley Striper Magnet for myself? To a guy who had fished for stripers for many years
in MA, CT, and RI and who now has the great good fortune to live and fish on Cape Cod from
May through October, it was somewhat embarrassing the way the Striper Magnet came to my
My youngest brother, Frank, lives on Cape Cod virtually year 'round but not until
recently has he begun to fish its waters. While he no longer holds his fishing rod so his
spinning reel is above the rod while he reels it with his right hand (so what if he has to
reel backwards), he brings much more passion than finesse to his new found love of
angling. He has graduated to chunking, live-lining, and eeling in the Canal, or grappling
with the stripers and the colorful cadre of crazed characters who vie for elbow and
forearm and herring-snagging purchase at the Charles River Dam. To date this comprises the
alpha and the omega of his striper fishing adventures. And, despite my best teaching
efforts, he still can't tie an improved clinch knot.
So, fishing snob that I am, to be introduced to a new striper lure by my baby brother-
no Lefty Kreh-was somewhat humbling. (By the way, I think Frank will forgive me; most
assuredly so if I pass along a few of the lures I field tested, as the following will
How did he stumble upon the Striper Magnet? Late last summer, after yet another
striperless trip to the Canal, he started to pack up to leave when a nearby angler, who
had been watching him fish, and no doubt felt an mixture of pity and gratitude for the
entertainment said, "Wait a minute, my friend, watch this." He cast out a lure
into the Canal, let it sink some, twitched his rod, reeled in the slack, and then reared
back to set the hook on a striper. After releasing the 24" fish he said, "Watch,
I'll do it again." Cast. Twitch. BANG! Catch. Measure. Release.
He handed Frank several lures,
instructing him to use them the way he had just demonstrated, and departed. On the first
cast a striper hit it. And on and on til he lost the last lure to a fish that cut it off
on the rocks. Who was that generous unmasked man and were those silver bullets he
left with my brother? You've probably guessed, right? Before he left, he had introduced
himself to Frank as Bill Hurley and had given him several of his Striper Magnets. So
impressed with the lure's effectiveness, my brother, after losing the last lure, scavenged
a mangled Striper Magnet Hurley had missed getting into the trash barrel, took it home and
Krazy Glued it back to life, to fish again until he could find a store to resupply. My
brother did that! Frank, who ties on his lures and hooks with an unimproved slip knot!
When he told me of this experience, I was intrigued.
Before moving on to Bill Hurley's creation and whether it warrants your investment of
money and time, let's look at a fundamental question regarding artificial lures:
ON WHAT SPECIFIC BASES DO WE JUDGE A LURE'S EFFECTIVENESS?
- Fish Catchability-do fish want it?
- Castability-can you get it to the fish easily?
- Durability-can you catch a reasonable number of fish with it?
- Affordability-what is its fish:cost ratio?
- Applicability-limited to one or varied species,situations?
- Excitability-is it fun to use?
- Availability-easily purchased ?
My brother's and my limited experience with the Striper Magnet is of some value
on this score, but it lacks the validity of a wider sampling of users over a longer period
of time. For this test I have surveyed a sampling of tackle stores in the Northeast with
this question: "Based on fishing results you have had personally or witnessed reports
you have received from customers and fishing guides, and sales records, what are the
hottest new or established striped bass lures?"
Generally, the folks at the stores who spoke with me provided reviews ranging from
ignorance of the lure, to not stocking it because it seemed too similar to other lures, to
luke warm endorsements, to raves. Lure "wisdom" was imparted to me by several
wily angler/storeowners: "The success of certain lures is a function of the peculiar
micro-conditions of different areas that may not be transferable to other areas. For
example, the Cape Cod Canal almost always calls for certain standard types of lures-big,
heavy-and certain standard presentations-mostly deep."
"The best striper lure is the lure you use the most because then you catch most of
your stripers with it."
Dave Warren, owner of Pioneer Sporting Center in Northampton,was the first store to
carry Hurley's Striper Magnet in 1997. Bill had taken Dave fishing to the CT River in and
to the waters off Stonington,CT in order to demonstrate the lure. "We caught fish
almost every cast. It has a walk the dog action, unlike most soft baits. It's so effective
even novice fisherman catch fish,which is the best thing about it. While I rate Gibbs and
Pencil Poppers best in rivers, the Striper Magnet is the top ocean lure in my view. It's
the number 1 selling striper lure in my store."
Don Stromeyer, owner of Red Top in Buzzard's Bay, doesn't carry the Striper Magnet
because he feels there are too many similar type lures available such as the Slug-Go and
that, in his neck of the woods, there are many other time tested, proven lures like the
Crippled Herring, Gibbs Pencil Popper, Polaris, Yozuri, Luhr Jensen, and of course the
Canal staple-the bucktail jig in its full array of colors, sizes, and shapes .
Pat Abate, owner of River's End in Old Saybrook, CT says the Striper Magnet is
"alright, satisfactory". The lure's greatest advantage, its fool-proof, built-in
action doesn't jibe with his own personal, high energy, spastic fishing style. "At
the same time that it may not be my own favorite striper lure, based on changing customer
demand, I am watching my inventory of soft plastic striper lures growing while my
inventory of hard lures is shrinking.It really is about time; saltwater anglers are about
20 years behind freshwater anglers in discovering softbaits."
Jack Spregal, who manages Quaker Lane in North Kingstown, R.I. says the Striper Magnet
is "Awesome! We sell and I use a lot of different soft plastics, but Hurley's lure is
just that different in its shape, color, and action that it stands head and shoulders
above all of the others in catching fish. My favorite colors are the black and the pearl.
Man! They are massively productive. More so than even most of the hard baits. Use whatever
you have to to find stripers, but once you've located them switch to the Striper
Magnet-the bass devour it. It's among the top 10 selling lures in this shop."
Bill Edwards of Goose Hummock in Orleans rates the Striper Magnet "Third best
striper lure, just behind Gibbs Polaris and Gag's Mombo Minnow.We go through quite a few
of them here. I've used everything. The Sriper Magnet works as well as, if not better
than, most lures. It works like a charm."
In addition to the tackle store survey, I have researched the media to mine the
evaluations of professional anglers-commercial and sport-and outdoor scribes.
IN-FISHERMAN'S 2000 GUIDE-BASS "The World's Foremost Authority on Bass" has some
nice things to say, "New England guide Bill Hurley designed the hefty 7 3/4 -inch
Striper Magnet Plus for big bass as well as stripers. It is a killer in open water."
Closer to home, Tom Rock, who writes the outdoor column for Long Island's NEWSDAY,
talks about the lure's fish catchability, obscurity, and the Beany Baby craze among
anglers to get their hands on the lure: "Last spring tackle shop owners across Long
Island were asking 'What's a Hurley lure?' One owner said,'I've had 50 people ask me and I
have no idea what it is. I thought it might be something fictitious. I have no idea what
it looks like and I've been in the business for 30 years."
"The reception of this thing has been unbelievable" said Fred Roth of
Smithtown Bait & Tackle, one of the first shops on Long Island to stock the Hurley.
"Fishermen are typically very skeptical, but if you're standing next to someone using
this thing and being outfished 10-1, you're going to start to believe." ( My brother
bears witness to this point, Author) "I've had dozens of calls from other tackle
shops asking where they can get this thing," said Roth "It really works."
Rock the writer refers to it aptly as "the hottest lure since Chanel No. 5."
On the topic of the lure's fish catching successes, Hurley showed me a photograph (of
too low quality for magazine reproduction) of a New Jersey angler hefting a 50 lbs striper
he landed on a Striper Magnet last year.
Categorized as a "soft minnow" of the Slug-Go type jerkbait, Hurley's
Striper Magnet is the product of over $25,000 he invested in research and development for
a lure that not only would catch fish but would also be easily castable and swimable at
the appropriate depths. The result is a hefty profile lure with large, 3-D rattling eyes
that Hurley says are a big reason for its appeal to stripers. "They attack the head
of the lure and the eyes really attract them." His diamond sharpened weighted
hooks-he has been issued patents on both the lures and the weighted hooks he
designed-slide into the belly of the lure so the eye is exposed for tying on at the front
of the lure and then pulled back slightly to hide the eye and knot. The exposed hook
serves as a keel to keep the lure from spinning in the water.
The lure casts well and catches fish with no special rigging, but Hurley advise
affixing an 18 inch length of flourocarbon to the eye of the hook to reduce the line's
visibility to the fish. He also suggests tying on a barrel swivel to the end of the
flourocarbon where it will attach to the line on the reel. This will minimize line
twist. On the Striper Magnet Plus Hurley sells the lure already set up with the
flourocarbon leader. This modification provides no more of a casting hinge than a standard
A soft plastic bait, the Striper Magnet can appropriately be considered a
consumable lure with a relatively short, productive and useful life, depending upon the
type of fish that try to eat it. Stripers will eventually chew it up but depending on the
severity of damage, a commercial sized Krazy Glue type product will extend a lure's life
and leave a few bucks in your pocket a little longer. However, it won't last as long as
that Krazy Krawler in your tackle box.
At under $5 for 5 packs of the 4 ½ inch or 5 ¾ inch models (each package
contains one weighted hook) or a 3 pack of the 7 ¾ inch or a 2 pack of the 9 ¾ inch
sizes (with a weighted hook in each lure), the lures easily meet the affordability
criterion. Compared to other over priced lures-exceeding $30 each, ouch!!!- it is a
bargain. The smallest version has a split tail, unlike the broader paddle tail of the
larger lures, and is specifically designed to target false albacore and bonita. Hurley
demonstrated their effectiveness with these fish on a past episode of New England Outdoors
with Dennis. Hurley's lures come in more than 20 different colors. Hooks may be
purchased separately, and a 12" giant will be offered in the future.
Hurley's lures are quite versatile, appealing to a variety of species and
applicable to different conditions. In addition to stripers and bluefish, anglers have
attested to their success fishing the 7 ¾" size for fluke and weakfish, either alone
deep or as a teaser fished above a bottom squid strip. Largemouth and smallmouth bass are
regularly caught on them.
Getting back to my initial trials with
the lure described at the outset of this piece: having met with Hurley in January in
snow-covered Northampton, MA where he makes his home, I personally have had no opportunity
to test his lures yet in New England waters. In early February, however, I broke several
of them out, first, at the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River near Fort Myers, Florida and
again in the backwaters of Little Hickory Island in Bonita Beach, Florida ( compliments of
our good and generous friend Ronnie Gormley of North Reading who made her lovely beach
front condo available to my wife, Elinor, and me). The fish that grabbed my first three
casts of the Striper Magnet, as I described, were Jack Crevalle which resemble Pompano and
which hit and fight harder than any other fish of similar size I have been fortunate to
catch-maybe false albacore and bonita are comparable. A voracious schooling and frenzied
feeding fish, they perhaps would have taken a cigar stub with a hook-I have too little
experience with them to say for sure, but I failed to notice any nearby anglers hooking
into them and I did get several screams from across the pass, "Hey, mister, what the
h--l are you using?"
My nighttime efforts for spotted weakfish and giant snook met with follows and only one
hit. And by 3 A.M.the night herons began to look at me strangely and held their ground too
long for my comfort, so I wobbled back across the island to the security of the condo.
Depending on water clarity, you feel rather than see most hits. At least that was
my own limited experience in the surprisingly silted Florida backwaters I fished in
February. I did see as well as feel one monster jack that hit the lure mid-channel,
overpower my equipment and my limited expertise and broke me off on a barnacled pier.
Other than that type of fishing thrill, the nature of the lure dictates the senses its
actions can appeal to. It lacks the visual excitement produced by a popper, but the
tactile excitement was intense.
After my brother put me on to this lure, I tried to buy one at a Canal tackle
shop late last fall. When I asked the proprietor if he knew of and carried any of Bill
Hurley's striper lures, which I described to him, he looked at me as though I had asked
him if he sold Cheverolets. He shook his head, muttered something under his breath I
couldn't make out, and went back to sorting his sandworms. Not wanting to let him think he
had intimidated me- after all I was wearing a fly fishing vest, I pretended to look at
some of his stuff for a few minutes before heading out the door. "There, on the
counter near the door, in the wooden box. But it's empty and I can't get any more,"
he said sheepishly finally giving in to admitting he had stocked them in the past. It was
finer than many cigar boxes I had seen, some with Cubans inside. No Striper Magnets but
the guy was nice enough to give me Bill Hurley's address and telephone number. As always,
demand drives supply. Goose Hummock Shop in Orleans on Cape Cod runs out their supply of
the large, black Striper Magnets early in the season. It turns out that some clever
commercial fisherman discovered that they are deadly on stripers when sandsharks are
giving live birth to their young which are a dead ringer for the lure. The stripers target
these freshly born fish during their birthing period in mid-late summer on the Cape.
MAN BEHIND THE LURE
Bill Hurley, ever curious and resourceful when it comes to catching fish, invented his
Striper Magnet four years ago after rescuing an unproductive striper trip with a soft
plastic Guido Hibdon tube jig that outfished all the artificial and natural baits that
were being tossed by him and other fishermen who were being skunked til he tied on the
tube jig. Building on the soft and sinking principles, he conceived of swimming, eyes,
sound, and and a keel weight, and banged together a makeshift mold. The son of retired Army Brigadier General William Hurley Sr., his father
once remarked of young Bill, "He can't do much, but he can catch fish." Bill
continues to prove his father half right. In the late 70s Bill made the most of a 3 year
hitch as a diver in the navy, spending 2 years fishing his brains out in Turks and Caicos
and one year in Iceland doing the same. He is currently Acting Deputy Fire Chief for
Northampton , MA. Also a veteran fireman in the Air Navy Reserves, Bill continues to serve
his country by traveling annually to exotic spots that just happen to have spectacular
sportfishing. A lean and handsome man of 43, he has the easy going and likeable manner of
a Jimmy Stewart and the mischievous smile of a Red Buttons. Speaking of which, he once
created a salmon fly using the red hair from his daughter's Ariel the Mermaid doll. She
caught on when she noticed the doll was almost bald. He claims his "Ariel"
streamer is deadly on Landlocked Salmon.
In his informative and amusing book, "Amazing Lures and Flies, Rare and Forgotten
Masterpieces of Fishing" Dickson Schneider says that flies and lures disappear from
the market for one of three reasons:
- "They looked good but didn't work."
- "They worked but were not popular because of some aesthetic or whimsy of the
- "They worked too well and were banned"
Only one lure and fly have ever worked so well they were banned. Known only as
"The Lure" and "The Fly" (they were never given market names), they
were so deadly that the Gordon Company which designed them, never released them. They were
granted the only non military secret patent ever awarded by the United States, by
While my research indicates the Bill Hurley Striper Magnet is an effective lure by most
standards, and that perhaps he will become another Herb Reed whose much copied Slug-Go
revolutionized lure fishing, there is little danger that the Striper Magnet will be banned
since that practice seemed to have stopped with "The Lure" and "The
The Striper Magnet does look good and it works well. It won't go the way of the 1969
"Chopper" lure-Ride Hard Die Free-for aesthetics (it looked like a beat-up
Harley Davidson) or a whimsy of the marketplace (a Florida lawyer designed the Harley
knock-off lure after seeing Easy Rider and fled with $500,000 he fleeced from retirees who
invested in the "company")
Alleging that going BIG TIME!!!-BASS pro Shops, WALMART- is economically and
philososophically unattractive, Hurley controls the supply while an essentially
underground (his 2000 advertising budget, the most he has spent since he entered the
business, was $75-no typo!) demand builds and builds and builds. With each of his lure
molds costing him from $3,500 to $9,500, and having to pay a factory's total wages for one
full day to produce 5,000 of one size and color of his lure, can he continue to produce
and price his lures so that " the ordinary guy can catch fish"-which he says is
his major motivation?( Ask my brother Frank if you question this.) Amazingly, despite his
failure to advertise, he has sold over 30,000 lures since 1997 and claims he will continue
to do so in the future.
So, we're back to the title of this piece. Bill Hurley himself, the dynamics of the
market, and most especially you and I -the anglers who may or may not be able to get our
hands on a lure to test it for ourselves- will determine if the Striper Magnet will, in
fact, be a "commotion in the ocean" or "a piddle in a puddle".
(You can find out how to get a Striper Magnet by calling (413)584-2421 or visiting the
Striper Magnet website at www.hurleylures.com )
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