Nothing or no one – not even Jagger – has moves like balsa.
Nothing else explains why the inimitable wood has excited fish and fishermen alike for more than 70 years. For in the heart of Rapala baits beats a balsa core.
Rapala’s balsa baits twitch, quiver and wobble with lifelike action on the retrieve. When paused, the real magic happens. “The bait kind of just hovers there, rising ever so slowly,” explains Bassmaster pro Michael “Ike” Iaconelli. “That often, in itself, triggers a bite.”
So effectively did Rapala balsa baits trigger bites that tackle shops once rented them to anglers for $25 a day. That was back when Rapalas were new in the United States and not nearly as available as they are now. At that time, American anglers were just becoming aware of the game-changing creation of a hearty Finnish fisherman named Lauri Rapala.
When he carved his first bait by hand, it wasn’t tournament trophies, world records or even braggin’ rights among buddies that motivated Lauri Rapala. It was necessity — he needed to catch more fish to feed his family.
Seeking the perfect lure-making material, Lauri first tried cedar. Then pine bark. But balsa soon proved itself superior. Only his balsa prototype baits imparted the subtle, delicate movement he sought.
Why balsa? Any other wood would make baits at least three times heavier. A lighter lure moves with a more natural action, requiring only the slightest twitch of your rod tip to react immediately. But despite being so light, balsa remains very strong, hence its classification as the softest commercial hardwood.
And while balsa wood is reliably sustainable, thanks to a rapid growth rate, it is not, however, inexpensive and easy to work with. No surprise then that only Rapala — above all other lure manufacturers — devoted the time and resources to design the custom machinery required to manufacture balsa baits that come off the line perfect every time.
It was worth it. Although millions of sore-lipped lunkers might disagree!
Rapala continues to expand its balsa bait offerings today. At a trade show last month, in fact, it unveiled the BX Waking Minnow, which boasts a balsa core encased in a durable copolymer shell for unrivaled toughness.
Technology is a rapidly changing beast. Thankfully though, some things will always remain the same. Balsa baits trigger bites and catch fish. Always have. Always will.