I can still recall the first time I set my eyes on a rigged eel. It was during the mid 1960s and took place in, of all places, Brooklyn New York. At the time I was around ten years old. I was visiting my father who lived in New York City. Dad and I were planning a fishing trip for later that week so we stopped by a local fishing tackle shop named Ted's Tackle, in Brooklyn. We needed to pick up some fluke spinners. As was always the case whenever we visited Ted's Tackle, I became enamored at looking at the many different types of striped bass lures in the display cases. As dad and Ted were discussing the fluke reports, I noticed something new in the display case - it was called an Alou Eel "Cow Killer". I asked Ted what kind of fish the Alou Eel would catch. Ted told me it was a rigged eel and took it out of the case so I could look at it more closely. He then showed me some photographs of some large stripers that were caught recently on the Alou Eel. Little did I know that rigged eels would continue to intrigue me in my later years.

     A dozen or so years later and the setting switches to the Irish American Club, (locally known as the IA) in Newport, Rhode Island. I'm now in my early twenties and a fairly accomplished surf caster. Talk around the IA that afternoon centered on the local striped bass fishing. As I recounted a story of my success the previous night, Archie Scott, a club regular, asked me if I had ever fished with an "Eelbob". I told Archie that I knew about fishing eels for striped bass but had never even heard the term "Eelbob". Archie then asked club owner and bartender Fred Quarry if the pickle jar was still in the cooler. Fred checked the walk-in cooler and came out carrying a 2-gallon glass pickle jar with a rusted metal cover that fell apart as it was removed. Inside the jar there were a dozen or so Eelbob's soaking in a brine solution. These Eelbob's were ten to fifteen years old, and, other than some rusty hooks, were still preserved from being stored in the brine. I was fascinated at how lifelike those rigged eels looked. The Eelbob's in the jar measured 5-10 inches long and can best be described as a lead head with a free-swinging single hook to which is attached a whole dead eel, or tail section of an eel. The lead head provides weight for casting and also allows the eel to probe deeper water. The free-swinging hook allows the eel to undulate when the angler imparts a jigging motion on retrieve. I fired questions at Archie and Fred about how to make and fish the Eelbob. Archie told me to stop by the IA after work the next day and to bring a few fresh dead eels with me. He would then show me how to rig an Eelbob.

     The next day I stopped in and pulled up a stool next to Archie. Archie opened a cigar box that was filled with lead Eelbob heads. The first head he showed me was a Clarke Eelbob. The Clarke Eelbob head is a ¾ ounce submarine shaped lead with brass eyelets embedded into each end. On one eyelet you attach a single 6/0 - 8/0 stainless hook. The other eyelet is for attaching your running line. Archie explained that a Jamestown surfcaster named Arthur Clarke made the Clarke Eelbob. Arthur Clarke sold rigged Eelbob's to many of the local tackle shops. During its heyday the Clarke Eelbob was extremely popular as many fishermen didn't want, or know how, to rig their own. Archie then showed me another type of Eelbob head which he called a Newport style head. The Newport head was a bullet shaped lead with a ¼ inch hole through the middle. Archie rigged it with a 2-inch section of brass toilet chain to which he attached a single 7/0 stainless hook. The one major difference I noticed between the Newport and Clarke Eelbob is that the Clarke Eelbob, when rigged, has its lead-head inside the body of the eel. The Newport Eelbob, on the other hand, has the forward portion of the eel enclosed in its bullet shaped lead-head. I asked Archie which Eelbob was better. He explained that they both worked equally well when properly rigged, but the Newport style had one advantage. He went on to explain that the Newport Eelbob covered the eels head or forward section, and that would help keep it from being torn apart from contact with the rocky coastline of the Newport surf.

     Archie then proceeded to rig one eelbob on each type head. He then gave me the rigged Eelbob's and also handed me the cigar box full of extra heads. "Here, these are for you, try them out tonight - once you learn the secrets of using Eelbob's, you'll be a more successful fisherman".

     After thanking Archie and buying him a round I left to try these rigged eels in the Newport Cliff Walk surf. I began by fishing them from the high rocks behind the Doris Duke estate. On my first cast with the Clarke Eelbob, a Bluefish chopped its tail off. Fearing more bluefish were in the area I quickly changed to a plug but had no other strikes. Almost confident that the Bluefish were gone I snapped on the second Eelbob. My first cast with it produced a savage strike from a Striped Bass that jumped clear out of the water as it struck the eel. After a short battle I landed the 24-pound bass. My next few casts with the Eelbob went untouched but as I retrieved it I was able to admire the action of the eel as it danced through the water. "How could any bass resist it?" I remember thinking. On the next cast I hung-up on the bottom and broke off my last Eelbob. I continued to plug the area till dark with no other action.

     It was now 8:30 PM and I took my bass back to the Irish American Club which happened to be weigh station for my fishing clubs' year long fishing contest. (You just have to love the old gin mills like the IA, where you could rig eels on the bar, and weigh a bass on the eighty-pound scale that was always hanging and ready to use in a corner of the club.) Archie was still seated on the same bar stool where I left him earlier that evening. As I slipped my bass onto the scale, Archie, now smiling and glowing from more than a few beers, said, "I knew you'd be back tonight".

     Ever since that day I've continued to use eelbobs. They take bass when nothing else does. My best bass taken on one of my home made eelbobs is 41 pounds.

     I've long since used up most of the original Eelbob heads in the cigar box that Archie gave me. All I have left now are a few Newport style heads that I don't use for fear of losing them. I've experimented using an ordinary jig head with a fixed hook but they never seemed to be as effective as the Eelbob. Now I make my own heads and they work as well as the originals.

Pt. Jude Lures has reintroduced the EelBob and will be available Spring of 2005.

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