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Shimano Exsence Strong Assassin

There’s no question that the jerkbait was the first style of lure to gain worldwide attention. Invented in the mid-1930s, it has since evolved to catch everything from trout to barramundi and tuna. There isn’t much that won’t eat a jerkbait. Close to 100 years later we’re seeing a huge evolution in how we present the jerkbait, with Shimano’s advancements and new technology including Flash Boost, Jet Boost and Scale Boost.  While glidebaits, swimbaits, wakebaits and obviously soft plastics have become extremely popular lure styles for targeting flathead in recent years, the humble jerkbait is still a dynamite lure for working the flats where big flathead reside. 

The Strong Assassin I have been testing over the past six weeks is a 125mm floating hardbody that is one of the latest lures to come off Shimano’s famous production line. It boasts a round, fat-bodied profile that dives between 40cm and 70cm. It is rigged on extra-strong split rings and super-sticky 2/0 treble hooks, which are designed to withstand barramundi and even school tuna. The Strong Assassin weighs 25 grams, and aided by Shimano’s Jet Boost technology, which is a spring-loaded harness, you can cast this lure a long way on light tackle, whether you’re casting along a sandflat for flathead or casting off the rocks for pelagics.

It tracks extremely straight and maintains a tight action when slow-rolled at low speed and when retrieved at fast speeds. Additionally, when the lure is twitched aggressively it dives and darts erratically, almost like a big floating stickbait.

The Strong Assassin features all three of Shimano’s revolutionary ‘Boost concepts’. Shimano’s Flash Boost system involves a mirrored insert within the body of the lure that constantly vibrates, causing constant reflection of light and UV. Shimano’s Jet Boost spring-loaded weight harness increases casting distance and accuracy, while the Scale Boost feature provides an extremely life-like holographic scale pattern to mimic the side of a baitfish.

These three features combine to create a highly appealing lure that casts well and sends out an irresistible flash into the water. The Strong Assassin looks as good in the water as it does in the packet. The two-tone colour variations, combined with the life-like Scale Boost feature, really stand out in the water. I was given colour 003, Katakuchi, a translucent green colour that has a silver scale boost pattern and a blue back. It’s a great imitation of a garfish in both colour and profile.

My target species was big flathead as the Strong Assassin is a great imitation that I knew the fish were feeding on. Most of the fish were caught on a prolonged pause, when the lure was suspended or slowly floating, and the big advantage of a pause with this lure is the Flash Boost mirror that keeps wobbling and refracting light even when applying no action to the lure. Long pauses of up to 5 seconds really gave the Flash Boost insert the opportunity to vibrate erratically for longer and trigger bites.

I’ve also found this lure to be highly effective when fished in 1m or less of water because you can work the lure just above the bottom and keep it in the strike zone for longer.

On a recent trip, I was fishing with my mate Nick on a big expansive sandflat with countless numbers of large fish. But for some reason or another, we struggled to catch them, picking up the occasional flathead on swimbaits and hardbodies but not consistently.

My lures that I knew usually produced fish were not getting the job done, so it was the perfect time to test the Strong Assassin.  My initial thoughts were that the lure swam straight, had a pretty good wobble, but didn’t twitch that well so I was unsure how much success I would have fishing with it. Any concerns I had were quickly quashed after the first five fish and once I had landed 20 flathead compared with Nick’s three, I knew this lure was something special. It was outfishing similar-sized jerkbaits, swimbaits, surface lures… everything.

Over the course of the trip it accounted for 10 fish over 60cm, which included a 76cm and 80cm fish that were both sight-cast. These stats really reinforced the ability of this lure to trigger bites from finicky fish and showed how the Boost system (especially Flash Boost) entices fish to strike.

Having fished the Strong Assassin on multiple trips now, I can safely say that the Flash and Scale Boost features improved catch rates in varying conditions. In low light it helps draw attention to a lure that would otherwise have very little flash. In bright conditions, the flash boost throws light flashes further than any other ordinary lure would. There is no other lure like it.

I’m now at the point where I don’t think I’ll fish for flathead without one tied on – this lure has dramatically exceeded my expectations.

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