Peter Pakula has been hailed as a genius and an impostor in an industry that knows many pretenders to the throne. His theories are discarded by some as non- sense, yet claimed by most as logic, based on practical experience and common sense. Old habits die hard and it has taken many years for this determined young man to be accepted by a fickle fishing public. Fiction or fluke - you can't beat the facts. Pakula lures have accounted for a bewildering amount of fish since their inception in the early '80s. They have recorded more trophies, records and championships than any other lure in the country - possibly the world - over the past seven years. What makes this lure- making whiz kid tick? Our has watched his career develop since he was a boy fishing for luderick off the rocks. He met up with Pakula in Sydney.
FISHING NEWS: How did you get involved in the business?
PETER PAKULA: in the early to mid-'70s we would troll lures on our way to the shark fishing grounds off Sydney. I was fascinated as to why the lures kept getting tangled up. We would troll six to eight lures at a time and 1 got sick of untangling them. There had to be an easier way. So I developed a type of lure that would not only catch fish but also troll straight. That's how it all started.
FN: You now live on the Gold Coast and claim to be Australia's only full-time lure maker. Is that correct?
PP: Correct. But let me clarify that. I only make skirted lures - the type used for trolling. There would be a few full-time lure makers around, but their range would include casting, jigging and trolling lures.
FN: I believe that now you are the largest independent lure maker in Australia, possibly in the world?
PP: It would seem so. From what my skirt suppliers tell me and they supply everyone I am the largest single purchaser they have.
FN: Are you having any luck selling them overseas?
PP: Yes. About half of my business now is in New Zealand and about 15 per cent is in Hawaii. I do most of the manufacturing by myself, and occasionally get a couple of deckies in to help me.
FN: Had you always been a lure fishing fanatic?
PP: No way. 1 used them to troll for tailor and striped tuna, but in my first eight years of game fishing I never saw a marlin caught on one. Every marlin we caught was on a live or trolled bait. No one used lures for game fish in those days. That's why I get a bit upset when the purists say that any-one can catch a marlin on lures. I don't believe that is true. Sure, it is much easier just whacking a couple of lures over the side than it is to rig and swim a couple of baits. But lure fishing for big fish is an art, and the design of the lures these days certainly enhances the possibility of catching more fish. There is a huge difference between doing it wrong and doing it right.
FN: You were a major player in the lure fishing revolution of the early '80s. Until then, everyone was dragging baits around. Now lure fishing would represent by far the majority of marlin captures, with the exception of in Cairns. What do you put this down to?
PP: The fish have always been there, it's just that now we can cover a lot more ground with the safety of modern technology. The main fishery you're referring to is the striped and blue marlin off the continental shelf and all along the eastern seaboard to Tasmania, Victoria and off Rottnest in WA. They prefer lures to baits anyway. Lures are happening in Cairns right now. They want to catch fish and they are now waking up to realise that lures catch just as many fish as baits - if not more.
FN: Do you honestly believe that? That lures catch as many fish. And just as big?
PP: Yes. A boat called "Black Watch" dropped three fish, all over a grand, on my lures in Cairns last season. Each fish busted the leader. They are covering much more ground by going three times as quick. It's much more expensive fishing because you use much more fuel, but it is also much more productive. The first grander on a lure isn't far away.
FN: When did you first start making your own lures for sale?
PP: Around 1980/81.
FN: But the first big blues weren't caught on lures until 1984? What happened in the meantime?
PP: They weren't caught but plenty of big fish were hooked and lost. I think you'll find that around 1984 everyone started using heavier gear and the fish started being caught. My lures were there when we first realised that these fish were big blues.
FN: So you originally designed a lure that would troll straight to eradicate the tangling problem?
PP: Yes. But I also designed it to have an erratic action. Some of my background is engineering and hydrodynamics. I combined that with my knowledge of pelagic fish and their eating habits, and came up with a lure that didn't tangle, yet still presented itself to a predator as a wounded fish. My lures glide straight, leaving a long bubble trail under the water. It comes up to the top, grabs bubbles, then dives deep, shaking its head in a swimming action. My lures don't splash all over the place on top of the water.
FN: So it's not a fluke - it's technology and science. If this is so, can you explain to me why a marlin would strike at a lure in the first place?
PP: All predators are the same. My lures resemble a wounded fish and it's the law of the food chain. The sick and the wounded get eaten first.
FN: A wounded fish travelling at 12 knots?
PP: A non-wounded fish will travel at 30 knots. I achieve appearance of distress by the shape of the head. This is critical. The problem that we come across with lures is that at some stage a fish will attack anything that moves in the water. We all know that on certain days you can troll a thong or a dead cat and catch fish, but to do it consistently and always catch that one extra fish you need a touch of technology.
FN: That's all very well, but how do you explain the success of the humble red and white feather? That has exactly the opposite action to what you're talking about.
PP: There were a lot more fish around in the days when they were successful. You try and catch the same amount of fish on a red and white feather today.
FN: Do you think the size of the lure is important?
PP: If you can match the lure to the size and colour of the baitfish that are in the area at the time, then it's important. But it's not important to the size of the fish that's about to strike it. There's been some huge fish caught on small lures and vice versa. When they're hungry they'll have a go at anything.
FN: The most successful lures in the world have been the Hawaiians' - the Joe Yee's and the Marlin Parker's. Yet their action is far more erratic than yours. How do you explain their success?
PP: Their principle is a lot of splash, bubble trails and rooster-tailing. In the placid waters of Kona they need this action to attract fish from a distance and get them to strike.
FN: it must be working. They've had fish up to 18001b on lures over there.
PP. To me that's not relevant. I would rather have 18 one hundred pound fish than just the one huge one. That means my lures are working.
FN: Is there any one person you admire and respect above all others in the business?
PP: Yes. Bart Miller and Henry Chee. They were the first one to introduce lures successfully to the world. Those original lures had a radically sliced head with an erratic action. They were vastly different from mine, but caught many thousand-pound marlin. In the millpond conditions of Hawaii they need long-distance attraction, so they troll their lures mainly on the top, rooster tailing across the surface. They resemble a skipping bait.
FN: If that's the case, then how come they don't get more fish on trolled dead-skipping baits?
PP: Up until five years ago they were only using lures when they couldn't get a live bait. They had most of their success dragging one live stripy around all day.
FN: The success of your lures has been un-believable - almost like a fairytale. How many trophies and awards have they picked up over the years?
PP: Hundreds. The best weekend was Easter 1988, when the lures won four tournaments, including the Sydney Game Fishing Club Sydney International. My lures accounted for 96 trophies over the four competitions in one weekend.
FN: Was that because there was an abundance of them being used, seeing as it was your home town of Sydney?
PP: No way. In those comps there were 70 overseas teams using their own lures from all over the world. My lures just blitzed 'em. Jason Simpson picked up the Australian blue marlin record of 245kg on 15kg on one of my lures.
FN: Do you hold to the theory that different colours work on different days?
PP: That doesn't seem to hold true with my lures. If you get a hot colour for the season, then that seems to work all year regardless of the conditions.
FN: Isn't that contradictory to what you said before, that you always try and troll a lure similar to what the fish are feeding on?
PP: Yes. But that doesn't change because of the weather. For example, there is a lure used on the Gold Coast - a "Lumo Sprocket" - which accounts for about 80 per cent of the blue marlin caught up there. It's one of mine, and few game boats have got the guts to go outside without one. The predominant colour is luminous green. God knows why. Probably got something to do with the colour of the slimy mackerel that they feed on all of the time. The way to find blue marlin off Surfers Paradise is to find the balls of baitfish, which are usually slimies. We never kill any fish up there, so we never got to look in their stomachs to see what they are feeding on.
FN: How far should lures be trolled behind the boat?
PP: No further back than the end of the wash. If you troll lures a long way back you'll hook fish but you lose a lot because of the stretch in the line. Those fish are on their way to the boat anyway. That's what attracts them. When I say "the wash", I mean the end of the white water. This varies on most boats at trolling speed. On a 25 Bertram it could be 30 feet, and on a 46 Cresta it may be 60 feet. But wherever it is, that's far enough.
FN: The lures have also had an incredible success rate on big yellowfin tuna. What do you put this down to?
PP: The fact that people are trolling more hours and further distances. They've always been there, we just lacked the technology to go out and find them. My lures dive much deeper than most and yellowfin often don't like hitting the surface.
FN: Until the early '80s, no one used two-hook rigs. Since then there has been nothing but. Do you feel that this has brought about a better hook-up rate?
PP: That's debatable. I believe that you're better off using two hooks instead of one, as it creates more action in the lure. A trailing hook has an action all of its own, and this helps in strike inducement. Also, the majority of wahoo are caught on the trailing hook, so even for this reason alone two are better than one.
FN: You copped a lot of flack in those early days. Does that still worry you?
PP: Not now. It hurt at the time. Ail the diehards said I was a wanker and my lures would never work. Actually they worked from the very first day. it took a long time for people to take me seriously.
FN: Do you make any money?
PP: No! Eventually I may. As my lures gain worldwide recognition, I will no doubt wind up in front. At the moment it's a labour of love, but I do get to fish all around Australia and in various parts of the world. What I get out of it goes straight back.
FN: As an innovator and one of the pioneers of lure fishing in this country, are you afraid that you may run out of ideas?
PP: That's always a worry, but no matter what you do in life you must always work at it to be a success. I'm in there with them at most of the tournaments. I fish all the time and I'm always looking for new ideas. Take fishing huge fish on artificial lures - it's taken us all these years to get this far and we still haven't scraped the surface. There are thousands of questions to answer yet, and I'm as curious as the next broke.
FN: I believe you don't kill fish any more?
PP: Yes. I don't like cleaning boats. But that's not the main reason. I believe everything has a right to live and unless the killing of a fish can be put to some good, then why kill it? It's much more enjoyable to hunt, hook up, catch and photograph a fish before letting it go than it is to just kill it for the sake of your ego. And that applies to all fish. I have taken very few over the years.
FN: Are there any guys in particular that you owe your success to?
PP: Definitely. Tim Simpson at The Cormpleat Angler, Jack Erskine in Cairns and Chris Hall all played an enormous part in getting me started. Brett Deeney and Joe Ritchie also come to mind. The greatest broke who ever lived was the late Hank Newman. He was an enormous asset and a very dear friend. And there's also lvan Bennetts my lifetime fishing mate and Otto Voltz on "Tantrum".
FN: Do your lures get copied a lot?
PP: Yes. At last count there were 70 copies floating around. I feel that it's such a shame. If they're clever enough to make a lure, then why can't they just go that one step further and make something different or at least try to be different? It seems such a waste of talent. Besides, none of them has ever copied them right, so they may as well try something different.
FN: Did you copy anyone else's in the beginning or since?
PP: No. Because of all the lures that I had seen, it would be impossible not to be similar in some way. But no, I have never copied anyone else's lure - ever. If anything, my lures were a combination of two "Striker" lures - a surface one and a very deep trolling one. A mix of a concave head and a golf-ball head. It worked.
FN: What is your most successful lure?
PP: All of them. I haven't had a failure yet and if I did, I'd take it straight out of the range. My lures can be trolled on line classes from 4kg through to 60kg gear. They troll dead straight, come up to the top, then dive deep again. That way there is always direct pull on the line. All of the action is in the vibration. A predator will pick up these "distress" vibrations from a long way away. The boat always attracts the fish, then the lure catches the fish.
FN: A fish's attacking a lure is only an "impulse buy", isn't it? I mean, once they find out it's not something they normally eat - they let it go.
PP: No way. It's a feeding habit.
FN: Then why don't they swallow the lure?
PP: They do. If you actually stop the boat and feed the lure to a marlin, it will often swallow it. We've done this and caught them with the lure well down the throat - behind the gill plate. Sure they swallow lures.
FN: Do you believe that marlin swallow fish headfirst to avoid the spikes on the way down?
PP: I believe they swallow them any way they can. Most fish feed by opening their mouths and sucking in whatever is around. They don't climb all over baits.
FN: So you don't believe in gunning the boat when you get a strike?
PP: No. Gunning the boat doesn't set the hooks. I'd do this if a fish struck in close, but only to clear the fish from the boat. The strike drag and the rod sets the hook. You can't convince me that gunning a boat 200 yards is going to help set a hook one inch in a marlin's jaw. That's bulldust.
FN: Peter, you have certainly dispelled a lot of theories today. Thanks for your time.
PP: It's been a pleasure.
FISHING NEWS JULY 1990