Shimano Waxwing System by Scott Haraguchi, Issue #19 November 2015
Shimano introduced their Waxwing System at the 2010 ICAST show and the associated Terez rod, Trinidad A reel and Waxwing lure won their respective categories. The Terez line of rods were designed to fish PowerPro braid with high speed spinning (Stella SW, Sustain, Stradic) and casting (Trinidad A, Curado 300EJ) reels but the biggest buzz was around the Waxwing lure itself.
Well it’s 2015 and the Waxwing buzz has faded a bit. Waxwings are still available but Shimano has focused marketing attention on their deadly Orca top water plugs, and flat fall Butterfly jigs. I read some old reviews and found the Waxwing intriguing. The lure was designed to cast far, and be retrieved without any rod movement. Its upper wing created its pronounced zig zag movement and its lower wing and upturned, rear double hook allowed the lure to climb over obstacles a lure with treble hooks would snag.
Waxwings now come in three models: original Sinking, Suspending and Freshwater. I chose the denser Sinking model because I wanted to cast as far as possible, in windy conditions.
In the Spring, I tried the 3.5”, 7/8 oz “Boy” size and it cast like a bullet in the light wind conditions. The rear, double hook folded back on the tail of the lure as it sailed without tumbling. Its retrieve was even more impressive. I was using a saltwater level-wind bait casting setup and just pointing the rod tip at the lure, cranking at a medium-fast tempo. Every time I cranked a little harder, the lure would kick out a bit more. I didn’t even get a follow on that initial trial but the lure definitely looked fishy.
Since I mainly fish the shallow reef flats I downsized to the 2.68”, 1/2 oz “Baby” size, hoping the predators would find it bite-sized. The Baby cast very well for a 1/2 oz plug and bounced over rock piles as long as I kept the speed up. The small white papio and undersized kaku followed and attacked it but the upturned hook made it difficult to hook small fish that attacked from below. There were a lot of follows and missed strikes but not many hookups. I replaced the stock double hook with a shorter, stronger, sharper double hook and added an assist hook tied to the eye of the lure. Hookup ratio increased and small papio, kaku and moana were caught, but I still had more looks than strikes.
Turns out I wasn’t using the rest of the Waxwing System that Shimano recommended. My bait casting reel had a slow retrieve ratio and I was casting fluorocarbon that had line coil “memory.
There was a reason Shimano marketed the high speed Curado 300EJ bait caster spooled with red PowerPro as part of the system. The 300EJ retrieved 32” of line per turn, almost 10 inches more than the reel I was using. Red braid was suggested because red is the first color to fade in the water column, completely fading out to gray at 14 feet. Braid casts better than mono and fluorocarbon and with a thinner diameter and no stretch the Waxwing’s zig zag was exaggerated. Casting distance improved with the new line, and the reel’s retrieve was so fast I had to slow down so I wouldn’t skip the lure on the surface. On my second cast with the new, recommended rig, I hooked a 14” kaku smack in its mouth because it couldn’t race ahead and strike the lure in its hook-less belly.
The Waxwing is ideal for use with a high speed spinning reel, I just happen to like bait casting gear. Friends fishing the Waxwing with long spinning rods and braid were able to cast much further than I was and caught fish once they got the right speed and tempo down. Although the Waxwing is very aerodynamic for a swimming plug, casting the smallest Baby into the wind with braid on my bait caster caused endless backlashes. I ended up removing some of the braid and loading castable fluorocarbon (Seaguar Invzx) as a top shot and was back in business.
When Summer rolled around, the larger predators moved onto the reef to chase juvenile bait fish and the Waxwing Baby proved irresistible. They were inhaling the 2.68” lure so I no longer needed the assist hook. Other local favorites like Kastmasters, poppers and Crystal Minnows attracted their share of bites, but the Waxwing outcast most, was exciting to watch as it swum just under the surface, and proved to be almost snag-free.
On a shallow flats fishing outing, my fishing buddy, Kris, and I had a lure shoot out. He was armed with a bubble & grub, a Crystal Minnow and a spinning rod/reel. I stuck with the Black/Chrome Waxwing Baby and my bait caster. We walked out on the flats up to our waist and the bubble & grub was on fire. Kris caught 5 small omilu and I hadn’t had a single bump. A half-hour before sunset we fished the muddy 15” deep water from shore where we could see baby mullet and aholehole huddling up for safety. The grub stopped working so Kris put on his shallow diving Crystal Minnow. It dove too deep and fouled on limu. My Waxwing Baby easily cast beyond the ambushing predators and ran a few inches below the surface. Kaku boiled on it and a 14” white papio was solidly hooked.Kris conceded the shoot out and I gave him an identical Black/ Chrome Waxwing Baby. He brought in an 18” kaku and we missed some much larger ones. The dusk bite didn’t last long but the shallow water surface strikes were very memorable.
Buoyed by this successful outing we sought out a shallow, rocky area with a few sandy coves. Baby mullet and aholehole were present and oama, fresh from the deep, warily swam in a tight pack. Once again, the Black/Chrome Baby drew strikes from small kaku and white papio. Even the Ghost Blue Shad in the 3.5”, 7/8 oz “Boy” size worked. When the action slowed, a small moi hit the Black/Chrome Baby just before dark.
The final test was to see how the Waxwing would perform out at the surf break from my fishing longboard. Both the Baby and Boy sized lures in the Blue Sardine pattern cast well without needing much line extending from the rod tip, and zig zagged nicely because my rod was almost touching the water. The Waxwing proved its versatility by not only catching a 15” omilu, but also catching a 5lb oio in the surf! How many subsurface lures can make that claim!
In just a few inshore outings, kaku, white papio, omilu, oio, moi, moana, needlefish, cornetfish and poopaa have been caught on the Waxwing Baby and Boy. Larger sized Waxings have been reported to be very effective on offshore species.
- Casts well, not tiring to retrieve
- Very enticing zig zag swimming action
- Deadly in shallow water situations
- Practically snag-proof
- Durable, hard body
- $15 for Baby size, $18 for Boy size
- Needs to be retrieved relatively quickly
- Hook is soft and not that sharp
- Fish near bait schools
- Use loop knot or clip to allow lure to swing freely
- Point rod tip low and towards lure to keep lure from breaking the surface
- Use crank-crank-crank-pause cadence
- If you’re getting follows but no strikes, speed up your retrieve
I’d like to thank the folks at Charley’s Fishing Supply for discussing the best times to use certain color patterns, lure size and creative ways to increase hookup ratio.The Waxwings are available at POP Fishing & Marine and Charley’s FishingSupply as well as other fishing tackle retailers.