If you’ve fished for striped bass in the past seven years, you’ve probably caught a striper on a lure designed by Patrick Sebile. The Sebile Lures Magic Swimmer and the Stick Shadd became striper-fishing staples within a year of hitting Northeast tackle shops in 2009. They especially caught on at the Cape Cod Canal, where it’s common to see a lineup of dozens of anglers all throwing either the double-jointed Magic Swimmer or the erratically darting Stick Shadd. When Sebile announced this year that he was designing a new line of lures with a focus on striper fishing, fishermen were understandably excited.
How did a Frenchman, who currently lives in Florida, develop such a fondness for striped bass?
Sebile grew up in southern France where, he says, evidence of men “fishing in the waves” (surfcasting) dates to the 14th century.
“You could say that surf fishing is in my DNA,” Sebile said, only half-joking.
One of the most popular targets among French surfcasters is the European sea bass. Picture a striper, take away the stripes, make it a little smaller, and you have the European sea bass.
“They live in the same types of places, take the same lures, except smaller, than the striped bass,” said Sebile, “So, what’s not to like? Here is basically the same fish I grew up targeting, except the average-size striped bass is a trophy-size European sea bass.”
While the European sea bass may have been the most popular target in the southern France surf, it wasn’t the most coveted.
The meagre, a spotless, super-sized relative of the weakfish, was the prized catch. Reaching weights of more than 125 pounds, they even dwarf striped bass. The problem was, Sebile explained, meagre were a rare catch in France. However, when a non-fishing friend returned from a trip to Africa with tales of huge, silvery fish being caught from shore, Sebile was fascinated. So, at 18, he made his first fishing trip to Africa.
On subsequent trips, Sebile began bringing along friends and other anglers, charging them enough to cover his own travel expenses. Eventually, he opened a fishing lodge in Guinea-Bissau where, in 2003, he made fishing history by guiding Max Domecq to the current all-tackle world-record tarpon, a massive 286-pound, 9-ounce fish. Almost as memorable as that catch was the rumor that the angler who fed the tarpon a mullet for its last supper stiffed Sebile on a tip. Setting the record straight, Sebile explained that his client did shake loose five Euros for the mate.
A decade before his first exploratory trips to Africa, Sebile began designing his own lures. His first came after a European perch—a spitting image of our yellow perch but four times the size—struck the sinker above his bait. He went to work that night, putting eyes on the sinker and cutting a piece of pink fabric from one of his mother’s gloves. When he dropped his creation into the branches of a fallen tree, Sebile vividly remembers seeing the white of the perch’s mouth as it inhaled the lure. He said he was so excited when he set the hook that by the time he stopped reeling, the tip of the fishing rod was in the perch’s mouth!
Sebile went to school for engineering, and quickly saw how he could merge his passion for fishing and fishing equipment with his education. When he was 16 years old, he invented a hook that remains hugely popular with offshore anglers to this day. Sebile found that by moving the curve of the hook closer to the shank, instead of closer to the point, the hook was 30% to 40% stronger than conventional hooks of the same gauge wire. Today, you can see this design in the Owner Jobu and VMC Barbarian hooks.
After 17 years living and operating his lodge in Africa, Sebile felt it was time for a change. In November 2003, he launched his first lure company, Sebile Innovative Fishing. This company brought to market the Magic Swimmer and the Stick Shadd, unarguably two of the most popular lures among striper surfcasters in recent seasons.
“At the time I created my company, I’d already had the Magic Swimmer for eight to ten years and the Stick Shadd a bit less, maybe four to six years,” said Sebile. Like his first lure, the eyed sinker with the piece of pink glove, Sebile made those lures to fit a specific fishing condition or challenge he was facing at the time. It was only by giving them to friends that he saw their broader application. There’s no way, however, that he could have imagined how his triple-jointed swimbait and keeled stickbait would become the most coveted baits on a manmade, 7-mile stretch of water an ocean away.
In 2011, Sebile’s company was acquired by Pure Fishing, the parent company of familiar fishing brands like Berkley, Penn, and Shakespeare. Sebile stayed on as a consultant until 2017, when he parted ways to begin a new venture—Patrick Sebile’s A Band of Anglers.
According to Sebile, A Band of Anglers is not the brand, but the umbrella under which he plans to create several brands, each with their own focus. Whereas Sebile Innovative Fishing offered every lure under the Sebile brand, each Band of Anglers’ brand will be relevant to specific fisheries or techniques. Ocean Born, the lure sponsor of this year’s Striper Cup, is focused on hard baits and big fish in salt water. There will also be a brand that focuses on super-durable soft plastics that will “resist the bite of bluefish,” Sebile says.
Sebile said the major difference in the lure-making process for Ocean Born is that all the Sebile Innovative Fishing lures were made for him.
“If I could redo anything [with Sebile lures], I would have made it more of a team effort,” Sebile said, explaining that he wished he’d surrounded himself with people for whom fishing wasn’t just an occupation, but a way of life. That’s what inspired him to create A Band of Anglers.
Sebile already has several people working with him to bring his vision of A Band of Anglers to life. “When we take breaks [from designing fishing lures and equipment], we talk about fishing,” he said.
More incentive for sharing the workload comes from Sebile’s two-year-old twins. “I don’t want to spend seventeen hours a day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year just working. I want more time to take great care of my kids.”
And, the freedom of owning his own company once again has given Sebile the freedom to break the mold when it comes to lure design, without the worry of committee decisions squashing a plan because it seems too niche.
While most of Sebile’s final work at Pure Fishing consisted of new additions to an already saturated minnow-plug market, with a Band of Anglers he’s back outside the box with his designs.
For his Flight Series, he took two seemingly simple plug designs, the pencil and the bottle-neck popper, and added some serious tech to them while working out of his home in Fort Pierce, Florida.
Sebile’s lure lab is a large workspace that he describes as half office, half workbench. On the workbench side, he has a 3D printer and other tools for bringing his designs to life, and on the office side is his computer where he answers emails and works on lure specs. His workshop overlooks the water, and he can test-swim his lures just a few steps from the door.
When creating lures, Sebile starts with an idea meant to target one species, one set of conditions, one fish behavior. Odds are, Sebile says, if a lure works very well on one species or one set of conditions, it will work on many.
From there, Sebile sets a goal. In the case of the Ocean Born Flight Series, that goal was casting distance. For example, “A fisherman can have the best lure ever made, and if the fish are eighty yards away and you’re casting fifty yards, there’s no fish that’s going to swim thirty yards to take that lure,” Sebile said.
Goal established, he then goes to work on the physics, asking questions such as whether the goal is possible, and whether achieving that goal will be cost effective.
“There have been a few times when I’ve had fantastic ideas for products, but it just wasn’t doable because the tech or the components were so pricey that nobody would buy it.”
In some cases, his ideas are borrowed from other sports. When he designed the Flight Series lures, the idea for the belly ribs came from dimples on a golf ball. Sebile’s goal was to reduce air friction, so knowing that is the reason why there are dimples on a golf ball, he put dimples on the lure.
It didn’t work.
“The lure is travelling at a much slower speed than a golf ball, and it travels in a straight line, not spinning.” Eventually, he found that making the lure ribbed along the belly was the best practice, reducing air friction up to 50 percent. Then, he had to determine the best width and depth of those ribs, which brought him to the trial and error phase of lure design.
With the Flight Series, Sebile took each design in the same size and, using the same rod, made 100 casts over land so he could measure them. He then averaged all those casts and compared them to other potential designs (and the designs of other manufacturers), also casting them 100 times each.
His tests showed that the final design of the SLD (Super Long Distance) model achieved 35 extra yards on the cast over the same length poppers from other manufacturers.
The other key feature of an Ocean Born Flight Series lure is the side wings. The wings are meant to add lift to the lure, both in the air and in the water. With the wings helping the plug plane toward the surface, Sebile can make the lure extra heavy for its length, which further adds to the casting distance.
Both the Flying Popper and the Flying Pencil will be available in four sizes, down to a 3½-inch model that Patrick says will be deadly on small tunas, such as false albacore.
The Flight Series has deep- and shallow-swimming darters, swimbaits, minnows, and bottle plugs in the pipeline.
“I can build a better lure today than twenty years ago. I have designed over two hundred lures. I go faster; I find solutions to problems more easily,” Sebile said, asserting that his best lures are yet to come. While the hundreds of fishermen who clip on a Magic Swimmer this month might be a little skeptical, they’ll all be eager to find out if he’s right.