The first time I encountered Elaztech was when my wife gifted me a fishing subscription box where they mail you random fishing products every month. One of these packages contained some trout fishing soft plastic swimbaits. This material is very fish-skin feeling. It’s stretchy beyond belief, sometimes to the point of inconvenience as you’re trying to shove a hook into the material and it is just giving and refusing to be punctured. It springs back like no other.
People seem to be into this material for fishing lures for two main reasons:
- Durability. Toothy fish that bite an elaztech bait don’t bite it off as easily. Tooth-marks have much smaller effect. Fewer bait changes means more time for your lure in the water, and money saved.
- Eco-friendliness. Apparently this stuff is biodegradable, unlike normal soft plastics, which are made from plastisol. Plastisol is a suspension of PVC (so think: tiny PVC particles suspended in a liquid), which is horrible for the environment as you might imagine because PVC makes its way into the food chain. Worse is that the plasticizer used for PVC often includes phthalates, which are really bad for you.
My habit was to remove plastics from their original packaging and to place them into various bait-binders. However I quickly discovered a nasty surprise: my plastisol-based plastics interacted with the elaztech and everything turned into a gooey mess. Here is the part of elaztech that makes people dislike these baits: they interact with PVC-based plastics (which is a lot of plastic, e.g your plano tackle boxes), so you have to keep them stored in PVC-free plastic containers (e.g the bags that elaztech comes in). But storing baits in their original bags is not that space efficient, and now I’m paranoid of having to clean another terrible gooey mess.
So all of this got me very curious about what sort of material Elaztech is!
To share another experience, I bought some worm lures that were super stretchy and lifelike (IIRC they were from LunkerHunt). They were like a stickier Elaztech. On one particularly hot day, the worms melted and made a gooey mess in my bag.
Turns out it was made of a thermoplastic elastomer (TPE). TPE materials are like a rubber-plastic hybrid: they’re incredibly stretchy, they feel lifelike, and…well unfortunately they have low tolerance for heat. Heat will make TPE deform, which means your lures can bend into bad shapes in your bags if it’s hot out. Or even worse, they could simply melt and make a gooey mess.
Lures generally use a specific kind of thermoplastic elastomer called a styrenic block copolymer; this material can be colored and shaped, and gives that characteristic stretch.
So is elaztech TPE? It doesn’t seem to deform under high-ish heat, and it’s not as sticky as plain old TPE…
The reveal: Elaztech is partially TPE. It’s a hybrid material that is 80% oil and 20% styrenic block copolymer (TPE) + a small amount of heat-resistance additives.
This solved two of the biggest problems associated with TPE plastic lures:
- Sticky surface. TPE is basically special rubber, so when you slide your finger across it, it’s kinda gummy. Elaztech feels more natural.
- Heat deformation. Over a prolonged period in heat (not immediate) your plastics would deform and lose their nice swimbait shapes.
Since it’s heat resistant, it’s not as easy to make; most plastics are poured and allowed to set, whereas elaztech is extruded.
TL;DR the folks who made Elaztech are material science nerds who’ve been doing this since at least 2006. And the recent popularity of elaztech is really interesting. I hope where they go next is selling some lightweight tackle organization boxes that are TPE-safe, because I’m really tired of using glass jars and/or re-using old elaztech bags to store my lures.
Not all TPE lures are the same as elaztech. They can have different ratios of oil and TPE, but remember the goal of elaztech was to both feel like realistic fish skin and have that extra durability without deforming in reasonble temperature ranges. Z-Man definitely licenses out their material / makes lures for other companies. For example, Strike King’s X3 products are made using Elaztech.