OUT LOOKS : YOU AIN'T SEEN LURES LIKE THESE.
To the casual observer, many of today's angling lures might seem rather exotic and oddball. You ain't seen nothing until you get a load of those pictured in ``Fishing Lure Collectibles'' (Collector Books; $24.95), which focuses on baits manufactured before 1940.
It's common throughout the 332-page hardcover to spot lures armed with five treble hooks and two propellers that should scare the heck out of any fish. With that many points and barbs, catch and release was a foreign concept to hardware anglers of the day.
On any given page you will find a bizarre assortment of metal and wooden plugs. One spread depicts one in the shape of a red and white milk bottle, a hunk of aluminum molded like a tube with glass eyes and a spring-loaded hook and the Swim-A-Lure Duckling - a yellow, knobby affair with big black eyes.
Then there's another simply dubbed ``Wow.'' With shiny paddles and a giant, red-rimmed black dot, it is a dead ringer for some B-movie metallic alien. Or how about the ``Combination Fly and Leaf,'' which really must be seen to be believed.
Collectors pay big bucks for these units. Prices listed range to $1,500 or more, and it seems the uglier the lure the more it fetches. Everything but the kitchen sink has never seemed so appropriate.
Apparently anything works. The first patent holder conjured up his lure design after witnessing a fish attack a spoon that he had accidentally dropped from his lunch pail into a Vermont lake.
The novelty of the volume, the uniformity of the photographs and concise descriptions and the sheer number of lures displayed make it attractive to anglers of even passing interest.
Authors Rick Edmisten of North Hollywood and Dudley Murphy from Missouri certainly had their work cut out for them. But now the National Fishing Lure Collectors Club, which was formed in 1976 and served as the flash point for the increasingly popular hobby, has its bible. Our rating: three stars.
Every hunter loves a good story. There are several chronicled in ``Taxidermist's Journal: A Collection of True-Life Stories'' (Goose House Publications; $11.95) by Connecticut author and taxidermist Brian E. McGray but it would be a stretch to call any of them good.
Arranged in diary fashion - each chapter is introduced by a date but no year - the paperback details a girl's ride on the back of a deer, why an angler gave his life to hook a trophy bass and other tales.
The section ``The Stolen Buck,'' dated Nov. 22, describes how an eight-point buck taken from a boy's first hunt came to be so seriously blemished from mishandling. Since its title leaves little to the imagination, readers are not surprised to learn that two other hunters claimed they had shot the boy's deer.
``That's really terrible,'' McGray quotes himself as saying at the time he heard the news. Later he adds, ``That's an incredible story'' - a shameless backslap that affirms his decision to use the account but denigrates the readers, who are perfectly capable of making up their own minds about the incredibleness of a story.
We understand literary license, but the quoted material that makes up the bulk of the book is so precise and verbatim that McGray either has a memory like a steel trap or tapes his conversations a la Richard Nixon.
Though well-intentioned and mildly entertaining, the anecdotes in the 108 pages are too shoddily penned to muster much enthusiasm. The text is dotted with such empty, obvious babble as ``So what did you do next?'' or ``So what happened?'' or ``So how do you go about hunting these reptiles with a knife George?'' that interest is lost long before the conclusions of ``The Underwater Fisherman,'' ``The Caiman Caper'' and ``The Naked Parakeet.''
No wonder taxidermy is a dying art. Our rating: one star.
A wonderful notion succinctly written, ``Mountain Biking the National Parks'' (Bicycle Books; $12.95) by Illinois cyclist and accountant Jim Clark is a valuable primer for anyone planning an off-road adventure to one of America's treasured landscapes.
Clark drafted the 208-page paperback after tooling the country on a two-wheeler at age 30, logging more than 12,000 miles while rolling through most of our national parks, recreation areas, seashores, lake shores and monuments.
Trails, accommodations and other activities for 32 parks are outlined. State riders should note that while most of the sections are dedicated to wider geographic regions, the first selection is ``Introduction to California Parks.'' Death Valley, Joshua Tree and Redwood national parks are listed, along with the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and three other parks.
Informative road maps and inviting black-and-white snapshots beckon the rider to a park near them. Distances, terrain, natural history and access are noted, but the trail descriptions border on being too brief. Rather than a fatal flaw, it might motivate readers to contact the parks for more information; the author should have included addresses and phone numbers to do just that. Our rating: Three stars.
Photo: While books on collectible lures and mountain biking are keepers, don't bother with uninviting tales written by a taxidermist.
David Sprague/Daily News