When Live Target Lures decided it was time for fishermen and fish to fall in love with a soft-plastic shrimp imitation, it turned to R&D dream team leader Victor Cook.

The innovative artificial lure manufacturer, which makes 750 different artificial lures, entered the saltwater fishing market with hard baits in 2012.

Live Target, founded in 2007 by Grant Koppers, is well known for its hard baits because of their sophisticated level of realism and action.

Those characteristics shine in the new Live Target Rigged Shrimp, said Covington’s Jason Austin, who has been impressed ever since he saw it first-hand at the 2014 ICAST and started using it in kayak fishing tournaments around the region.

The 42-year-old Austin fished with the Rigged Shrimp on June 19 in a Casting for a Cause Fishing Tournament out of Port Aransas, Texas. He finished second with his two biggest redfish, which totaled 13.60 pounds, in the fundraising event that benefits, among others, Heroes on the Water.

The Louisiana angler definitely is an American hero on the water. The U.S. Army veteran was wounded when the ASV he was riding in rolled over an IED in Iraq in 2007. Modern technology, he said, kept him from losing any limbs.

Austin was at the ICAST show last year showing some of his buddies the Live Target Rigged Shrimp, when someone came up behind him and asked about the Heroes on the Water logos on his shirt.

That man was Richard Brouwer, who manages the field staff team of Live Target.

Eventually, Brouwer asked Austin if he wanted to fill an opening in this region on the Live Target field staff team.

“I got lucky when it comes down to it. It was a chance encounter,” Austin said. “The shrimp — I absolutely love it. I tried to throw it in the (Port Aransas) tournament, but it seemed they really didn’t want shrimp. I didn’t see any around. So I used a Live Target Topwater Mullet.”

At that tournament, Austin did more than finish second in an 80-team field that included dozens of local kayak anglers who regularly fish the area he fishes once a year. He won a $1,400 kayak in a drawing and gave it to a veteran who couldn’t afford his own kayak.

About the Rigged Shrimp, Austin said the Rigged Shrimp is so close to the real thing that fish don’t seem to notice.

“Without actually being underwater to see it, if you hold a Live Target shrimp up next to a live shrimp, they are anatomically the same — everything’s right,” he said. “They obviously took a lot of time to get it right.

“The whole proof is when it is in the water: Redfish will eat it, speckled trout will eat it.”

Much of the soft-plastic shrimp imitation’s success goes to Cook, the wizard behind the design.

Of course, after dipping its toes into the saltwater line three years ago, Live Target started thinking about a soft-plastic shrimp, Cook said. More time was needed, however, for that particular project, and the saltwater hard baits made their first good impression before last year’s introduction of the Live Target Rigged Shrimp.

Cook, a veteran artificial lure designer and a practicing orthodontist in Columbus, Ohio, said it was important for the artificial lure manufacturing company’s first entry into the soft-plastic saltwater fishing market to be highly successful at triggering bites and putting fish in the boat.

The pressure was on for Cook, who ultimately was responsible for the final product. Cook and the rest of the Live Target research and development team hit a grand slam that many, many anglers are enjoying today in coastal waters from North Carolina to around Florida and over to Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.

Cook, who also has a home in Longboat Key, Fla., where he tests artificial lures for saltwater fishing, explained that making a prerigged artificial lure allowed him to somewhat control the proper action of the soft plastic to better exploit the capabilities and increase success by the angler.

The Rigged Shrimp’s most-important feature, he said, is its realistic, lifelike profile — one he believes no other soft plastic shrimp imitation comes close to matching.

Just as important is its action, which Cook said is as real as its profile because it imitates swimming shrimp moving forward slowly, with front and rear legs rising and falling as it travels through the water in a mostly horizontal fashion.

It maintains that horizontal look as it falls in the water.

Another key feature is a glass rattle that clicks when an angler gives the fishing rod a twitch of the tip. The resulting “flick” of the shrimp makes a sound that imitates the sound a shrimp makes, according to Cook.

Realism is the theme throughout the Rigged Shrimp, which has a propriety shrimp scent as lagniappe for what Live Target calls “the most perfect shrimp imitation on the market today.”

There are eight color variations for the 3- or 4-inch models, so an angler can “match the hatch” of shrimp as well as the water color and light conditions, he said.

Cook said each Rigged Shrimp is armed with a single, extra-strong, extra-sharp hook. It also has protruding eyes and natural-looking antennae.

From start to finish, it took about 1 ½ years to develop the finished product.

The initial prototype was introduced privately in 2012. After that, Live Target produced action samples that went through rigorous approval stages before going to production, and the first production models were examined more and tested before final production.

The Live Target Rigged Shrimp was unveiled at ICAST in July 2014, when Austin, the wounded war veteran, met Brouwer, and it went on the shelves in the fall of 2013.

Austin said he ties the bogus shrimp on a 12- to 15-pound fluorocarbon leader, which is tied to 30-pound braided line.

He fishes it 18 to 20 inches under a popping cork much of the time, but when he’s in a shallow pond he throws it sans a popping cork.

The Rigged Shrimp can catch multiple fish — dozens of fish — without tearing up.

“They look real, and they hold up really well. They definitely can take a whipping,” he said.

In other words, Live Target Rigged Shrimp are perfect for use in tournaments that don’t allow the use of live bait.

For more information on Live Target Rigged Shrimp and other Live Target Lures products, go to livetargetlures.com or call 888-231-4448 or 905-704-4448.