DIY lures don’t have to be difficult to make, they can be really simple. Most of what you’ll need is sitting on the shelves at your local hardware store. And a basic toolkit for DIY lures is pretty cheap and easy to get too.
But as your lure making skills and ambitions advance you’ll probably find yourself looking for more. Specialty parts, cool accessories and neat lure making tools aren’t essential. But they can sure make the job of making a few wooden lures a lot more fun.
So for this article I went through the workshop and made a list of the various wooden lure making parts and accessories I have on hand for making DIY lures.
Raw Materials For DIY Lures
I’m no purist, but I usually prefer to make my own components. So for those wanting to start from scratch I’ll start by looking at the simplest, raw materials used in DIY lures.
Now obviously wood is the main raw material. But I’ve previously written articles about wood for lure making in general and for making crankbaits more specifically. So we won’t cover old ground here, please refer to those articles for more info.
So what other stuff will you need? Read on to find out!
Wire is useful for making through wires and for pinning diving lips. I always laugh when I see cheapskates online talking about using galvanized tie wire or copper wire for lure making. I mean, c’mon guys!
Quality stainless steel wire won’t rust out and cost you fish, and it isn’t so soft that the lure constantly needs tuning. And really, it’s not that expensive and your DIY lures will be much better for it.
Annealed 316 stainless is the only wire for DIY lures, in my opinion.
316, or “marine grade” stainless steel gives maximum corrosion resistance. Annealed wire has been through a hardening process, which can make it a little more difficult to work with. But it also means your DIY lures won’t need tuning as often.
Softer wire is fine if you’re making reasonably small, light duty lures. In fact, annealed wire can sometimes cause the wood around the head to split during tuning. Also, 304 stainless wire might be ok if you’re only going to use your lures in freshwater. But since there’s not much difference in cost, why would you go down that path?
In my workshop I use wire ranging from 0.7mm thickness (#21 gauge) for small freshwater lures to 1.5mm (#15 gauge) for serious offshore GT lures. For most lures in the 3-5″ range I tend to use 1mm (#18 gauge) wire.
Clear polycarbonate sheet (aka “Lexan”) is a “must have” for any DIY lures with diving lips. But don’t confuse it with acrylic (aka “Perspex”), which is way too brittle for making lures. We’ll look at a couple of other lip materials shortly.
Polycarbonate works easily with hand and power tools. In fact, in thicknesses up to about 1/8″ (1.5mm) I cut with kitchen shears or aviation snips . For thicker material I prefer a coping saw or scroll saw. But with caution, you can also cut larger diving lips using a band saw and some jigs. Remember, it’s hard to hold a fishing rod if you have no fingers. For safety, never use a bandsaw to cut small diving lips.
I know a number of lure makers who shape multiple pieces of polycarbonate simultaneously on a router table. A guided cutter and a good jig are essential – and be sure to work safely following the manufacturers instructions. Alternatively, you can shape or refine them using a disc or belt sander.
Something I love about polycarbonate is the ability to heat form it into complex, 3-dimensional diving lips. With practice, you’ll learn to make dished out, spoon shaped diving lips. And of course the angled ones used on surface walker style topwater lures.
Circuit board sheet
Looking for a great alternative for making diving lips, I love using circuit board lips on may DIY lures. This composite, glass reinforced material was designed for electronic circuit boards, but it works great on lures too!
Circuit board stock is exceptionally rigid for its thickness. And if you believe the hype that will give your DIY lures extra diving depth.
Nice in theory, but my experience has been different. I’ve found that (all other factors being equal), circuit board and polycarbonate lips of the same surface area and shape give the same diving depth.
For me, the advantage of circuit board as a lure building material is that the diving lip slot can be very thin. And that means removing less timber around the head of the lure where there is competition between hardware components for space.
In my opinion, modern epoxy is one of the main reasons wooden lure making thrives in the 21st century.
There are many 2 part epoxy products on the market. But when it comes down to it, there is one important consideration that applies to all of them:
The faster it cures, the faster breaks down.
Sometimes it might be convenient to use a fast curing epoxy. It’s always nice to cut the waiting time and just get on with the next step of the process. But the fast curing epoxy gets harder and more brittle than slower curing epoxy. It also starts to disintegrate sooner. And that means your DIY lures will start to weaken, often within just a year or two.
For me, a product called Envirotex Lite is among the best adhesives for wooden lure making. Seasoned lure makers probably know “Etex” better as a clear coat than an adhesive. But it is an excellent adhesive. Plus, I use this product as a one-shot process for treating raw wood lure bodies prior to painting. You can check out my wood treatment process here.
Any time you can use one product to seal, harden, waterproof, glue and clear coat you know you’re onto a winner. And with 24 hour curing times you know that Envirotex will stay strong for a very long time.
Ball bearings and lead shot
Ball bearings and lead shot and small ball sinkers are perfect both for weighting DIY lures and for adding rattles to them.
Using them to weight a lure is simple – just drill a hole (or holes) where you need the weight. Glue in one or more ball bearings or some lead shot and fill the hole with glue till it’s a little more than flush. Use ball bearings for smaller lures that only need a little weight, or if you need to go lead-free.
I also use ball bearings and lead shot to make rattles and to build weight-shift mechanisms for a better casting lure. So it’s definitely worth having a selection of them in a range of sizes. For me, 1.5, 2, 3 4.5 and 6mm ball bearings are perfect for making DIY lures.
Hot glue and double sided tape
I don’t use hot glue so much for making lures as I do for developing and testing new designs. It’s a fast and effective way of creating a temporary bond.
For example, when I’m developing a new suspending jerkbait I’ll often hot glue various weights to the belly of the prototypes to test how they float. Then I’ll drop the lure in a bucket of water to see if it sits as I intend it to. If not, I remove the weights by snapping off the hot glue, and I try again. Once I’m happy with the result and I’ll drill the lure and permanently glue in the weights. I sometime use double sided tape in much the same way. The whole process takes about 30 seconds and saves a lot of dud prototypes.
Hot glue is also useful for temporarily fixing diving lips in place to test crankbait designs.
Off The Shelf Lure Making Components
These days there is a wide range of “off the shelf” components for DIY lures available online. These can make some aspects of your lure making faster and more fun. And if you’re making lures to earn a dollar they can also make the process more profitable. So let’s have a look at some of the items that are available.
Pre Made Wooden Lure Bodies
It’s possible to buy wooden lure bodies already shaped for you. Some purists may claim that this is no longer lure making but rather “lure assembling”, but I beg to differ.
You’ll still need to weight pre-shaped wooden lure bodies correctly. Plus you might need to add diving lips, tow point, hook hangers and rattles. It takes a bit of knowledge to know where and how to fit all of those things correctly.
And one of the main tricks to making these lures work is getting everything aligned properly. This is straightforward when you make DIY lures from square stock. But for pre-shaped bodies you’ll need to get a little more inventive.
I don’t use pre-shaped lure bodies too often. So I simply apply masking tape to get everything laid out properly. But if I was doing them regularly I’d definitely consider making some jigs to make things faster and more accurate.
I reckon that screw eyes would have to be the most commonly used off the shelf component for DIY lures. And they certainly make it quick and easy to install your hook hangers and tow points.
Sadly, most lure makers have no idea how to use screw eyes correctly. If you just screw them in where you need them then you’re asking for a failed lure. If they don’t twist out while fighting a fish, they’ll almost certainly allow water to seep into the wood. That’s a recipe for a weak lure and early death of your paint job. If you’re planning to use screw eyes in your DIY lures you might like to check out my article on using screw eyes properly.
There has always been a debate in lure making circles about whether it’s best to use screw eyes or a through wire. And I’ll confess right now, I’ve always been in the through wire camp. But more recently I’ve eaten humble pie and switched to screw eyes in some of my smaller lure styles.
I once ran some tests to find out how much force both screw eyes and through wires could take. Properly installed screw eyes took several times more force than you could possibly exert with the appropriate class of line for the lure.
I’ll only ever use stainless steel screw eyes in my DIY lures, and I select the maximum length of screw eye that my lure design allows. I don’t recommend nickel plated brass screw eyes. They’re weaker and much more prone to corrosion than stainless.
Open screw eyes are also available and are great for making jointed crankbaits, swimbaits and when you want to eliminate split rings from your design.
Screw Eye Plugs
These are plastic dowels that allow the thread of a screw eye to get a much stronger grip. To use then, you drill a hole into your lure body, glue in the screw eye plug and then drive the screw eye into it.
The idea is to overcome the problem of driving a fine thread into the end grain of the wood. I’ve personally never used screw eye plugs, so I can’t comment on whether they are effective or not. But if you’ve used them I’d love to hear your thoughts….. please leave a comment at the end of this article.
In my view, it’s actually the lack of rattles that often makes wooden lures so deadly compared to plastic ones. Still, there are times when you need a little bit of audio. That’s when you install rattles!
I usually prefer to make my own rattles for DIY lures. I use ball bearings and a range of construction techniques. But if you’re looking for a faster way, there are off the shelf rattle chambers available. You can simple drill your blank crosswise and glue the rattle chambers the holes. Fill the holes up with epoxy, smooth them off and you’re ready for action.
Rattle chambers tend to give a higher pitched sound than one or two larger “knocker” bb’s, but lower pitched than your typical plastic lure. Wood has a tendency to deaden the sound of a rattle to human ears. But don’t worry, it’s actually a more attractive sound for fish!
Finishing Off Components
You’ve done the shaping, assembly and painting. Now you just have the final fitout to complete your DIY lures. Once again, there is a range of parts available, depending on the style of lure you are making.
I like grommets for protecting the wood around screw eyes, through wires and belly swivels from damage. I use them more on larger lures, especially on offshore ones with a belly swivel front hook hanger.
The process is simply to give them a wipe of epoxy and push them into a snug hole drilled in the lure body. I usually install grommets right at the end of the lure making process, after painting and clear coating. Tap them home gently with a smear of epoxy to hold them in place.
Unfortunately I’ve never found a source of stainless steel grommets, so you’ll have to settle for nickel plated ones, or make your own grommets.
Many lure makers, including myself use swivels to create a front hook hanger for heavy duty offshore DIY lures. Swivels give the hook movement, making it more difficult for feisty fish to leverage the lure body and throw a hook.
I prefer heavy duty stainless steel game swivels or this application. Size them so that the through wire passes through one end while the other end protrudes just the right amount from the lure.
I don’t use cup washers all that often, but they can be great for preventing splitting of the wood around the nose and tail screw eyes. I also like cup washers for dressing up the appearance of the lure and for keeping propellers spinning freely.
If you’ve seen cup washers in stainless steel anywhere, please share it in the comments below! I’ve only found nickle plated ones up to now.
Most lure makers know these items, we use them to make fizzers and prop baits. There are plenty of these available online in various shapes and sizes. I prefer the stainless steel and plastic varieties for their corrosion resistance. But I’ll still use nickel plated brass versions for freshwater lures at times.
I tend to install aeroplane style pointed propellers with long screw eyes that have no thread near the eye. I use both twin and quad propellers, the latter making more commotion at slower speeds.
I’ve also used buzz blades as propellers for a range of topwater lures at times. These have a thicker body, so I set them up using a through wire rather than a screw eye. Plastic quad blade props work very well too, and being lighter require less retrieve speed to create noise.
Propellers have a tendency to make a bait want to spin, so I always like to add a little belly weight to stabilize the lure. Sandwiching a prop between a couple of cup washers or beads will keep the blades spinning freely.
Two final tips on fitting props: fitting them in the front of the bait can increase the chances of snagging the line during casting. And, if you’re going to put two props on a single lure, make sure they spin in opposite directions to counter the twisting forces on the lure body
Walker bibs and screw-on diving lips
If you’re making topwater crawlers and walkers then you’ll probably screw your bib onto the lure after the painting and clear coating is complete. Most people I know make their own walker bibs by cutting and bending polycarbonate sheeting. I’ve done this, but I also like to use off the shelf stainless steel and/or nickel plated brass walker bibs at times.
I’ve never personally screwed metal diving lips to a lure body, but plenty of folks do. Once again, I’d recommend sticking with stainless steel hardware, if you can get it. And don’t forget to buy small stainless steel wood screws to attach your diving lips. I’d also suggest wiping the screw threads with epoxy to help prevent water creeping in to the wood.
You’ll need split rings to attach your hooks to hook hangers and this is no place to skimp on quality.
The problem is, it’s hard to tell by looking at rings whether they are good quality or not. Some that use thinner wire with less turns but are actually stronger than others with thicker, heavier wire. Less weight means better lure action, so thin, strong split rings are tops. Corrosion resistance is the other thing to think about. I hate any sign of rust in my lure boxes, so I choose stainless steel rings in either bright or black, depending on the lure. If I’m making small freshwater lures or jerkbaits for light tackle fishing I’ll use the lightest, strongest rings I can find.
In my experience, Owner brand rings are the strongest for their weight.
There’s no value in DIY lures without hooks, unless you’re using them to tease fish up for a lure that does have hooks, of course…..
There is a massive range of brands and styles of hooks out there, and no one hook is perfect for every situation. What you choose to put on your lures depends on the style of lure, target species and personal preference. And I know this is a subject that’s quite daunting to many lure makers.
The fact is, tournament pros rarely fish a lure with factory hooks. Commercial lure makers need to keep costs down to make a buck, so they tend to load lures up with cheap trebles. That’s not the case with DIY lures….. we can fit the dang things with decent quality hardware from the get go.
So here are a few pointers on choosing hooks (yep, that’s a pun):
- Weight is important. Lighter weight hooks have less impact on the action of a lure, increasing strike rates. Of course, using lighter weight hooks often means compromising strength. But like split rings, there are some very light, thin yet strong hooks on the market now.
- Wire thickness can make a real difference. Trying to set a thick wire hook on light line is like dragging a plough with baling twine.
- Short shanked hooks don’t hang up in snags as much, so I like them for lures that will be used in the timber. They also help reduce the problem of the front and back hook getting interlocked during casting.
- Standard shank hooks give better hookup rates but are more prone to hanging up in timber.
- Wide gape hooks (those with greater distance between the hook point and shank) give better hookup rates.
- Hooks with points aligned parallel with the shank will improve hookup rates, while those with points angled back towards the shank give better holding power with less lost fish.
- Don’t overlook single and double hooks. They tend to reduce the hook set rate, but increase the holding power with less damage to the fish. They also reduce the chance of a stray point finding timber and giving the fish leverage to throw the lure.
Know of other DIY Lure parts?
I’m planning to cover tool and painting stuff in separate articles. Still, I’m sure this is nowhere near a complete list of the materials that can be used in wooden lure making….. So if you’d like to suggest other materials to include, please do so in the comments below.
Thanks for reading to the end, I trust you found the article useful!