Do you know how to pick the perfect lure making wood? After all, wood is your basic raw material, so your choice of wood can be the difference between mediocre baits and ones that smash fish senseless.
So lets take a look at the general properties that you want in a lure making timber. For for specific info about common lure making timbers please read my article on the best wood for making fishing lures. Or, for those who love making crankbaits, there’s also an article on crankbait making wood.
What Makes An Exceptional Lure Making Wood?
Great lure making wood gives a strong, crisp action, fish attracting vibration, great strength and durability. It makes the process of making wooden lures easier and more fun. And it gives you flexibility to weight your lure for perfect balance, which opens up a lot more design options.
On the other hand, poor lure making wood will yield lures that couldn’t pull a leech from a swamp. No matter how skilled you are at making lures, if the raw material is garbage, your lures will be too.
Of course, the timber you choose depends on the types of fishing lures you’re making. For example, balsa is a common lure making wood and is perfect for many freshwater lures, poppers and jerkbaits. But lures that will be thrown at tougher, toothier fish are better made from a tougher, harder timber such as cedar or beech. For really tough fishing you might turn to abachi.
But there are literally thousands of other timbers that can give good results…. so the following tips should help you pick a good one no matter where you live:
Checklist For Lure Making Wood
1. Easy To Carve
4. Good Grain
5. Good Chemistry
6. Cheap & Available
7. Well Seasoned
Feature #1: Choose Easy Carving Timber
If you have access to a bunch of great power tools and machines then this isn’t so much of an issue. But if you are just getting started or, like me, you enjoy using hand tools then you’ll want easy carving wood.
With a good sharp chisel or knife I can usually shape a block of lure making wood into a lure body in 5-10 minutes. If it takes longer I feel like I’m just wasting valuable fishing time! Timber with hard, wavy grain, lots of knots or gum veins make life harder than it should be. And why would you even bother using a timber that blunts tools when you have so many choices of better lure making timbers?
Tip #2: Light In Weight (Low Density)
Light weight timber has always given me the best results, even for suspending and sinking lures. Heavy timbers give a slower, less responsive action and often take a little more speed to get them working. As a result they tend to limit the types of lures I can make with them.
But lure making wood that floats higher in the water gives me a lot more options. I can fine tune the weighting, make them suspend, adjust the action and so on. For weight shift lures I get more efficient casting, for walk the dog patterns I get a wider action….. the list goes on and on.
The bottom line, you’ll get better stability and a whole lot more design options with low density lure making wood.
Tip #3: Strength When You Need It
You’re going to give your lures a beating. You need to smack them hard up against structure to get them seen by fish. And not just any fish, but big, mean, lure crunching nasties, right? Otherwise, what’s the point of making your own lures?
So your lure making wood has to be capable of taking a beating. In my article the “Best Wood For Making Fishing Lures” I talk about the Janka hardness test. But for the purposes of this article all you need to know is that harder wood resists denting and teeth better!
But often there’s a trade-off to be made. Harder wood also tends to be heavier and more difficult to work with hand tools. So getting the balance between strength, durability, ease of use and ability to be used on a range of lure styles can be a challenge. There’s no perfect option and no “one size fits all” when it comes to lure making wood!
Tip #4: Good Grain
Interlocking, wavy, knotty or inconsistent grain looks great. But it’s difficult to carve and most lure makers paint over the natural beauty anyway! Once again, this is less of an issue if you’re using power tools.
But there’s another consideration. This type of grain can result in unpredictable results due to the density being variable within the lure body. It may be beneficial, creating a “hunting” action. Or it may unbalance the lure and reduce its performance.
And a final note on the grain of lure making wood: Very porous, open grained timber brings its own set of pro’s and cons. Personally, I used to avoid this kind of wood because it added in an extra step: filling the grain. But these days I seal my lure bodies with epoxy, which fills the grain without adding an extra step. And as a bonus, the open pores allow the epoxy to get deeper into the wood, making the end result even tougher and more waterproof.
Tip #5: Good Chemistry
I sometimes refer to the “chemistry” of lure making wood. Timbers that have a waxy feel often don’t allow adhesives or paints to get a good grip. Acid timbers can corrode metallic parts. Timbers with a high tannin content can cause acrylic paints to develop ugly blotches. Timbers containing lots of minerals can rapidly dull your tools. Do a little research on the timber you’re thinking of using and see how it stacks up.
Tip #6: Availability And Cost
Imagine you’ve just perfected a killer lure and want to make 100 more of the suckers before the season opens. Now imagine you find you can’t get the right type of wood any more. Disaster! Availability and consistency of supply is important for those looking to set up a lure making business. But even for the recreational lure maker – you want to know when you crack that perfect design that you can get the wood you need to make it again. And again.
And unless you’re making “Nude Lures” your timber needs to be functional and effective. It doesn’t need to be classy and pretty! There are plenty of cheap timbers out there that make awesome lures, so why waste money on expensive or exotic timbers?
Tip #7: Seasoned And Stable
It’s critical that you use well seasoned and stable timber. And preferably, use the sapwood portion of a board, which is generally more stable and less prone to splitting.
Using well seasoned wood means that there’s no moisture trapped under the clear coat (the number 1 cause of early paint failure). It also allows your epoxy, or whatever product you use to harden and seal your wood, to get in deeper and really waterproof and toughen the timber.
For me, the best way to purchase lure making wood is kiln dried, planed-all-round planks from the lumberyard. This gives consistent quality and density across batches of lures and I can cut it to the sizes I need. It’s the cheapest and most efficient option, too. But smaller, pre-cut pieces from the hobby supply shop are fine if you don’t have the room to store large pieces or the tools to cut them down to size.
Final Thoughts On Lure Making Wood
Every timber has its own set of weak and strong points. Matching the right one to the style of lure you’re making comes with experience and experimentation. But hopefully the above tips will help if you’re sizing up the suitability of a local timber as a lure making wood.