Wooden Lure Making
Guide To Making Killer Custom Lures
“Lure Making Is About Doing What Everyday Fishermen Don’t Do, To Catch Fish That Most Lure Fishermen Can’t Catch”
Sure, you might save a buck or two making your own lures. You might even make a buck or two selling them, plenty of guys do that. But for me, wooden lure making is about something much more important. It’s about rocking your fishing off the Richter scale.
Knocking out a few handmade lures is easy. It’s fun. And almost anyone can do it. Best of all, it’s your ticket to a lifetime of extraordinary lure fishing that you probably never even dreamed was possible!
I reckon lure making is the fishing equivalent of home brewing, but without the hangover. Once you’ve been brewing a little while your brewskies start to make commercial ales taste like paint thinner. And once you’ve been lure making a while you’ll wonder how you ever made do with commercial lures. Fortunately, you’ll never need to do that again!
Time To Get Started Your Own Wooden Lure Making Adventure
As the name suggests, this website is all about making wooden fishing lures. You’ll find plenty of info, resources, links and so on. But this page is a great place to start, because I’m going to use it to answer the most common questions I’ve heard over more than 30 years of lure making.
I reckon it’s always better to learn from the experience of others, rather than waste time and energy reinventing the wheel.
Frequently Asked Questions About How To Make Lures
Lure Making Blank
What's The Best Wood For Lure Making?
Just like boats, cars, fishing rods and women, when it comes to wood for lure making there is no “one size fits all”. A lot depends on the type of lure you’re making, the tools you own and what’s available in your area.
Popular lure making timbers include balsa, basswood, cedar, cypress knees, jelutong, beech and some types of pine. But there are thousands of other options. Look for something easy to carve, light weight and resistant to denting. It’s easier to gt all your components aligned properly if you start with straight, square blanks. It’s also important that your wood is properly seasoned.
If you’d like more information on choosing the best wood for your own lure making needs, you could check out my article on How To Choose The Best Wood For Lure Making.
What Tools Will I Need To Get Started At Lure Making?
You want some good news? You probably have everything you need already, or can probably get your hands on the stuff easily. So don’t go rushing out to buy expensive gear just yet…… make a start first and then see what (if anything) you need to buy.
A basic, beginners luremaking kit would include a chisel (or a craft knife), handsaw, battery drill and some pliers are the basics. A $10 coping saw is also worth having. If you want to see how easily you can make awesome lures with just this kit, go take free Crankbait Making 101 class watch how to do it in the video tutorials. Even advanced lures can be made with this basic kit – about 90% of the lures in my Crankbait Masterclass are possible with a little practice.
There is a caveat though – if you want your handmade lures to look professional, you’ll probably need to invest in an airbrush. If all you care about is catching heaps of fish, then aerosol cans are fine, or even hand painting with a brush. But if you want to impress fishermen too, an airbrush becomes important.
As you get more into lure making you’ll probably want to upgrade your basic kit. Rotary tools (eg Dremel), drill presses, bandsaws, scrollsaws, lathes, and sanding machines are also handy. None of them are essential when you’re getting started but they all make life easier and faster as you get more serious.
What is a through wire?
A through wire is one of several different ways to add a two point (the bit you tie your line to) and hook hangers (the loops your split rings and hooks swing from).
A through wire is a single piece of wire that runs right through a wooden lure body from one end to the other. The tow point and hook hangers are formed by bending loops in the wire, which is then glued into the lure body.
The main advantage of a through wire is that no matter what happens to your lure body, you get to stay connected to the fish.
Should I Through Wire My Lures Or Are Screw Eyes Better?
If you’re new to lure making then welcome to the bun fight. There has always been two camps when this question gets argued around the campfire. Like politics and religion the easiest way to avoid a fight is to keep your ears open and your mouth shut!
On the one hand, there are those who reckon a screw wire is the only safe, strong way to make a wooden lure. They’ll argue that a screw eye could pull out or twist free. Or that a toothy fish might chop your lure in two and make a getaway. And they’re right…… those things can (and do) happen.
Then there’s the screw eye fans. They’ll tell you how screw eyes are faster and easier to install than through wires. And then they’ll go on to tell you about the squillions of fish that never got away on handmade lures fitted with screw eyes. And they’re right, too.
So for what it’s worth, here’s my view. Screw eyes are probably strong enough 99% of the time and I use them myself sometimes. They’re easy to install and they make turning out a batch of handmade lures pretty quick. For maximum strength they have to be installed properly though, so check out my tutorial on how to use screw eyes before you make a start.
But while screw eyes might be good 99% of the time, it’s the remaining 1% that worries me. After all, small fish that you don’t care about don’t smash a wooden lure to pieces. Only big, ugly fish that give you bragging rights for years do that. And losing one of those because a lure I made with my own two hands just fell apart is a gut-wrenching thought. Like turning up for a hot date with Claudia Schiffer, only to find she brought a chaperone. Hopes and dreams dashed in an instant.
There are times when a through wire is definitely mandatory hardware. Making lures for really tough species like GT’s, tuna, and Papuan black bass, for example. Or for the razor gang like mackerel or wahoo. Or if you’re using really soft wood like balsa to make delicate lure styles
The truth is, it doesn’t really take a lot of extra work to make and install a through wire – so that’s what I usually prefer to do, Claudia.
But if you’re just getting started at lure making then by all means use screw eyes, get some confidence and then decide for yourself whether you need to move up to through wiring or not.
Oh, and one last thought. In lure making circles there is often a perception (an unfair one, I think) that through wired lures must be higher quality that those made using screw eyes. I know guys who make lures for a buck and they tell me that a lot of customers won’t buy unless their lures are through wired. That may be just a local thing (we have a lot of seriously tough fish here), but if you plan on selling some lures it’s worth checking to see what your customers expect.
Should I Add Weight To My Wooden Lures?
Probably. The majority of my lures are weighted, even the topwater ones.
I recommend you do the same, especially if you’re just getting started and making wooden lures. By weighting your lure bodies correctly you can get a stronger action, can work the lure over a wider range of speeds and cast it further. Weighted lures are a little more forgiving if you don’t get the body shape quite perfect or if the diving lip is slightly out of alignment.
I’ve seen numerous instances where a handmade lure doesn’t work at all until a little weight is added to the belly.
If you’re making crankbaits, then a weighted lure body allows you to use a longer and/or wider diving lip, which means your lures can dive deeper, work faster or have a stronger action, depending on the design. For more information you might like to check out my article on weighting hard baits.
The best placement of weight is usually in the front 1/3 of the lure body, as close under the skin as possible. I often make my own weights that fit the drills I use. But small ball sinkers, split shot, ball bearings or pieces of brass rod can also be used to weight lures too.
Is Balsa Wood Good For Lure Making?
Like all timbers, balsa wood has it’s good points and its weaknesses. You just need to know when it’s a viable option and when it’s not.
I love balsa as a lure making timber. In fact, I created a whole beginners lure making series around 6 small balsa wood lure patterns. If you’re interested in that, or just in finding out more about balsa lure making in general, check out my Guide To Making Balsa Lures.
One of the things I love about balsa is that it’s so light and soft that it’s easy for beginners to shape some lure bodies. Of course, the down side is that you need to take some steps to harden the balsa to make it tougher on longer lasting. Actually, I do this anyway, regardless of what wood I’m using!
Why Doesn't The Diving Depth Of My Crankbaits Change When I Angle The Lip Differently?
Because the diving lip is only one small part of the equation. In fact, if the only thing you do is change the angle of the lip you’re headed for disappointment.
Making a crankbait run deeper (or shallower, for that matter) means balancing the size and shape of the lip, the position of the tow point, the way the lure body is weighted, the shape of the lure body and last, but not least, the angle of the diving lip.
Changing the length of the diving lip is what has the greatest effect on crankbait diving depth. To get them deep you need a longer diving lip. But a longer diving lip can destabilize the lure body, so it needs to be angled more horizontally. Often the tow point will need to be moved onto the diving lip and you might need to weight the lure differently.
On the other hand, a short diving lip needs to be angled more vertically, or the lure will have very little (if any) action.
You can read more in my post on Understanding Diving Lips (Bibs).
How Can I Add Rattles To Wooden Lures?
The first thing is to understand that a rattle in a wooden lure sounds different to one in a plastic lure. It’s usually duller, softer and more gentle sounding. Too many people try to change this. They assume that the loud, harsh sound most plastic lures must be easier for fish to hear. The truth is, for a range of reasons, the unique sound of a wooden lure rattling is actually more effective. Find out more about rattles in lures here.
There are a few ways to add sound to a wooden lure. Probably the easiest is to drill a hole into the body, slip in a rattle chamber and then seal it in with epoxy. In many of my lures I have a single large “knocker” rattle comprised of a ball bearing in a hollow part of the lure body. In my view, this is the best type of rattle of all – a metal ball bearing clunking against wood.
Question: What Clear Coat Should I Use?
Again, there is no right and no wrong. I use acrylic airbrush paints for coloring up my lures and prefer to clear coat them with a two part epoxy (Envirotex Lite). Others prefer to use a two pack automotive polyurethane over airbrush acrylics. And still others dip their lures in moisture cure polyurethane.
I have a love-hate relationship with Envirotex. I hate the cumbersome, laborious process that’s required for a good result. But once it’s done I don’t know of anything tougher or more scuff resistant.
I don’t like the toxicity of two pack polyurethane or the short shelf life of moisture cure urethanes in humid environments (yes, I do purge the air out).
What Are The Best Paints For Wooden Lures?
You should use whatever paints you want! Just be aware that many of the problems I see are because people use paints and clear coats that aren’t compatible. For the record, my process is
- harden and seal the wood with Envirotex Lite
- paint with autoair autoborne airbrush sealer
- spray base color using wicked or autoair acrylics
- paint detail with wicked or autoair acrylics
- clear coat with Envirotex Lite
- paint eyes (if I’m not using 3D ones)
- final clear coat with Envirotex Lite
You can find out more about the paints I use in my article on paints for fishing lures. If you use these products and follow the steps above you’ll eliminate 99% of paint failure problems and will end up with long lasting lures. If you want to use different products or follow a different step by step process you’ll need to.
What Types Of Lures Can Be Made From Wood?
The great thing about wooden lure making is that it’s accessible to everyone, and the sky is the limit. I recently posted an article outlining 23 types of fishing lures that can be made by recreational lure makers. Once you know the techniques you’ll find that there aren’t too many styles that are out of reach!
Where Can I Get The Parts I Need For Making Lures?
Tip 10: I often make the components of my lures from raw materials that I get at the hardware store, online or the tackle shop.
But that doesn’t mean that you have to do the same. Lure making can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. Buying screw eyes, lure bodies, 3D eyes and other components can make the job simpler and faster. So don’t feel that you have to start from the absolute raw materials.
A good source of lure parts is Lure Parts Online, but there are others too. In the interests of full disclosure: I recommend Lure Parts Online because I’ve bought a lot of stuff from them over the years and have always liked the quality and service. But recently I became an affiliate, so if you use the above link to visit them and buy lure components I may get paid a small commission. Those commissions help make it possible for me to add new content to this website.
What Kind Of Wire Should I Use For Lure Making?
I usually recommend only 316 (marine) grade stainless steel wire. #18 gauge is about 1mm diameter for general 3-5″ lure sizes. I’ll sometimes go lighter for small lures and will switch to 1.5mm wire for heavy duty lures like GT poppers and the like.
Please don’t be tempted to use copper or galvanized wire, they’re just not suitable for lure making. Marine Grade (316) stainless steel is the stuff to use.
What's The Best Way To Seal A Wooden Lure Body?
I’m so glad you asked this. Lots of guys get tempted to go straight from raw wood to paint, which is one of the most common lure making mistakes.
Wood is like a sponge, it soaks up water. Once in, water works its way through the wood by capillary action until the wood is waterlogged. This kills action, weakens glue and is the most common cause of paint failure.
Paint and clear coat give the wood some protection by forming a barrier over the surface. But it’s not enough. Apart from the normal chips and scratches in paint, water can get in when the surface is punctured by teeth or dented by impact. It also tends to get in around places where hardware like screw eyes, through wires, diving lips and so on are used.
I like to treat my wood with a product that will get deep into the fiber and then cure to create a hard, water repelling lure body that’s resistant to denting. There are two products that can be used:
- Penetrating wood hardener is available from paint and hardware shops. It’s designed for impregnating rotten wood and making it strong again, but it’s great for lure making too.
- Epoxy resin is my preference. I thin it down and warm the wood to get maximum penetration. Once cured the lure body is tough, hard and waterproof. All that’s needed is a light sand and you’re ready for paint.