When I saw the price on a minnow-imitation lure I gasped. At those prices I’d have to take up needlepoint to be able to afford a hobby. But I practically have salt water in my blood having been raised on the Chesapeake Bay. I wasn’t about to give up the seemingly endless stream of days and nights on gently rolling seas fighting the adrenaline-pumping pull of Tautog, Striped Bass, Weakfish, slammer Blues, Spots, Croakers and the occasional eel or small shark. It didn’t take me long to exhaust a string of options leaving only one sensible answer: make my own salt water lures.
Now I’m about as handy as an elephant trying to crochet while wearing mittens. But the craft of lure making can be an amazingly simple one. Besides piquing my interest and developing some first rate manual skills, it really is a lot of fun and kept me out of trouble on many a cold, rainy weekend when they weren’t bitin’ anyway. Now an “old hand” at lure making, if I can produce fish-catching salt water lures, believe me, you can too.
Two of the easiest and most practical lures to make and use are spoons and top water plugs. Cheapskate that I can be, I’ve learned to make highly effective spoons and plugs that fish slam without hesitation out of materials available for free or at low cost. My arsenal of lures cost me less than the price of a big lunch. Here’s how:
By far the easiest lures to fabricate are spoons.
One plain-pattern stainless steel tablespoon will make two lures. Start by using some old ones from a thrift store. (I told you I was cheap)
o Break off the handle where it joins the bowl of the spoon. Hold or clamp down the bowl and work the handle up and down a few times – it’ll snap right off.
o Sand the rough edges smooth to eliminate burrs and snags. Drill an eight inch diameter hole through both ends of the bowl.
o Attach a number 4 treble hook using a stainless steel split ring available at hardware, craft or bait and tackle shops. Terminal tackle is attached to the other end of the spoon bowl using another split ring and corrosion-resistant snap swivel.
o For added weight use a barrel sinker and split shot about 30 inches above the spoon. That’s it. Sizes vary from tiny sugar spoons to cooking utensil ware if you’re after bigger game. All sizes have worked for me.
About 30 yards behind the boat the sea exploded as a geyser of water erupted skyward. An 18″ long Tuna twirled and somersaulted in the air as if performing for the circus before crashing back into the briny deep – with my tablespoon lure locked in its jaws.
I was happier than a set of twins at Christmas. I landed that one and six more of its warm-to-the-touch brethren on that drizzle-chilled morning off the Pacific coast of South America. Small Tuna are fun to catch as they’ll attack a trolled top-water lure with gusto, performing their incredible acrobatics to get to your lure. Try it. You’ll see.
The handle of the spoon also makes an effective top-water lure so you get double service from one original piece of hardware. Two for the price of one, I like that.
o Drill an eighth-inch hole through the wide end of the handle near the tip to attach your split ring. This is the terminal tackle end.
o The narrower end will have the shank of the hook protruding beyond it about three quarters of an inch. The eye of the hook will lie along the underside of the handle where it can be attached by soldering, or a stud inserted through the handle and hook eye to secure it.
o Sometimes I tie trailing “hair” made of nylon rope fibers along the hook shank, wrapping it on fly/tying style with fine cotton thread. White or red streamer tails are my preferred colors. Often I fish the “jig” plain by trolling it 25 ft. or so behind the boat. It rides high but the rotation and flash it produces force Sierra, Snapper and Wahoo or other predator fish to charge it like a fleeing baitfish.
Sharp pain shot through my hands as the line tightened around them. Slowly, I was being pulled down towards the surface of the deep blue choppy Pacific by the freight train that had caught the end of my line. This was a battle I was going to lose. Mercifully, the pressure eased a little – enough for me to begin to straighten up. The line around my hands now tinged with red, I began hauling in whatever danced below. A few minutes later, a sleek, yellow-spotted Sierra darted to and fro two feet below the surface flashing silver in the sunlight. Its last few moments were spent in one last tremendous surge for final freedom. The 40 pound test mono barely held and it took the two of us, me using the line and my partner grabbing the thrashing tail, to sling the snapping, writhing predator into the boat.
Another few minutes passed as we extracted my 5-inch long, spoon-handle-fabricated lure from the gaping jaws lined with an impressive row of razor sharp teeth. Eleven more joined it before I had to stop. My hands were starting to look like hamburger. Was the blood in the boat from the fish or me? My two fishing companions looked closely at my home-fabricated lure now. They’d caught nothing to my fourteen fish. Their snickers disappeared. “Can you make one for us?” “Sure thing, as soon as we get back.” I smiled all the way home – and then some.
Top Water Plugs
An old broom handle will make eight or nine good plugs 5 inches long.
o Saw them off to length, then drill an eighth inch diameter hole through the center the length of the wooden blank. You’ll need a seven inch long piece of heavy wire to run through the length of the plug. A dismantled wire coat hanger snipped off to length makes through-wire for four or five plugs, depending on their length.
o The wire is bent into a closed loop front and back to attach terminal tackle and the rear hook. Taper the plug’s front end to 45 degrees, use brass or non-corroding screw eyes to attach salt water treble hooks below and behind the body.
o Add plastic doll eyes for a more realistic look. Eyes are available at craft supply shops. The solid, molded ones come in a variety of sizes and last forever.
o Paint with acrylics. Follow the most common color schemes of commercial plugs or experiment with your own. A fluorescent orange body top water plug with bulging white / black eyes and a streamer of green hair around the rear treble hook nearly brought me to tears one trip. The fish just wouldn’t leave it alone!
Costs? Let’s see: a length of broom handle – free, wire coat hanger – free, doll’s eyes a nickel each, 8 ounce can of acrylic paint – one dollar seventy five cents, but one can will paint dozens of lures. Usually two colors are used. Terminal tackle about 30 cents per lure – tops. The whole thing totals out at less than 70 cents each lure when I’m spending big. Spoons might run me 20 cents or less – just the price of the terminal tackle and my labor of love. You could spend a little more or little less.
Save a TON of money, have fun and catch more fish by making your own salt water lures. Lure making can soon change from a pastime into a profitable endeavor if you hit on a hot combination and start making them for your friends. If you have a child or grandchild who fishes, teaching them can add to the irresistible allure of the sport. A number of online and offline publications are available to deepen your lure-making knowledge and skills. Don’t cry if you lose a lure, you can easily fabricate its twin. Besides, by making your own lures, for the price of one commercial lure you can finance the fabrication of literally dozens of your own. Let me know how you make out. I’ve just finished a fresh batch I’m itching to try out. See you later, I’ve gone fishin’