idea of writing an instructional article on crankbait making
was born of my own trials and frustrations of not having enough
available tutoring at hand, either in print or in person.
Of the hundreds of books I own, which encompass almost every
fact-minutiae of lures, tackle and fishing only a few touch
upon the topic of making your own wooden crankbaits. In my
research for this article, it was even difficult to locate
periodical articles on the subject. Is it because of the myth
that crankbait making is difficult? Is it because lures on
the market are thought to be better? It is my hopes that this
brief article will clearly explain steps to success in making
crankbaits that catch BIG FISH. I consider myself a life-long
"student of crankbait making" as there is always
something new to try and another fish to fool.
I should tell you from my own experience that carving and
assembling wooden lures is loads of fun. It's hard to say
what's more fun, a good day fishing or carving up a lure that
makes people think it's a real fish hangin' on your line!
I'll tell you this though when you put them both together,
well its bliss!
lets begin by looking to the trees and finding wood that will
work well for our little endeavor.
I have found red cedar to be the easiest to work with for
several reasons. It is inexpensive and readily available.
It also has a good casting weight. Cedar is also easy to sand
and can leave you with a pretty smooth surface. This wood
will make it easy for you to screw into but does split on
occasion, if we're not careful. You can experiment with other
types of wood like balsa, basswood or pine.
now that we've selected our wood, we must decide on a shape
and that depends on a few things. One is your target species,
and it's average size, another is depth range and common forage
during the season you'll likely be fishing. Obviously if it's
panfish you're after you're going to want to stick with a
shape that's 2-inches or less. Unfortunately these are generally
more difficult to make because any errors in the placement
of the components is magnified relative to the overall body
least till you get the hang of things, stick with something
at least 4-inches long, that seems to be a good overall size
for lot's of different species of fish should you happen across
one. I've included a 4-in. pattern that you can print out
for you to work from.
the pattern onto a piece of cardboard and use this as your
template for tracing onto your wood block. Use a piece of
wood that's clean, free of knots and for this lure you'll
need it to be 5/8" thick. Lay your template onto the
wood and trace your lure shape.
this is where it starts to get tricky, depending on your woodworking
skills. If you own or have access to a scroll saw (about $100
in store), it'll make this job much easier, if not, the good
old fashioned coping saw (about $10) always worked for me.
Always wear safety glasses when working wood.
you're using a coping saw, place your wood block in a vice
in a way that you're most comfortable with. If you don't have
a vice use a clamp. Now you want to make sure that you cut
as evenly as possible and try to stay just on the outside
of your line. After your shape is cut, check to make sure
that it's even on both sides (especially if you cut by hand).
is cheap and if you're not satisfied write it off as practice
and try again. So far you've warmed up your wood working skills.
If you've never done this before then you've just experienced
what it must have been like for the first MAN on earth who
wanted to fool a fish into eating his hand made decoy, just
as you're doing now. The wonderful feeling he had when he
succeeded you'll soon experience also!
must also cut the slot for the "lip" to slide into.
This should be done before any carving so that the lure can
lay flat on it's side if you're using the scroll saw or it
will sit level in a vice if you use the coping saw. Either
way you MUST be sure that the slot is perfectly perpendicular
to the lure body. The slot in the pattern included shows the
slot with 3/32" thickness. I have found this ideal for
the our lure body. You can adjust the thickness to suit the
plastic you may have available, however I would not go any
thinner than 1/8".
Your lure should look
just like this:
next step is going to help you know where the center is at
all times while you carve.
a ruler mark the center along the top and bottom of you're
lure shape and draw a line that runs the distance from end
to end on bottom and top. Draw another line that runs down
the same axis midway between you're centerline and the edge
on both the top and bottom. Use your middle finger as a chock
to guide your line.
you should have 4 equally spaced sections on the top and bottom
of your shape. Again using your middle finger as a chock,
run a line equal in width to your sections along the curved
edge on both sides of your shape.
The side view should
look like this:
The bottom should look
you'll need a carving knife and I don't mean the one that
grandma used to carve the turkey.
There are plenty of good carving knives you can buy in a wood
working store and I use them exclusively. They're great for
the job and you can even carve details into your lure for
a more realistic looking 3D effect (I think this impresses
your friends more than the fish).
all you really need to get the job done is a box cutting razor
or something similar as long as it has a sharp blade.
Most accidents are caused by a blade that's not sharp enough
or trying to take off too much wood in one pass.
it's time to start carving so put your safety
glasses on! First, get a good grip on the lure
with one end on the table you're going to work on. Carefully
and slowly begin to carve out all your
edges using the lines you made as a guide. Don't try to take
it all out in one pass, as it is important not to go beyond
the general idea here is to carve the wood in the shape of
a fish. However, there is also some design specifications
that have to be maintained in order to attain the action that
the lure is intended to have.
of these variables that affect the action is the shape. I've
done a lot of experimenting with lure shapes over the years
and have found that sometimes even a small divergence from
the intended design will change the action dramatically. So
try and stick to the pattern and you should be just fine.
you've carved out the edges satisfactorily, it's time to taper
the sides. The idea here is to carve a shape that gradually
tapers back to a 3/16". Stand the lure on the tail side
and from almost 1/2 way up the lure, make one pass with the
knife removing wood diagonally. Make another pass starting
from about 1/4 of the way up the lure. Your final cut should
meet your top guideline. Repeat this process for the opposite
from the top and bottom view you can see how you've done.
Have you taken equal amounts off both sides? The left and
right side should be a mirror of one another. You can go ahead
and carefully touch it up so they're smooth and even.
let's move on to the head of the lure. Again stand the lure
on the end we're going to carve and hold securely. Remember
to always carve away from your fingers, trust me this won't
be much fun anymore if you hurt yourself.
you want to bring the nose to a taper like you did with the
tail only this time you'll begin from about 1/4 of the way
up the side of the lure. Make a smooth taper towards the nose
until the carve meets with the top guideline.
Your lure should look
just like this:
to remove edge tapering and narrowing the overall body. It
is important to the balance of the lure that you remove equal
weight on both sides so whatever you remove on one side try
to mirror it on the other.
should end up with a relatively smooth oval shape that gradually
tapers from end to end leaving a flat circular surface on
both ends for which to screw into later.
You should end up with
a shape that looks like this:
it's time to sand your lure. Always sand in the direction
the grain. You'll begin with coarse paper, around 100 grit
and work your way to 400 grit paper until you have a very
Using the 100 grit paper, begin by smoothing any imperfections
on the surface. This stage of the sanding also helps to shape
the lure so make sure you have an oval shaped lure where the
right half is a mirror the left. Use a 200-grit paper to remove
scratches and the 400-grit paper to give it a smooth as glass
can use various plastics but I have found that the clearest
and most durable is a product from Dupont called Lexan. This
or other "plexiglass" products can be bought at
any home improvement store at various thicknesses.
defacto standard in epoxy for luremaking is of the 5-minute
variety. This is not to say that 5-minute epoxy cures in 5
minutes. It is to say, however, that 5-minute epoxy sets and
takes a hard-fast shape in 5 minutes.
key to any paint being used is adhesion. The
paint has to bond to the surface. The wood should be primed
or sealed before any paint is applied. Use an oil-based sealer/primer.
There are two basic kinds of paints available on the market
today, oil base and water base. Water-base paint or acrylic,
as it's also known has the obvious convenience of ease of
use and easy clean up. Normally, the drawback to acrylic and
wood is it raises the grain of the wood due to its water base.
But as long as the wood is sealed (primed) there is no need
to be concerned. The second drawback is that it doesn't adhere
to the primer as well as the second paint option, oil base
paint. There are many different kinds of oil-base paints out
on the market today so stick with an enamel that has a hi-solid
content and dries quickly.
main drawback of oil-base enamel is that clean-up is difficult.
Everything has to be cleaned with a solvent like turpentine.
If you have an airbrush you can work with that, if not rest
assured that the greatest pieces of art were made with paint
and a brush. A good Sable or Camelhair brush will should give
you smooth even strokes.
bass fishing, it's best to stick to basic colors. Crankbaits
should match in a general way, the most dominant forage in
the lake. Thus, popular crankbait colors that should be included
in your tacklebox include: silver and black(shad), green and
silver (Tennessee shad), chrome (open water baitfish), orange
and brown(crawfish), etc. If golden shiners occur in your
waters, "match the hatch" by using gold crankbaits.
Fluorescent colors are effective on crankbaits in many conditions.
A popular combination is fluorescent green(chartreuse)/black
spots/orange belly in stained water and/or cloudy days. Red
works well around grass beds in clear and stained water.
always keep in mind that 80 percent of the strikes you get
are due to your retrieve, not color. Choose the design for
your lure such as "Perch", "Trout", "Shad"
or any other popular finish or be creative and use your imagination,
you never know what crazy color combo can land you that lunker.
Paint your primary color using smooth even strokes trying
to avoid any drips and runs.
your first coat is dry, if your base coat looks a little translucent
apply a second base coat. Next you can start adding your detailing
colors, gills, lateral lines eyes and mouth are some of the
details you may want to add to your crankbait to make it look
very realistic. I prefer using plastic molded eyes but the
painted eyes look just as good. If you allow the paint to
dry too long after a prior coating just give it a light sanding
with a 400 grit sandpaper. Also, give the lure a light sanding
before applying a clear coat.
the Clear Coat
your lure has been painted and you are satisfied with the
look, then its time to apply a protective, durable clear
coat. There are many to choose from on the market today but
the strongest and the most durable is the two-part clear epoxy
kind. This is basically the same stuff that cars are painted
with. Purchase a can of this stuff at your local hardware
store or home improvement superstores and follow the directions.
You can apply 2 or more coats of this for a glass like finish
on your creation.
are many types of epoxies on the market, most notably distinguished
by their "setting" time, or hardening time. Most
crafters utilize the 5-minute epoxy variety and rarely will
a crafter work with a 30-minute brand. There are some 1-minute
epoxies on the market, but that time frame for setting up
leaves very little room to mix and apply a bubble-free layer
of epoxy on a lure. One of the disadvantages of standard 5-minute
epoxies is the fact that they will turn yellow over time,
especially if exposed to direct sunlight. Devcon-brand is
noted for this.
(especially homemade ones) have to be "tuned" so
that they run true. Start by always using a loop knot or split
ring to tie your lure on. This is to allow the lure the action
it was intended to have. Now check how it's swimming. You
can do this in a full tub if needed. Most discrepancies in
the placement of the "lip" and "eye-screws"
can be compensated to make your crankbait run true. With needle-nose
pliers bend the "line" eye in small increments,
in the opposite direction the lure favors. If it runs left
bend slightly right etc.. Sometimes fisherman
will intentionally mistune a crankbait to get to swim in a
certain direction, such as along a weedline or log.
you're ready to fish with something you've made yourself that
you can take pride in when you LAND THAT LUNKER!
To learn more about making your own lures, and to purchase
kits to assist you in your creations, please visit Sebastian's
website at http://www.creativelure.com.
(Editor's Note: As of 01/01/08, Sebastian's
website was no longer offering lure making information or
kits for sale)
wear safety goggles and follow instructions provided by the
manufacturer or supplier of the tools and components you are
using. TackleMaking is not responsible for any damage (personal,
property, or otherwise) that results from reading, following,
or referencing this article and/or performing the actions described