A Beginner’s Guide to Creating Custom Lures

Making custom fishing lures is not for the faint of heart. It requires painstaking attention to detail, a great deal of passion, and a good dose of patience. In the end though, the result is a lure made of love.

Here we will discuss the general steps in making freshwater fishing lures; use this as a guideline, not as steadfast requirements. Have fun; be creative! See what you can come up with on your own as well.
Another name for freshwater fishing lures is “plug”, so in this article the terms are interchangeable. The first fishing plugs were wood and used to fish black bass; today’s plugs are mass-manufactured and used for mike, muskellunge, and salmon; they coming in all types, sizes, shapes, and colors, and beginner lure-makers can use any existing plug he or she likes as a model.

Wood Selection for Your Lures

The first item necessary to create your own custom plug is wood. This wood will need to be of a type that can easily be cut into small blocks and then carved into the size and form you want. Generally, red or white cedars are great novice lure making woods; they are light, strong, and easy to work with. They are also more durable in the water than other woods, which is very important. If you can’t find either of these, basswood and birch will also do just fine. You can find these woods at your local lumber yard or home improvement store, and they may be available in large blocks or round logs. Because they are soft enough to easily work with, when you get home you can saw them into 6”x4” rectangles with either a circular saw or a hand saw so that they are easier to shape from.

Shaping the Lure

If available, the best tool to use to shape your wooden plug is a lathe; wood-turning or metal-turning, either one will work. Turning down plugs with a lathe refers to shaping them initially with the lathe; make sure to mount one of your wooden blocks between the centers before you begin.

Measure out and mark your plug length on the block with a pencil before you start so you know where the ends will be. Also note the diameter, taper, and shape of your model so that you have the all the pertinent measurements before you begin. Start the lathe and use your wood working tools to shape the wood according to your model.

Once you are finished use sandpaper to smooth the edges of the plug as it is turning on the lathe; then, cut the finished piece off from the rest of the wood block. If you have more plugs, go ahead and repeat this process for each piece of wood you want to use.

If you do not have access to a lathe, do not despair. You can still create your plug with regular power tools or even whittle your plug by hand with a sharp knife if you want a more rustic experience. The most important thing to remember when creating custom lures without a lathe is to get rid of surplus wood before you shape your lure so that you will not have a great deal of extra filing to do afterward. You can do this by placing your block of wood in a bench vise and use a rasp to remove the corners; if you trim the wood down to very close to the diameter of your model, or what your finished plug should be, you won’t have so much excess filing at the end.

Once you are finished with the rasp, use a wood file to finish shaping in more detail; experiment with different grades of sandpaper to get different textures.

The Finished Lure

Your plug should be about 3 ¾” long and ¾” around, but you can create larger plugs excellent for bait-casting, spin casting, and spinning rods. Simply increase the size of your model’s measurements by one-third; or, if you want even smaller lures, shrink their dimensions by 1/3 from your model.

There you have it! These simple steps will have you creating your very first custom lures. As you continue, your skills will improve and you will discover new shapes and textures. Have a great time!