Sunday, November 20, 2005

How to Hand Craft Your First Salt Water Fishing Lure

The surface of the water explodes, adrenaline shoots through your body. Your muscles lock you into position for a fight against whatever has just smashed your top water plug. No doubt about it, you’re in for a scrap. You sweat, ache, curse and pray you’ll get the fish into the boat. Your heart pounds as you wonder, “Will my knots hold? Did I set the hooks deep enough? Will everything hold together long enough for me to get this fish in?” The eventual catch is made all the sweeter by one outstanding fact – YOU hand crafted this plug yourself. It was you who dreamed it, whittled it, sanded it, painted it, and fabricated its every facet. Now you have your dividends in spades. There’s a fish on. But first, let’s hand craft a minnow-imitation, Rapala type lure.

Hand Crafting a Lure

To hand craft wooden top water fishing plugs requires minimal equipment. Here’s what you basically need:

- 5” long Wooden plug blanks, sawed off from an old broom or mop handle You can also use wooden dowel stock

- A whittling knife or a box-cutter with break-off blades

- Small cans of white, red, yellow and blue enamel paint to color the lure

- Two Plastic doll eyes for each lure (the kind where the black eye part moves around)

- 3 or 4 Long-threaded screw eyes in brass or stainless to attach hooks and leaders

- A small spool of red or white sewing thread for wrapping on buck tails

- 3 or 4 number 5, 6 or 7 stainless steel split rings to attach hooks and leaders

- Barrel swivels to help prevent line twist above the leader

- A few 3” to 4” square pieces of medium to fine sandpaper to finish the lure surface

- 4” lengths of nylon ribbon or nylon rope to make the buck tail

- A tube of Super glue to cement in the screw eyes into the plug body

- Rubber cement to seal the thread wrapping of the buck tail

- A little love, patience and a sense of pride to add to the patina of your work

Lure Assembly Procedure

The procedure is simply to whittle down the wooden plug into a minnow-like shape, then sand the plug body to a smooth finish. Screw in the screw eyes, back them out, fill the holes with super glue then immediately screw them back in. You’ll need one screw eye in the head, one in the belly and a tail screw eye. Paint the lure with a color pattern of your choice. The lure assembly should thoroughly dry for at least a day in good sun. You want solvent odors and residue gone completely.

Make big, bug-eyed lures

Attach lure eyes with super glue. Use the largest doll eyes that you can for the lure size. Yes, the bigger, the better. They drive the fish nuts, so you want a big-eyed lure. Attach hooks to belly and tail screw eyes using split rings. Wrap a buck tail on to the tail hook shank using the sewing thread. I like red thread with a white buck tail. Coat the thread with rubber cement to seal it. Use a fine comb to “comb out” the buck tail so it’s nice and fluffy. It should be just a bit longer than the hook. I use a moustache comb and small scissors to trim it up just so.

Attaching Terminal Tackle

Clip or tie on your leader or leader material. For strictly salt water use, I always use stainless steel wire leaders which are wrapped or double-looped and hand-tied on. The lure assembly should thoroughly dry for at least a day in good sun. You want solvent odors and residue gone before its baptism in seawater.

The final step is to test your lure by trolling it a moderate speed about thirty yards behind your boat. Just be ready for an explosive strike. Then, the surface of the water explodes …

Prof Larry M. Lynch is a bi-lingual copywriter, expert author and photographer specializing in business, travel, food and education-related writing in South America. His work has appeared in Transitions Abroad, South American Explorer, Escape From America, Mexico News and Brazil magazines. He lives in Cali, Colombia, fishes the South American Pacific coast, Amazon and Orinoco River basins for exotic salt water and fresh water game and food fish. For no-obligation information on how to get original, exclusive Exotic fishing stories, fishing technique articles, fishing-action photography and one-of-a-kind content for your fishing-related newsletter, blog or website contact him today at: for a free, action photo-packed, South American fishing adventure article.

"The Man Who Makes Little Fish from Sticks"

Wearing only a green loincloth, a barefooted indian approached me. Lean and muscular, his straight black hair hung down past his ears in a “page boy” style cut typical of “Cholos” or straight-haired people. His flat, broad feet were caked with sand. A two and a half foot long machete was slung across his back by a braided vine thong. A small drawstring pouch hung by its cords under one arm. We looked at each other. Glancing down at the scattering of wood shavings around my feet, the Embera finally broke the silence.

“What are you doing?”, he asked in his native tongue.

“I’m making a fishing lure.”

Tipping his head curiously, he squinted at the near minnow-shaped blank of wood in my hands. I continued whittling. More wood shavings fell around his feet. He didn’t move. The Pacific Ocean surf roared and pounded like a lullaby no more than 100 yards away down the sand-paved street. Late afternoon had painted the sky with burnt orange and purple hues. A light breeze easily carried the salt scent to us and felt refreshing against the crushing humidity.

“It will be like one of these”, I said in Spanish, holding up another finished minnow-imitation top water plug. The Rapala-type fishing lure had been finished only yesterday.

Heavy rain and roiling seas had scuttled any fishing plans I’d had for earlier this morning. In the clear afternoon, I opted to work on a couple of lures to pass the sauna-like conditions of Colombia’s Pacific coast. The Choco region is one of the wettest regions in the world according to the Guinness Book of Records. More than 43 and a half feet of rain fall each year – enough to flood a building above its fourth floor.

He took a lure from my hands and turned, holding it up, to show another more elderly Indian man who now approached. They spoke a bit between themselves, turning the lure over and over in their hands, mindful of the tail and mid-body stainless steel treble hooks. The first man undulated the lure in a swimming motion imitating a dancing, bobbing fish. Smiling, he handed it back to me.

“I’ve never seen anything like that”, the tan skinned man continued. “Do you have more?”

I nodded a response.

“Do you sell them?”

“Not these. I’ll be using these myself tomorrow.”

“The fish will really like these, especially this one”. He pointed to a red-headed five inch minnow imitation lure with a white body: Its treble hooks glinted in the evening sunlight.

“I hope so.” He proved right couple of days later as I fought a 14-pound Dorado to the gunnels of my boat. My hands cut and bleeding, it took two of us to sling the blue and gold, spotted scrapper up and into the locally built 25 foot wooden launch. I would sport a shameless, white-toothed grin all the way home that morning.

Showing off a few more of my finished lures, we conversed a bit more. They left in wonder at my ability to “make little fish from sticks”. So from that day on, I have been known by the Embera Indians of the Jurubida region of the Choco, as “The man who makes little fish from sticks”. Kinda of catchy, ain’t it? I still can’t quite say it correctly in the Embera’s language, but let me tell you, it’s a mouthful.

Prof Larry M. Lynch is a bi-lingual copywriter, expert author and photographer specializing in business, travel, food and education-related writing in South America. His work has appeared in Transitions Abroad, South American Explorer, Escape From America, Mexico News and Brazil magazines. He lives in Cali, Colombia, fishes the South American Pacific coast, Amazon and Orinoco River basins for exotic salt water and fresh water game and food fish. For no-obligation information on how to get original, exclusive Exotic fishing stories, fishing technique articles, fishing-action photography and one-of-a-kind content for your fishing-related newsletter, blog or website contact him today at: for a free, action photo-packed, South American fishing adventure article.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Make Your Own Dynamite Salt Water Plugs for 75 cents or Less

blue yellow treble hook plug Posted by Picasa

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:

Top Water Plugs
An old broom handle will make eight or nine good plugs 5 inches long.

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.

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.

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.

Paint with acrylics. Follow the most common color schemes of commercial plugs or experiment with your own. A florescent 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".

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’

Piranha: Deadly and Delicious

The Amazon

The Amazon is filled with danger. Soldier ants march by the millions devouring all life in their path. Submerged up to the eyes, Crocodiles lie in wait for the unwary – whatever or whoever that may be. Undulating its 20-foot length beneath the surface, the Anaconda, one of the world’s largest snakes, uses heat-seeking guidance to find its next meal. The barbed stinger in the tail of platter-sized stingrays can inflict a wound that takes months to heal. But none of these carry the fearsome mystique of the voracious Piranha, the perfect killing machine.

The Perfect Killing Machine

They had it even before we knew what was happening. My rod bowed in prayer to something below the tea-colored water’s surface. The six-pound test line danced like a cat on a hot pavement. All hell had broken loose. Beads of sweat rolled down Doris' back. Her clothes were now a second skin, clinging to her every move. We panted for breath. We had fish on. The silvery oval-shaped body and red belly of a Piranha broke the surface. I reached for it. "Don't let a finger get near their mouths or you'll lose it", our native guide barked.

Minutes earlier, I shuddered from a breeze escaping from somewhere up ahead despite 85 degree-plus heat. The double-digit humidity didn't help either. A maddening buzz filled my ears, but thanks my coating of Vick's Vapor Rub, the blood-suckers wouldn't feast on me. My eyes burned. My nose dripped. A coffee-table-sized leaf or hanging branch slapped into me every few steps. Curses burst from my lips even with my best efforts to become as one with the rainforest, as the indian had.

Our fishing rods extended from 18" to five and a half feet. I'd hoped the light mono would suffice, although I'd squirreled away spools of twelve and twenty pound test as an afterthought. If we tagged into a 50-plus pound Tambaqui even that wouldn’t be enough. Vines as thick as my wrist dipped into light coffee-colored waters making little ripples as it slid past roots and fallen branches. Tangled growth matted the gentle slope of the bank into tea-with-milk colored wetness. I’d flicked a thumbnail-sized chunk of bloody chicken liver on a barb-less hook with a split shot into a dinner plate-sized swirl just beside a snarl of mangrove roots jutting upwards through the surface.

Minutes later, his tanned skin gleaming with moisture, our guide demonstrated the efficiency of the scissor-like teeth. A green leaf held near the gaping mouth instantly sported a neat, crescent-shaped bite. Three heavy blows to the head prepared the killer for cleaning. After cleaning, the Embera made a series of diagonal cuts along each side of the fish. Into these he carefully rubbed a mixture of salt, garlic, and ground roots from a small gourd he carried. A simple shaved branch frame held the fish over a smoky fire of glowing coals. The firm toasted flesh tasted smooth and a bit earthy, like a seasoned and mellowed catfish. With a wink and a sly nod towards Doris he said. “Make these heads into soup and you will need many wives”. She glanced at me with a puzzled look. I smiled.

Like a shark

Ranging through South America from Brazil to the lowlands of Peru, they also inhabit waters in Venezuela, Guyana, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia. In the Amazon and Rio Negro rivers of Brazil and the Orinoco River in Venezuela, no creature is safe from the Piranha’s razor-sharp teeth and powerful jaws. The serrated teeth fit together like scissors, enabling Piranha to cut the flesh from their prey. Like a shark, a Piranha’s teeth are replaceable, when one breaks off a new one grows in its place.

The Yagua Indians

The Yagua Indians of Peru often use the sharp edges between the teeth of a Piranha jawbone to sharpen the point of their blowgun darts. A fish that is dying or swimming erratically will be quickly attacked by a large school. Piranha will also attack without warning to defend their eggs and territory. A wounded animal that strays into the water will be stripped to the bone so quickly it seems almost to “dance” on the surface as it’s ravaged from beneath. A bird that falls into the water will be gone, feathers and all, in three minutes or less. A trapped fish struggling in a net will be chewed clean to the head in a matter of seconds. Attacks on large animals and humans are often dramatically portrayed, but are rare. In some regions Piranha are known as "donkey castrators".

A President Speaks

"They will rend and devour alive any wounded man or beast.” U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt said, adding, “Piranha are the most ferocious fish in the world." Piranha, also called Caribe or Piraya only furthered their fearsome mystique when Roosevelt encountered them during his exploits in 1914. There are about 35 known species of Piranha but only five species represent a danger to man. Species range from the Red-Belly Piranha (Pygocentrus nattereri) with its characteristic red belly to the largest of the carnivorous species, the Black Piranha with its demon-red eyes and a 17 and a half inch long dark body weighing up to ten pounds. It could remove a man’s hand in two or three bites.

Piranha Head Soup

Most species dine on fruit or seeds that fall into the water from overhanging trees. The fish are not always aggressive. Women wash clothes in knee-deep water where men spearfish while children bathe or swim in these same Piranha-infested waters without harm. Further adding to the Piranha’s mystique, Indian men with half a dozen wives and up to a score of children attribute their potency to Piranha-head soup, although no scientific justification for the soup’s potency yet exists.

Fishing for Piranha

Piranhas are usually part of indigenous peoples diet in the areas where the fish are found. All you need to go Piranha fishing are lines with a metal leader next to the hook so the fish doesn't bite through the line, a supply of red, raw meat (worms or cut-up fish will do too) and a bit of luck. Piranha swim in large schools and are attracted by movement and blood. In May of 1999, hundreds of anglers armed with rods, reels, and raw steak flocked to the Brazilian town of Aracatuba near Sao Paolo for a one-Sunday piranha fishing tournament. The townspeople had declared open season on the flesh-eating fish, which had decimated other species in the local river. The prize for the tournament was an outboard motor. But “most fishermen were content to go home with plenty of the reputedly aphrodisiac piranha”, claimed then town spokesman Nelson Custidio.

A Taste You're Sure to Enjoy

Piranha, earning their notorious reputation by reportedly killing 1,200 head of cattle every year in Brazil, is some of the best eating in South America. Whatever name you call them and no matter where you try them, when cooked in a variety of ways, their firm light flesh with its smooth, slightly nutty flavor, is a taste you’re sure to enjoy.

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