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How to Get Started Carving Wooden Fishing Lures

Are you one of the many outdoorsmen who loves making things yourself? Do you marvel at fishermen who catch fish in fishing rigs they built themselves? Maybe your buddy caught a lunker on a fishing rod he made in the garage? If you want to build your own performance fishing gear but don’t want to start with something as ambitious as a boat or fishing rod, consider carving wooden fishing lures instead. Let’s see what it takes to get started.
baiting hook

Tools Can Be a Real Time Saver

Many go into carving wooden fishing lures with the impression all they need is a sharp pocket knife. If you have a lot of time on your hands, you can rough out a topwater lure with a pocket knife. In reality, the addition of other tools can make life easier and you will finish the lure before you retire. Here are a few things to consider:

1. You will want to use a scroll saw, jigsaw or Dremel with a cutting blade to cut the shape of the body from a block of wood.
2. Safety glasses
3. Dremel with sanding bit for shaping
4. Power sander/palm sander
5. Airbrush with compressor (nice to have)

These tools, along with a sharp knife, various screwdrivers and pliers, will get you by. If you really get into carving fishing lures of multiple types, there are other tools that will make life easier. Most beginners start with a crankbait of some kind. It’s a forgiving bait to begin carving.

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Construction Materials

There are a few materials you will need before you start carving. In this case, we are assuming you’re using poplar that is a half inch thick, four inches wide and eight inches long. You may choose other woods such as balsa, depending on what you want the lure to do. Here are a few items you will need:

1. Block of poplar
2. Sharp pencil
3. Good picture of the type of fish you plan to mimic, preferably from several different angles.
4. Metal lip that screws on 
5. Hook eyes and hooks
6. Eye for tying line on
7. Small paintbrush
8. 1/2 gallon of enamel paint, either interior or exterior (primer)
9. Paint for the exterior. Colors vary depending on the baitfish you plan to mimic. This paint can be model car paint, automotive paint or paint for your airbrush.
10. Devcon Two-Part Epoxy
carving fishing lures

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Let’s Get Started

Before you get started, you should consider this is not an hour-long project. It will take much longer than it takes to figure out how to tie a fishing knot. In reality, your first lure is going to take days, if not longer. It also helps if you’re a detail-oriented person who enjoys tedious work. This is a labor of love. If you can embrace the process, you will be much happier with the results. 

You will also need to be familiar with the baitfish you plan to pattern the lure after. If it’s a perch, you need to understand its coloring, the shape of its mouth and the location of the eyes. Learn where the gill opening and fins are. All this makes the lure look more realistic. Let’s get started creating a crankbait:

1. Sketch your baitfish to scale on a piece of paper. Cut the paper out and glue it to the side of your block of wood. 
2. Cut the wood along the outline of the paper to create the general shape. A scroll saw is easiest, but a jigsaw or Dremel with a cutting bit will work. Remove the paper.
3. Draw a line down the middle of the lure all the way around the wood – top to the edge, edge to bottom, across bottom and bottom up the other edge. This line will give you reference to taper the back when shaping.
4. Shape with Dremel and sanding bit.
5. Use power/palm sander to round off rough edges.
6. Use 100 grit sandpaper for final sanding. The shape should closely resemble the baitfish.
7. Mark the spots where you want to put the eyes for the hooks. They should be perfectly aligned or the lure will not run true.
8. Put the screw eye in front for the fishing line to tie to.
9. Using the eye, dip lure in the enamel paint and let it drip down to fill imperfections. This is also the primer. Let it completely dry.
10. Mix the epoxy with a 1:1 ratio and cover the lure with a small paintbrush. Several light coats are better than one thick coat. You will want at least two coats. You should let each coat dry for 24 hours.
11. Paint the lure to look like the baitfish of your choice and let dry for 24 hours. Airbrush works best, but a small paintbrush and patience will work, too.
12. Install the hook eyes and hooks in a perfect line.
13. Catch up on your bass fishing tips and hit the water.

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hand carved fishing lures

It’s a Start

You will find these steps, in general, will get you started carving your wooden fishing lures. You can substitute a sharp pocket knife for a Dremel if you want. Like anything, the more lures you make, the better you will get at it. You will find shortcuts that speed things up as you go. The more proficient you are with your tools, the faster you can make your lure. Learning any craft is a process. Who knows? Maybe you will tackle a fishing rod or build a boat.

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