If you read through our bio’s (contributors page) you might have noticed that mine states I’m a tackle junky. Let me clarify. I have a passion for analyzing each and every bait we come in contact with. (Same thing isn’t it?) What are the baits strengths, what are its weaknesses? Do I like this, do I not like that? Do I wish it had this, do I wish it had that? I’m sure a lot of you know what I mean. In this new series were going to talk about what you can do to customize new and old baits. (Part 1 of 4)
Here are the topics we are going to touch on in this new tackle series:
Part 1-4 (Spring 2017)
- Rebuilding/Painting old wood crankbaits (feature image on this post)
- Building new wood crankbaits (wood type, weight, sealers, shapes, bill types)
- Painting new hard plastic baits (lure blanks, where to buy them, which ones to buy)
- Painting/repairing old hard plastic baits (sanding, stencils, epoxy type)
Part 5-8 (Summer 2017)
- Pouring Soft Plastics (hand pours)
- Pouring Soft Plastics (injection pours)
- Creating original soft plastics & molds (knife & Soft-Bait Glue)
- Creating original molds (Aluminum CNC vs. Silicone vs. Plaster of Paris)
In part 1 of this series, we are going to talk about how easy it is to create or modify a bait. As I’m sure like many of you, I was intimidated by the thought of painting or building a bait. Little did I know, that after a fair amount of research, it’s not near as hard as it first appears. A little patience (which you should already have being a fisherman), some trial and error, and a small amount of money, you’re ready to start creating. The internet is full of detailed information as well as readily available supplies to complete these types of projects. YouTube is also a great resource, and that is exactly where I started with this whole process.
Throughout the year I found myself reflecting on which baits performed well and which ones I thought needed improvement. I made this comparison to new baits as well as old baits. They could be baits I purchased, baits I made, or even those that I rebuilt. So, this is where we are going to start.
Old Wood Baits
In their day, these baits were unique by today’s standards. Plastic Injection didn’t begin come on to the scene until the mid 60’s. Bait manufacturers like Heddon, Creek Chub, Poe’s, Cotton Cordell, Bomber, Bagley, Smithwick, and Rapala were all making their names in quest of producing the next best wood bait. Now, you mostly see hard plastic baits, and some rather expensive new wood baits. Don’t get me wrong, these modern day wood baits work extremely well. However, for less money you can take an old wood bait and make it better than it ever was in its original state.
Wood Crankbaits and Water Penetration
This past fall while I was talking fishing with Grandpa Bob, he proceeded to tell me stories about his all time favorite crankbait. I, of course, wasn’t even alive during the first part of his stories, but as they continued into the early 70’s and 80’s I knew exactly which baits he was referring. As the highlights continued I noticed that there was one common theme for what he didn’t like about those wooden baits – inconsistent performance. Grandpa Bob said that from time to time the bait’s performance would change after a few hours of fishing. Could it be a lack of quality control during manufacturing? Maybe. Or was the wooden bait absorbing water? My guess is it was probably a little of both. Not all of the baits would do this, but the ones that did would just end up in the bottom of his tackle box, or hung up down in 6′ of water in a log. For those baits that did survive we have a chance to buy these retired old wood baits at a fairly low price. We can jump on Ebay, put in our max bid, and start revitalizing these baits for very little cost.
Tear-Down, Sanding & Sealing
The first part of the process is key. Sanding down the old paint and sealer to the original wood is crucial. First, start off by removing the hooks, split rings, screw eyes, and bills if possible. Being able to seal these baits 100% is key to maintaining consistent performance and creating a great product. Keep in mind that these old paints and sealers contained a fair amount of lead. Therefore, proper ventilation and respiratory protection are a must. Next, grab some small foam sanding blocks in 600-800 grit and get started sanding. These foam sanding blocks can easily be found at your local hardware store. The more time you spend on the prep, the better the outcome – guaranteed. Once the bait is completely free of the original layers of paint & sealer, you need to clean the surface before re-applying your new sealer. The goal here is to remove all of the dust, and oil from your hands that may have found its way on to the bait. On some baits, the first coat of epoxy is a good time to re-install all the components, if possible. As always, the split rings and hooks can wait until after the final steps are completed. The image below is what you want the bait to look like prior to applying the new sealer and also after the first coat of epoxy.
Once the bait is clean, apply a nice thin coat of epoxy to the bait using a small disposable hobby paint brush. Again, multiple types of epoxy are readily available for this step. I prefer to create this base coat with a heavier version of epoxy. I like the durability of a 2-part, 2-Ton Epoxy. Keep in mind however, that too much epoxy will affect the attitude of the bait. Hence my earlier comment on “trial and error”. Once this layer has dried for at least 12 hrs, I hit it again with my foam sanding block. I do this for two reasons. One, to take down a layer of epoxy to reduce some of the weight, but also to smooth out any imperfections and rough up the surface for good paint adhesion. Next, I go ahead and wipe the bait down, removing dust and oil from the new epoxy surface. Again, a clean surface will provide optimum results upon completion. Remember, if you removed the bill and hardware for sanding, be sure to re-install as much of it as possible prior to the first coat of epoxy. The bill area of the bait is a great place for water penetration. Through trial and error, it is extremely important to have the bill location sealed twice in the re-building process. First, with the new base layer of epoxy, as well as the finish layer of epoxy after the bait has been painted. Next comes the fun part.
New Paint Job – Airbrushing
Now is when the “patience” part comes in. I suggest that you have some modest expectations on this step. If you think you’re going to be a Picasso in your first attempt, think again. Now, there might be one or two of you that nails this on the first try, but in all honesty that is probably not going to happen. I certainly didn’t. So…go find that box of old crankbaits you have, sand them down real quick, and start working on your artistic skills.
This is where you can start to play with colors, stencils, layers, and airbrush performance. Since I’ve never had much artistic ability, I took an online course for this part of the process. I needed to learn the basics, such as how to use an airbrush, what paint to use, what to buy, and what not to buy. These courses are offered starting from the rookie level (me) all the way up to the expert level. I suggest you start with the rookie class. Over the course of the next few weeks, primarily during the winter months, I slowly started to increase my ability to paint with an airbrush. To my surprise I caught on pretty quickly. Airbrushing is just like anything else, the more you do it, the better you’ll get. The key to learning how to take on these types of projects is doing your research on the front end. Watch some videos on YouTube, sign-up for an online course, and start practicing on your own in the shop. One way or the other, you will begin to notice that painting these baits is not as difficult as you once thought. After you get comfortable restoring these old wood baits you could be revitalizing the past or creating the future.
For those of you that don’t want to attempt restoring wood baits, I might suggest you check out these wood baits for purchase.