Make Wooden Lures: Sinking Lures Will Increase Your Fishing Success!

Download my Wooden Lure Making guide for free. It's the best way to get started!
Download my Wooden Lure Making guide for free. It's the best way to get started! | Source
This is how the lure blanks look after the weight holes have been drilled and the bottom profile cut.
This is how the lure blanks look after the weight holes have been drilled and the bottom profile cut. | Source
With the lure bodies shaped and sanded you're ready to glue in the drill weights on the right of the photo.
With the lure bodies shaped and sanded you're ready to glue in the drill weights on the right of the photo. | Source

What a wonderful way to catch fish that other lures can't touch!

It's interesting when you look at how many people out there make wooden lures - and how few of them have ever bothered to perfect lures that sink! Wooden lures that are designed to sink when they hit the water will often help you take fish when other lure styles just won't cut the mustard. They may not be something that you'll use every day, but you can bet that if you don't have any sinking baits in your collection, the time will come when you will regret it!

There are a several styles of sinking wooden lures out there, so let me clarify exactly what we are talking about here. By 'sinking lures', I'm referring to lures that are made of wood and are of the traditional 'minnow' style of lure. I'm not going to talk so much about bibless, shad style lures with flat sides, which also are usually of the sinking type. We'll cover those another time!

When I design wooden lures to sink, I'm normally trying to achieve a controlled rate of drop. Generally speaking, I don't want my sinking lures to plummet into the depths like one of Tiger Woods sponsorship deals. The best lures are carefully weighted so that they will fall more slowly, which gives me greater control over the depths that I'll fish at. In fact, this style of lure will allow you to fish at every depth until you find where the fish are holding.

My wooden lures that are designed to sink are normally fitted with small, narrow bibs that give them a tight, shimmying action, although sometimes I'll also make stickbaits that sink. These rely on rod movement to impart action, and aren't fitted with a bib at all.

What Are The Benefits Of Wooden Lures That Sink?

I suppose that the most obvious advantage of sinking lures is that you can get them down very deep to target fish that would be difficult or impossible using more tradional wooden lures.

A particularly useful technique is"count-down" approach, which is a very effective way to maximise how well you can cover all depths. If you've never tried count-down fishing, the principles are very simple: cast your lure out and mentally count how many seconds it takes from when the lure hits the water until it reaches the bottom. On subsequent casts, you can count the lure down but start cranking some seconds before the lure gets to the bottom.

Another advantage of sinking lures that is that the weight acts kind of like an internal keel, which keeps them oriented the right way up during the retrieve. If you've ever retrieved a floating/diving lure too fast you'll have found that they have a habit of rolling over onto their side and eventually coming to the surface. This is known as "blowing out". Wooden lures that are designed to sink are much less prone to blowing out, which means that they can be cranked or trolled a lot faster than most floating versions. In fact, the heavier they are for their size, the faster you need to move them in order to give them any swimming action at all.

And yet another advantage is the castability of these lures. Because of the extra weight that gets placed internally and the low wind resistance created by the relatively small bib, sinking wooden lures tend to cast like missiles. By comparison to most other home made wooden lures, you can really belt sinking lures a long way on each cast.

Drill weights are the most effective way to keep the centre of gravity low and get the maximum weight for the minimum space.
Drill weights are the most effective way to keep the centre of gravity low and get the maximum weight for the minimum space. | Source

Design Principles for Sinking Wooden Lures

Here is an insiders tip to making wooden lures that sink and yet still have great swimming actions and vibrations when you retrieve or troll them: Always use the most buoyant wood you can get your hands on!

I know it sounds bizarre, but I have tried on a number of occasions to make lures from heavy, dense wood that sinks with just the weight of the hooks and rings - and I have had very little success.

However, I have had great success when I make sinking crankbaits using light, buoyant wood! When you use heavy wood the weight is distributed evenly. When you use lighter wood you must add some weight, which gives you a lot more control over the weight distribution. Putting weight down low in the lure, near the belly and away from the tail, results in the weight and buoyancy working against each other. The lure will be more stable in use and the action will be stronger and more vibrant.

My favourite wood for making wooden lures that sink is western red cedar, but I also use balsa, pine and various others. Eastern red cedar, basswood and most popular lure making woods that are easy-carving and readily available will do the job.

You can weight your sinking crankbaits by drilling one or more holes in the body during construction and then gluing in some small ball sinkers before filling the hole with epoxy or plastic wood and painting it over. Personally, I make my own weights, which are molded to be the same shape as the drill bit and give me much greater control over the amount of lead I put in the lure.

As I said before, lures that sink at a controlled rate are preferrable to lures that plummet to the bottom, so getting the amount of lead right can be a little tricky with hand-made lures that each have slightly different buoyancy. You also need to keep in mind that the hooks, rings, through wire, paint and finish will all add to the weight of the lure and make it sink faster.

I drill the holes for the lead weights before shaping the blank, then once I have finished shaping and sanding the bodies I give them a treatment of wood hardener. The wood hardener makes the lure body more durable, but more importantly it soaks into the wood and makes it more impervious to water. Sometimes when the paint on your lures gets chipped the water can soak into the wood, making the lures sink faster and have a poor action - the minimal extra effort of treating with wood hardener overcomes this problem. Not to mention, the moisture under the paint will eventually spoil the finish.

Once the wood has been treated with hardner, I fit the through wire, hooks and rings and the lead weight and I drop the lure into a bucket of water to test whether it will sink. If the lure floats, I remove the weight and replace it with a slightly heavier one. If it sinks too fast, I reduce the weight a little. This testing is best done in cool water, because lures are more buoyant in cooler water than they are in warm water, so consider cooling your test water with ice if you are making lures in summer - or just add a little more weight and accept that they might sink a bit faster.

Having worked out how much weight to use, I glue the weight into the holes using epoxy or plastic wood, trim away the excess, sand to smoothness and I'm ready to start painting!

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