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Wooden Lure Making: How To Clone Perfect Copies

Updated on September 9, 2016
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Greg "Doc Lures" Vinall is afflicted with "Obsessive Compulsive Fishing Disorder". He's a world authority on making wooden lures.

Making identical lures is a snap with the right system
Making identical lures is a snap with the right system | Source
It's good to have spares when you invent a hot lure!
It's good to have spares when you invent a hot lure! | Source

The Secret To Efficiently Making As Many Identical Wooden Lures As You Need!

When I first started making roll your own wooden fishing lures (sometime in the twelfth century J), each lure that I made was a one-off original work of art. I'd take a scrap of timber, lovingly shape it, fit a bib and hooks, give it a pretty ugly paint job and then I’d hit the local lake.

It was a very slow and painstaking process, but I caught plenty of fish with my basic skills and amateurish looking creations. But it was fun – and as a kid it was the only way I could ever hope to own some lures! Trout and perch in the hard-fished lake near my childhood home were more than just a little shy due to the amount of fishing pressure, but I developed a reputation as “that kid who catches heaps of fish on home-made lures”.

But it wasn’t all roses. Because my lures were all one-offs, some were more effective than others and some just plain didn’t work at all. Naturally, I’d use the most effective lures first – but what you use first you lose first. Fishing from the shore in a snaggy impoundment took a heavy toll on lure stocks, and because I’d use my best lures first, I found that I kept ending up with a boxful of mediocre ones.

Unless I was prepared to waste a lot of time making new lures knowing that a high percentage of them would be failures, I had to find a way to be able to quickly copy my good lures so that I’d have a constant supply.

The answer to this conundrum was actually fairly simple (like all good ideas), and I still use this technique today, some 30 years later - ye gods, I really an getting old! When it’s simple from day 1 and you’ve been doing it for that many years it usually means that you have a formula that should be shared – so I hope this article will help a few of my readers overcome the same problem.

Templates For Wooden Lures

The approach I take is that I make lure templates. Now, this doesn’t need be complex. It also doesn’t take long , in fact it will save you time down the track. It doesn’t require fancy or tools or expensive materials either, how good is that? In fact, I personally make my templates from card salvaged from empty breakfast cereal packaging or thin plastic film like overhead projector film.

There are two ways to make a wooden lure template, and it’s kind of a ‘chicken and egg’ thing:

1) You can design your lure on paper, create a template, make a lure and see whether it works satisfactorily. If it does, that’s great! If not, modify the template a little and try again – and keep trying until you are happy with the result.

2) You can make a bunch of lures lure, and then when get some that work well you can make templates.

I'm going to recommend that you go the second way (make the template after you’ve made a working lure), because that's I suspect this is easier for those who are just getting started. It’s also useful because it means you can take someone else’s successful lure and copy the body shape. Be careful about patents and such if this is what you plan to do. Personally, I prefer to just design my own lures.

Making A Lure Template

Once you have a working lure that you want to be able to make over and over again, the first thing to do is get yourself a profile gauge (there is a link below if you want the convenience of purchasing one online). They are really cheap and will save you a lot of time and trouble. You'll need are a lead pencil, ruler, a scalpel or xacto knife and a cutting board (once again, see below if you are having trouble sourcing any of these).

Now you need to understand that most wooden lures are symmetrical when you look at them from certain directions. For example, if you look at a wooden crankbait from above and draw an imaginary line from the head to the tail, the shape of the lure on each side of the line should be a mirror image. The same applies if you are looking at the lure from directly in front and draw a line from top to bottom, and also if you do the same looking from directly behind.

Go back to looking at your wooden lure from above, and then gently press the profile gauge against the side of the lure. When you take it away, presto, you have a side profile! If you flip the gauge over and put it to the other side of the lure you’ll find it’s a mirror image. If not, the lure will be as unbalanced as a one legged figure skater.

If all is good, take your ruler and draw a straight line on the card you will use for your template, then lay the profile gauge on top and trace the outline. Now cut it out with the scalpel or knife. Wha-la! You now have a template for both sides of your lure, just by flipping it over. Or, you can fold the card in half along the line and cut a mirror image. Either way works just fine.

Pick your original wooden lure up again and repeat the process, but this time you’ll be looking at the directly side-on and will be pushing the profile gauge first against what would be the dorsal surface if your lure was a real fish. Wooden minnow and crankbait style lures are rarely symmetrical when you look at them this way, so once you have traced this outline to your card you'll need go back to the lure and take another profile pressing tha gauge against the belly.

Finally, you need to make a template for the cross section, so look at the lure front-on and press the profile gauge into it as if you were trying to cut the lures head off. This profile should be symmetrical, but because the cross section changes as you move down towards the tail of the lure, you’ll want to take a two or more profiles at different points and make templates for each point.

Using A Lure Template

I start the shaping process by drawing a centre line onto the block of wood, then tracing my side template (the mirror image one looking down from above) onto the wood. I cut or whittle the blank to the line. Then I mark a centre line on the newly cut surface and I transfer the side template to the block of wood and again cut or whittle down to the line.

By this time I am left with a rough shaped blank that is square in cross section, so I can get to work with my chisel, knife, rasp or whatever and start roughing it down. I work slowly and I continuously check my progress against all of the templates. Once my wooden lure is very close to the final shape, I switch to using sandpaper to sculpt the final curves as smooth as a babies bum.

The first few lures using this technique will be a little slow, but will be a little slow, but you’ll quickly find that it will become second nature, particularly if you are making your lures in batches and getting all lures to the same stage before moving on to the next stage. Best of all, you will be rewarded with batches of lures that look and behave in the same way, so you'll have all of the great benefits of custom made fishing lures without any of the drawbacks of one-off originals!

There is one final, but very important thought. Imagine you built one Ferrari and it was perfect. If you want to build another one that works exactly the same, what would you change? Nothing! It’s the same with lures. If you want them to look the same, perform the same, and catch fish the same, each copy you make must be exactly the same. Hooks, rings, throughwire – the lot! If you change any one of these things you’ll no longer have copies of the same lure!

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