Thursday, January 28, 2010

Saying Goodbye to Sawdust

By Sean Ostruszka

It has finally stopped snowing.

Almost every night for a year, my apartment’s living room would get a dusting of snow. It gingerly fell through the air, coating everything once it came to rest – my coffee table, the couch, the TV remote, a wastepaper basket. It even got in what little hair I have on my head.

Then I discovered polyurethane resin. Now the snow storms come far less frequently.

To clarify, the “snow” was actually balsa wood sawdust. As an avid lure maker, almost every night I tinker, fiddle with and make lures. However, living in an apartment with no work room means most of my work is done on the coffee table in my living room. Hence the snowstorms. Honestly, I can’t believe my wife actually put up with the mess for a year.

To my wife’s joy, some six months ago I began talking with a medical student in Brazil who was making lures out of polyurethane resin. Seeing as he had little spare time away from studying, the student needed a way to make lures that was faster than carving them from balsa. Resin lures were the answer.

Polyurethane resin is an extremely tough and rigid urethane that is similar to the plastic most mold-injected lures are made of. In fact, many of the hard swimbaits coming from out West are made from resin. It comes in two parts that have to be mixed together, and in its unaltered state, the resin doesn’t float. However, by adding microballoons – hollow glass spheres that look like a fine powder and decrease the weight of a casted piece – the resin can reach a density of roughly 0.5 to 0.6 g/cm3 (water has a maximum density of 1 g/cm3). To put that in perspective, balsa wood has a density ranging from about 0.1 to 0.13 g/cm3, while basswood and pine range from 0.3 to 0.6 g/cm3. That means the resin isn’t near as buoyant as balsa wood, but it is still buoyant and light enough for lure building.

The beauty of resin is its capability to quickly replicate the same lure over and over. Any lure builder knows every lure made from wood will work slightly different from the next depending on slight differences in shape, wood density and weight placement. With the resin, one lure is exactly like the next. Better yet, lures can be made in seconds.

Alumilite is a company that specializes in making these casting resins, and they have a multitude of options. Some of the resins are actually cured hard in 90 seconds, though I prefer resins that allow for a little more working time. Compare that to the hours that go into building one balsa lure.

The downfall is price and initial time. A plank of balsa costs next to nothing. A 28-ounce kit of polyurethane resin and a jar of microballoons will run around $43. Builders will also have to purchase RTV silicone rubber to make the mold to shape the resin. A 1-pound jar goes for $27.50 on Like I said, it is not cheap, though Alumilite does sell complete starter kits that come with everything a builder would need, along with instructions. Go with the Super Casting Kit for $70, as the smaller one doesn’t really have enough silicone for most lures.

As for the initial attempt, that can be a hassle. First, a master has to be made of the lure, which can be carved from wood, resin or even wax. All the rest of the lures will end up like the master, so extra time has to be taken to make sure it is perfect. Then the mold has to be made. How to make a mold is explained in the instructions, and there are some great videos on the Web.

Once those two steps are done, though, it’s all gravy. I can go home, mix up a batch of resin, pour it into the mold and have a finished lure in minutes. I’ve since gotten into making two-part hollow lures with the resin that are better for making topwater lures or adding rattles. However, I’m learning they can be a headache that takes a lot of forethought and effort. Then again, that is what most lure builders enjoy about the hobby – figuring out those little headaches and creating something that may one day catch them the trophy of a lifetime.

Personally, the more I use the resin the less I believe I’ll ever go back to balsa. Don’t get me wrong, there will always be lures that are simply better when made from balsa, like shallow crankbaits. But the possibilities are endless with this stuff. Besides, I also like being able to see my coffee table again.

If you are interested in learning more about polyurethane resin or lure building in general, feel free to e-mail me at

Thursday, January 21, 2010

How Cool is Chrome?: A former walleye pro has the answer, and what may be the toughest chrome finish available

By Curtis Niedermier

If fishing lures are designed as much to catch anglers as fish, chrome lures may be the best lures in the business. On the store shelf or in a tackle box, a shiny Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap or Rapala Original Floater staring back is a powerful draw to choose that lure. It has worked on me. I’ve got Rat-L-Traps in every size in the traditional chrome with blue or black back.

On the water, chrome at least holds up to its advertisement. Fish eat chrome lures. The problem is the chrome finishes rarely hold up, especially if they spend much time banging bottom, shredding weeds or catching toothy fish. I once shredded the chrome finish off another brand of lipless crankbait within about five minutes of ripping it in sparse grass clumps. Three or four hangups were enough to lose it completely.

But chrome lovers take heed, a former FLW Walleye Tour pro is here with a whole new look on the chrome market. Keith Eshbaugh of West Alexander, Pa., is the owner of Dutch Fork Custom Lures ( He has been a walleye and muskie tournament angler for years and happens to be a walleye stick on the Three Rivers near Pittsburgh. Throughout his tournament career, he often custom painted lures for himself and fellow anglers. Now, he not only paints lures, but he has developed a method to put some of the most impressive chrome finishes on crankbaits a guy can find.

“A lot of the bait companies, they took the chrome baits off the market because they weren’t holding up,” Eshbaugh said. “The two main ways they do it are electroplating – you can electroplate plastic if it has the proper base coat, but it doesn’t hold up too well – and the other is vacuum chroming. My chroming process is a lot different. It is completely new to the fishing industry.”

Eshbaugh is still a little guy in the lure business, so he is understandably guarded of the details of his process. All we know is it is tough enough to hold up to toothy walleyes and even muskies, and there may not be a freshwater creature around that can do more damage to a lure than a muskie.

Colors and Options
Because Eshbaugh does all his work by hand, he can create virtually any chrome finish a customer desires. He can also put it on just about any material seen in today’s lure industry – metal spinner blades, balsa crankbaits, plastic stick baits.

I saw firsthand a handful of plastic and balsa lures common to both bass and walleye fishing, and I’m still amazed at how well all those colors shine. He doesn’t just paint designs over a chrome base. He can blend from one chrome color to another to make detailed baitfish patterns, bright multitones, black chrome, various shades of copper and gold, and just about anything else.

Some of his more common requests are to recreate discontinued chrome patterns and take standard color patterns, such as perch or even some bass anglers’ soft-plastic craw patterns, and transform them into chrome patterns. He can also add extra details, such as scale finishes over the chrome.

Make Fish Commit
It wouldn’t be fair to talk up all these chrome lures without touching on where and when to use them. Paul Doute of Southgate, Mich., owns Angler’s Quest, a Lake Erie and Detroit River charter service. He is also an FLW Walleye Tour co-angler and a fishing educator with Lance Valentine’s Walleye 101.

For handlining and open-water trolling, he has learned that chrome lures work best under certain conditions.

“On those days when the water is clean, or slightly stained, with high sun and no clouds, I usually try to use the chrome to get fish to commit from a farther distance,” he said. “In my opinion, with the big game fish, the last thing to get them to commit to actually taking a lure is sight. They may hear it, they may smell it, but to get that final commitment to actually strike a lure, it is by sight.”

Doute prefers his color patterns to have some transitions from dark to light colors, as well as natural forage patterns. The flashes of color changes on the sides help imitate fleeing forage fish and get walleyes close enough to think about biting.

Additionally, some chrome patterns are proven to just flat work in specific situations. Based on 20 years of records from handlining in the Detroit River, Doute knows that a No. 11 or 13 Rapala Original Floater in the clown color pattern is the most productive lure in the early season. Clown has a red head, yellow back and chrome sides. Unfortunately, that particular rendering has been discontinued, and formerly, Doute had to pay a premium on eBay for one. That problem is now solved with custom chrome from Dutch Fork Custom Lures.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


"With all due respect to the editors of FLW Outdoors Magazine, the facts you state in your article on the new Yamaha motor are incorrect. Two stroke engines are NOT going away with the new 2010 EPA regulations. The Evinrude E-TEC two-stroke technology is EPA compliant and as a matter of fact, has been since the regulations were announced two years ago! Please check your facts so the buying public is not mislead with wrong information on EPA regulations." - Anonymous

Thank you for the comment. You're right, not all 2-strokes are going away. Evinrude will indeed continue producing EPA compliant 2-srokes. Yamaha will, however, discontinue producing 2-strokes, which is what the blog intended to state. Sorry for the confusion.