Improving Your Muskie Lures

From: Len Hartman 2000 - All Rights Reserved


Every Muskie fisherman is looking for a better Muskie lure and any new lure that comes along will be bought and tried. Seems we are looking for a better "mouse trap" even though we have several....its the same in Muskie lures.

Over the years we have bought any new lure that came out, be it a Muskie lure or bass lure. My pet hobby was to make larger size lures of the bass lures to use them to catch Muskie. The extra large Muskie lures were made by making hand made models to the size required for the ultimate spin fishing. We found it wasn't the size of the lure but the action.

Early spring walleye fishing taught us that big Muskie would take the smallest of lures. During early spring you fish before the weeds come up and therefore you can take chances.

While fishing the water under the falls up river from the mouth of the Oswegotohee river, I hooked a 22 pounder on six pound line using a ounce black jig. Only problem was a three inch long leader and fast current.

One day we were jigging the tail end of Chimney Island on the "Larry" [St. Lawerence] when I hooked a 42 pound Muskie on six pound line using a six inch leader and a half ounce yellow jig. With the weeds still not growing, in a matter of over a half hour I landed measured and tagged this Muskie.

Fishing in the Keys for bonefish using six pound line and casting a ounce jig, I hooked a barracuda l9 pounds and landed the tiger of the salt water flats. Fly fishing out of the flats one day I hooked a 12 pound tarpon on a trout size streamer fly and a twelve round tippet. I mention these catches to point out that the size of your lure will not hinder a feeding fish from hitting a small lure. In my opinion, fish don't see things large or small, just as food. I have found June Bug beetles in Muskie stomachs, crawfish 1 inches in length and a Muskie thirty inches long on the Delaware had Japanese, beetles in his mouth when I landed him. Took him on a streamer fly fishing for trout.

After I got a new lure I put it to the test. Studied its action, then back to the work shop where I would design my own models. I had a cellar full of one inch square cedar wood cut to six inch lengths and some two inches square. The bigger sizes were for all hand whittled lures and the one inch was for wood lath turned lures.

I found the Swim Whizz was a top Muskie catcher in my hand made size models which I made to fish down to a four pound line. The hand made models ran all the way to ounce using only one treble hook. The four and five inch models worked well in casting and as well as in trolling. I found by adding a metal lip to the head I could troll the lure to twenty feet. My lips were designed to be taken off and I used the double hook up loops to slip through the lip and just fish with them without being anchored permanently. To cast I would just remove the metal lip.

Pikie minnow plugs were revamped the same. Cisco plugs could be redesigned to do wonders and the revised models in both lures took their toll in Muskie. No lure went by without my experimenting with revised models. Many were flops but some times by combining two features of two different lure manufacturers, I came up with super action lures.

The waterdog was a perfect deep diving lure that dug fish from the gravel beds in twenty feet of water. The manufacturer's models were just a bit too small and frail for Muskie but having caught Muskie to forty pounds on all their models, I designed some out of cedar wood that totaled three quarters of an ounce that made trolling a pleasure racking up many Muskie.

In spinners, I would change them to two blade spinners and have even had success using a Marathon spinner with three blades one behind the other. Had good result with the June-Bug spinners by using a two blade system on the same lure. Instead of the bare hook I would add a treble bucktail and caught Muskie in the thirty pound c1ass.

With Marathon coming out with the rattle spoon I made a super lure by placing two spoons, one behind the other, and added a hook between the two spoons. No Muskie was safe where I could use this combination. It could be fished a lot slower in open water and it produced Muskie.

In making my hand made lures I would cover the wood with three coats of paint, allowing each coat to dry thoroughly and sand between coats. Base paints were yellow, white, silver or light green. Some were all black for night fishing with green stripes slashed across the body at a slight angle. These were for dark nigh fishing. On the yellow and white base colors I would stripe them the same way with black stripes. On the silver I would stripe them the full length a quarter inch black stripe to give the lure a striped minnow effect. I never went to fancy painting because I found my combinations were catching all the Muskie I needed.

Later I designed the "Muskie bug" plug using the same basic color combination only in having them manufactured we had to go to injection molding because wooden plugs cost a fortune to produce. In plastic injection molding you could have them made at 72 cents each. Hand made wood; $2.00 each.

If you are thinking of going into the lure business let me set you straight. There is very little profit in a single lure. It is a volume business. My Muskie bug sold to the consumer for $3.00. Sounds like a lot of money. Advertising cost $2,000 for a single two inch add in three different outdoor publications. Cost of 10,00 lures; $7,200. UPS delivery on these lures $165. Add to this l2 cents Federal excise tax on each lure in those days. Cost of plastic box to ship it in 8 cents each. Shipping individual lures 22 cents each. So when I sold it to consumers directly, I made 81 cents. Jobbers you sold on a 50% - 10% and 2% and waited well over the thirty days to collect your money and they still took the 2% for cash over thirty days. You made close to a half dollar per lure and hoped you would eventually get your money. So you see its a tough game to go into, and Muskie lures are limited to less than 5% of all the fishermen. Now bass lures are different. 95% of the fishermen fish bass at some time or another and bass lures sell. But here again the profit per lure will come under 25 cents. If you are considering the lure business better have enough money to carry you until sales start coming in. Even with all the publicity we had created in the Muskie world, we couldn't realize a profit and had to eat many of our lures we couldn't sell and sold to discount houses to get our money back.

Making your own lures is rewarding. From scratch you design a lure and it takes fish. But when you make one that takes Muskie you get the feeling you have reached the ultimate of success. When your lures start catching Muskie over forty pounds, you figure you have the secret weapon. Truth is, a plain piece of a branch of wood with a treble tied on it will take Muskie sooner or later. In my opinion, its not the lure but the action and presenting it at the right place at the right time. Making your own lures and copying manufactured models is quite rewarding and keeps one from losing touch with his Muskie fishing over the winter months. Try it.