Lures that Fish Can't Resist
FISHING LURES should be made to catch the fish and also the attention and dollars of fishermen in the opinion of Jim Wickersham. To prove his point, Jim makes fishing lures that catch fish as well as the business of fishermen because he and his fishing friends try out his lures thoroughly before he offers them for sale.
Wickersham is a member of the Tulsa, Oklahoma, fire department. Fishing, his spare time recreation for a great number of years, has led him into a hobby of making fishing lures that is on the verge of passing the hobby stage; he and his family use most of their spare time now in filling orders for the spinner-type, no-snag artificial lure that he has perfected.
The Ozark Mountain playground area comprising Grand, Fort Gibson, Spavinaw, and Tenkiller lakes in eastern Oklahoma, Norfork and Bull Shoals lakes in northern Arkansas is fast becoming a fishing resort area that attracts thousands of fishing sportsmen from all sections of the country each year.
Bass of several varieties—brown, white, largemouth, smallmouth, and line-sides, and both black and white crappie are found in these Oklahoma and Arkansas lakes. All of these fighting game fish are readily taken on artificial lures. Channel catfish, the game fish of the catfish family, is also taken on artificial baits—mostly at night.
Jim knows and has fished for game fish in all these lakes. From his experience he knows what characteristics an artificial lure must have to catch the large variety of game fish found in the Ozark Mountain lake area.
"First," he says, "an artificial bait must attract the fish through the shape and coloring of the fly and the flash of the spinners; then, the lure must be so constructed that it can be dragged over the rocks, brush, and the like on the lake bottom without hanging up."
The Bush-Master lure that he has perfected embodies these essential requirements. The bait body in a variety of colors with matching flies and the double spinners attracts the fish; while the two spinner arms protect the hook from snagging yet permit the fish to strike in such a way that he is sure to be caught.
Jim selected the name Bush-Master for his double spinner lure, because it is practically impossible for the lure to hang up on the brush or other obstructions on the lake or stream bed.
JIM USES the best material available in making Bush-Master lures. Size 2/0 sproat ringed bronze hooks made by Viellard-Migeon & Co. of France are used in his baits. This fish hook company has made fish hooks for over 200 years, and they have the reputation of making the fish hooks that most top fishing sportsmen prefer. These hooks can be bought from many of the leading sporting goods stores or from fishing tackle supply sources. Before using in the Bush-Master lures, Jim tests several hooks from each box of 100 by twisting with two pairs of pliers to be sure there are no faulty hooks in the lot.
Piano wire of .026 gauge bought from spring supply shops is used to make the framework of the Bush-Master. Spinner parts—red, fluorescent beads 4 mm. in size, No. 3 size Indiana style spinners, and No. 2 folded clevises are purchased from fishing tackle supply stores.
To make a lead body type of bait a mold was needed, so Jim had a machine shop make a mold to his specifications. The mold opens and closes by a foot pedal so that both hands are free to pour the molten lead and remove the body when hardened.
A piece of piano wire seven inches long and bent double in the middle is threaded through the eye of the fish hook. The hook and wire are placed in the mold, and melted lead is then poured in the mold to form the body around the eye of the hook and the wire bend. The inside of the mold is so shaped that two small projections are formed on the lead body. These projections make the protruding eyes of the finished lure.
Jim melts scrap lead on a portable gasoline stove close to the mold. The molten lead is dipped up with a pointed tablespoon and poured into the mold. The lead sets in a few seconds so that it can be removed and another body poured.
The foot or excess lead left on the bait body through the pour spout on the mold is cut off with a heavy pair of side cut pliers. This excess lead can be returned to the lead pot and be remelted. A file is then used to smooth the cut place on the lead body.
The piano wire framework should now be bent to form a loop for attaching to the fish line leader and to form the two arms for the spinners. A metal bending block with a removable handle makes a uniform loop about 1/8 inch in diameter in one wire, and then the other wire is twisted around the first wire just behind the loop.
THE BUSH-MASTER lure skeleton is now ready for painting. Lacquer, strained through a piece of nylon hose, is sprayed on the lead body with an air paint spray. Air for the paint gun is supplied by a small air compressor and storage tank. All Bush-Master baits receive one coat of white lacquer undercoat, then, if a white body is wanted, another coat of white is applied. For colored body lures the desired color is sprayed over the white undercoat.
After the spraying on of solid colors some of the baits are sprayed again with a contrasting color through a piece of nylon mesh material. This mesh retains part of the lacquer leaving a scale effect on the sides of the bait body. Jim uses a discarded wire book rack like those used in book stores for the small paperback books as a drying rack for baits after painting.
"Be sure and clean the spray gun and lacquer containers very thoroughly after each using, because a particle of dried lacquer will clog the small jets in the spray gun, and then you are in trouble," Jim warns.
The solid color body Bush-Masters are then spotted with a contrasting color, and the eyes are painted. Scale-type coloring is not spotted other than the eyes. Quick drying household enamel is suitable for spots and eyes. A small stick is dipped into the enamel and then used to spot the body. The eyes are dotted in the same way. Margaret Wickersham has become quite proficient in this spotting operation which is somewhat tedious, and it takes some practice to get the spots located uniformly on the bait body.
"Now I'm about the best bait spotter you ever saw, but you should have seen some of the first Bush-Masters that I spotted," says Mrs. Wickersham. "The spots just didn't end up in the right places."
WHEN THE lacquer on the bait body is thoroughly dry, the fly is tied to the hook shank. Fly tying is an art in itself, and Jim has as yet not attempted tying the flies for his Bush-Master lures. Three of Jim's friends, who tie fishing flies in their spare time as a hobby, do this work for him on a piece work basis. Matching the colors of the fly parts to the colors of the bait bodies and tying the flies is an exacting art which could be the subject of an article in itself.
The Bush-Master bait is complete now except the spinner. Each spinner arm is cut to 1½ inches in length. A bead, then the clevis and spinner, and another bead is threaded on each spinner arm. A short bend is made on the end of each spinner arm, and the outside bead is forced over this bend thereby holding the bead solidly in place. A short double ninety-degree bend is then made in the spinner arm just above the inside bead, and the spinner arm is complete. The inside bead and the spinner on each arm are free to rotate on the arm while the lure is being retrieved from the water when fishing.
To make the Bush-Master more snag resisting, Jim bends the spinner arms back slightly toward the hook and then shapes the two spinner arms into a curved wishbone pattern. These curved outer surfaces tend to roll the lure off of obstructions when retrieving.
The Wickersham boys, Rocky, who is ten, and Mike, seven, help with the job of stringing the beads and spinners on the spinner arms. This is a tedious operation, but their small fingers can do this work much faster than large fingers.
Assembling the spinners is the final job on the Bush-Master lures, and for this operation the dining table in the Wickersham home is cleared. A wire magazine rack and cardboard ice cream containers make very suitable racks to hold the baits without damaging the feathers and hairs used in the flies. The entire Wickersham family works on this phase of the bait making hobby. Margaret, Rocky, and Mike string the beads and spinners on the spinner arms, Jim bends the wires, while Petey, who is only four, stands by with a helping hand and to give advice.
AT PRESENT Bush-Master lures are made in the ½-ounce size, which is the proper weight for casting. They are made in six colors, each with a distinctive name. The Wickersham's have named their Bush-Master lures—Black Magic, Green Dream, Brown Jigger, Spotted Pup, Red Devil, and Golden Boy.
A Black Magic Bush-Master has a black body with alternate white and yellow spots and red eyes. The fly cap is yellow with a black hackle and tail.
The Green Dream has a green scale effect body over a white background with yellow eyes. The fly has a red cap, a yellow hackle, and a red tail.
Brown Jigger Bush-Masters have a brown scale pattern over a white undercoat and yellow eyes. The fly cap is yellow, the hackle brown, and the tail white.
The Spotted Pup has black spots on a white body and red eyes. The fly has a black cap, white hackle, and red tail.
A Red Devil Bush-Master has a red scale pattern over a white body with black eyes. The fly cap is white, the hackle red, and the tail white.
The body of the Golden Boy is yellow with black spots and red eyes. The fly cap is light yellow with a yellow and black mixed hackle and a light yellow tail.
Bush-Masters are stapled a dozen to each display card—two of each variety. They are so spaced on the card that the baits will not tangle up if the card is tipped over.
Jim estimates that the over-all cost for each Bush-Master is about twenty-five cents. They retail for $1.25 each in sporting goods stores.
JIM WICKERSHAM has had a great amount of publicity for his Bushmaster baits through the sports sections of the newspapers in the Ozark playground area. Fishermen have caught large strings of bass from lakes in the Ozark area on Bush-Master lures, and sports editors have used their pictures with write-ups in the sports columns. Jim is an expert bass fisherman himself, and he has a great number of fishing friends who have used and advertised his lures for him on their fishing trips to lakes and streams all over the Midwest.
To market Bush-Master lures, Jim at first placed the display cards, which hold a dozen baits, in sporting goods stores of Tulsa and other towns near fishing lakes in the Ozark area. Some of these sales were for cash; but many stores would rather sell a new product on a consignment basis; that is, pay for the lures when the display card was sold out. By having the name of the lure, his name, address, and telephone number as a heading on each display card, the dealer could easily contact Jim by mail or phone to replenish the supply of baits when sold out.
The effort involved in making contact with the several sporting goods stores took much of Jim's spare time, and he knew that another method of marketing would have to be found if he made his hobby profitable. The heading on his display cards now paid off. A representative of a large sporting goods distributor noticed that Bushmaster lures were selling satisfactorily; so, from the name and address on the display card heading, he got in touch with Jim.
This meeting ended with an agreement for Jim to furnish the distributor with an initial order of 3,000 Bush-Masters, and for him to market exclusively through the distributor. At this time the Wickershams have nearly completed the first order for 3,000 lures, and the distributor has ordered another 4,000 Bush-Masters to be delivered as soon as possible.
JIM STARTED his fishing lure making as a hobby on a family basis, and he hopes to keep it that way. However, when the Bush-Master lures become nationally known, he may have to enlarge his bait making shop on the side of his garage and hire extra help to fill his orders.
The wholesale firm with which Jim is dealing now wants him to expand so that he can make Bush-Master lures in twelve color combinations instead of six. They also want him to make the lures in the ¼-ounce weight to use with spinning tackle. Then they need lures weighing ¾ and one ounce, which are used for trolling. To make these additional sizes, Jim will need suitable molds which will take some time for a machine shop to make. When this equipment is completed and Jim is making the additional sizes and colors of Bush-Masters, what started as a spare time-hobby will be a profitable small home business in full production.
Yes, fishing is fun. It's more fun if you can make your own lures and catch fish on them. Then, if you can sell enough lures to pay for your own fishing expense and start a profitable hobby on the side, you have accomplished something.
Note: To account for inflation, multiply prices by 8 to 10.