A Fish Story

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A Fish Story

I’ve used Flexcut carving tools for twenty plus years. I come from a family of antique dealers and one of the first things I collected with my dad was pocket knives. When we moved to Minnesota in the mid-1990s I began carving wooden fishing lures. I got the bug to start collecting homemade folk art lures and carving my own after my Mom gifted me with two that she found during a “pick” of antiques. They came with a message from the then deceased carver’s wife. “Whenever my husband couldn’t catch anything, he’d tie on one of these. They always worked better than any Rapala. He made them himself.”

I still have his two lures (above left) and I soon carved my own version just a little wider with bit more of a cave to bubble more water on retrieve and reversed the paint colors. I carved this out of white cedar with a Flexcut Carving Roughing Knife and finished it with a Flexcut Carving Detail Knife and sandpaper. I added vintage red beads for eyes (I didn’t have any of the iridescent silver sequins that he had used on the original) and changed the plain #2 Treble hook to a dressed treble that I snipped off of a beat up Mepps Spinner.

I still remember the first time I took it fishing. On cast, it hit the water with a smack, like a thump, reminiscent of a young beaver’s tail splashing down. It stayed on its flat belly and when I jerked my rod tip it bubbled and popped in the water “kerplop!” I had some follows and false strikes as I paddled my canoe around the lake and then, success. I cast into some lily pads near a fallen cedar tree and let it sit a full minute before popping it, at which time a smallmouth nearly swallowed it whole. He was hooked and so was I.

Since then I’ve carved quite a few of those poppers and other topwater lures. Many in red and white, some in yellow and black and quite a few frog and mouse lures. I can’t decide which is more fun. Finishing the paint on one and transferring it to the tackle box or actually catching a fish on the lure that you made yourself…

For about fifteen years, I haven’t carved any fishing lures. I have been creating Darkhouse Spearfishing Decoys and spearing over them during the long winters in Minnesota. I still used some of my original lures (not number one anymore) to fish during the Summer, but I didn’t carve any new ones.

This past fourth of July weekend I had just finished carving, swim testing and primer painting a batch of folk art fish decoys and I looked at a longer, straight piece of white cedar on the bench. I hadn’t yet had time to go fishing I had been so busy this Spring and early Summer.

I went inside and retrieved my new Flexcut carving Roughing Knife that the girls got me for Father’s Day and I set to work. I purposefully made this new plug a little wider and a little thicker and taller than the old ones. It didn’t take long and I found that I still had some muscle memory for the shape and feel of the cave. I carved it a little deeper and into more of a scoop shape. To be honest this was because I was having fun and didn’t exactly think the shape through, but it turned out fine and each handmade, hand carved lure is different anyway. That’s the beauty of folk art that is functional; each piece is one of a Kind (OOAK).

I finished the lure with a red, white and (even tho it was Fourth of July weekend and should be blue) I chose black, paint scheme. After painting and several coats of Rustoleum Clear Coat, I added a vintage treble hook with red feathers. To insure the integrity of the line that was possibly 50 years old tying the feathers on, coated the red line several times with clear nail polish — an old fly tyer’s tip.

Now for the Fish Story. It’s true, I swear. Remember I hadn’t fished yet. No time. So, last night I took some minimal gear including my lucky fishing hat down to a local fishing pier and on the first cast…

Yep, first cast. I was really just trying to see how this wider version with more of a scooped mouth would ride in the water when, BAM, a nice smallmouth bass gobbled the half century old dressed treble and I instantly felt like I was 4 instead on my way to 54.

Thanks Mom. Thanks for the new carving knife, Lucy and Juliet. Thanks Flexcut carving tools. Thanks for reading.

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