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New Life for Old Fishing Lures

On a rainy winter day, renovating weathered artificials can be almost as much fun as catching fish.

By Larry Bozka

For the serious fisherman, quality fishing lures represent a substantial investment. Hard-bodied plugs in particular tend to be expensive, averaging anywhere from five to seven bucks apiece, depending upon brand name, size, body style and hardware.

Eventually, even freshwater lures will show signs of rust and wear. Not surprisingly, with regular use in saltwater the damage becomes far more evident in far less time.

All fishing lures look great fresh out of the box. One or two bay trips later, however, even with a thorough freshwater rinsing (which most coastal anglers rarely make the time for) original hooks and split rings begin to show a corrosive toll.

Fishermen often discard plugs with rusty hooks. It’s a waste. With a minimal investment in replacement hardware and a small amount of time and effort, they can instead bring weathered and worn artificials back to life. In fact, by using top-notch replacement hardware, a fisherman can often create a “brand-new” plug that is actually superior to the original factory version.

Replacement stainless steel split rings, along with appropriately sized hooks for specific lures, are available at most sporting goods stores. They can also be ordered online from various Web sites (my “go-to” source is Barlow’s Tackle Express, on the Web at <www.barlowstackle.com>).

For purposes of this story, I went to my tackle boxes and pulled out a pair of long-used MirrOlure “Top Dog” topwater plugs — one in the “rainbow trout” pattern, the other a “pinfish.” These lures have seen action for well over a year, and have spent countless hours inside a small lure box attached to my wade-fishing belt.

When I’m wading deep, that belt is under water.

So are the lures.

No wonder, then, that even these high-end artificials ended up needing renovations.

I started out, mostly for reasons of safety, by removing the lures’ No. 2 treble hooks (most large plugs come rigged with No. 2 trebles).

Next, using an old toothbrush and some dishwashing liquid, I scrubbed the grime and residue from the lure bodies. (For spoons and other “blade baits,” jeweler’s rouge or even a small wad of aluminum foil can work wonders to restore the original shine).

At that point, I used Texas Tackle split ring pliers (called Ssplit-ring Pryers) available via <www.texastackle.com>) to remove the old split rings and replace them with new ones.

To make things interesting (and for a future comparative field-test) I fitted one plug with Mustad “Triple-Grip” treble hooks and the other with red-plated Daiichi “Bleeding Hook” trebles.

It’s extremely satisfying to see an old fishing lure come back to life. It’s even more fun to take it out on the water and throw it. Experimentation of this sort is a classic case of “big boys’ toys” syndrome, and any angler who denies it is, well, in denial.

It’s very satisfying to revive old but proven favorites that have been discontinued by manufacturers. With selective modification, you can also make lures more effective for specific angling purposes and species.

The same holds true for changing colors, a method most often employed with soft plastic lures. “Tail dips,” as the name implies, allow the angler to dip the tail (or entire body) of a soft plastic shadtail, shrimptail, jerkbait or worm into a chosen color and dramatically change the lure’s appearance.

Uncoated lead jigheads used on soft plastics are also candidates for color treatments, from heat-activated Colorite powder to specialized paint and sealant designed to cover and stick to both jigheads and lead sinkers.

I know one very successful saltwater pro who will not cast a soft plastic jerkbait (in his case, an eel-imitating watermelon-pattern Saltwater Assassin) until its tail has first been dipped into opaque chartreuse tail dip. I’m not talking the night before, either; he does it right there on the boat, immediately before casting.

Eccentric?

Perhaps.

But the guy catches as many if not more trout than anyone I know.

Plus, whether he admits it or not, this particular “serious fisherman” has a lot more fun. He gets the satisfaction of transforming his lures, new or old, into offerings that are uniquely his own.

Take it from one who does it.

On a rainy winter day, when bay waters are off-color and fishing action is dreadfully slow, conceptualizing and creating one-of-a-kind artificials can be almost as enjoyable as being out on the water and catching fish.

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