The Finished Product
My favorite soft plastic Musky and Pike creature of all-time was always the 7 Ĺ ď Fliptail Lizard. There are still a few of them for sale here and there, but they went out of business quite a few years ago.
Relying heavily on this bait for my style of fishing, I knew I had to do something. Thatís when I started pouring my own soft plastics for Pike and Musky.
|Frankensteining a new bait.|
There are many more plastic baits available for Esox hunters now than there were thirty years ago. That said, itís still fun to create your own shapes and colors and sizes to fit your needs.
Start by making a prototype that will become the model which will be cast into the plaster. Prototypes can be made from almost anything like carved wood or Sculpy clay. The easiest method is to ďFrankensteinĒ together a model from existing soft plastic parts. Using a razor blade, sever the body off of this, the tail off that, the legs off something else until you get the size and action that you want. The one I am doing in the example is the body off a Moore/Worral Creature and the tail off a 6Ē Kailins Mogumbo grub.
Parts can either be glued or melted together. CA glues like Krazy Glue, Zap, or Super Glue will hold pieces together long enough to cast a mold. Using heat by putting a flame, soldering iron, or hot knife on one piece and quickly attaching the two sections together can achieve a stronger connection.
Once you have your model you will need to find a container slightly larger than the sample but not too large as to waste plaster. Personally, I like soft plastic containers because itís easier to de-mold if the container is flexible. My favorites are the plastic clamshell boxes that many Musky lures are packaged in. They can be re-used many times.
|Bait in mold container|
The easiest molds to make and the best place to start as a beginner is a one part or flat-sided mold. A flat-sided bait turns many people off, but actually all of my best Musky creatures have flat bellies. Not only doesnít it matter to the fish, but the flat bottom gives the bait better ďglideĒ. Bull Dawgs can actually be poured using this method.
The prototype belly will need to be secured to the bottom of the container. It doesnít need to be a strong bond, just something to hold it in place so it doesnít move when you pour in the plaster. I use a quick shot of 3M spray adhesive into the bottom of the container. Now, place your prototype, belly down, into the container and you are ready to pour plaster. Nothing special here, plain old plaster of Paris that is available at any hardware or big box home improvement store.
Mix up the plaster in some type of soft plastic or disposable container. I like old Cool Whip or sour cream containers. The plaster should be a little on the wet side so it gets into all the nooks and crannies of your prototype. Slowly pour the plaster around the prototype and continue to fill the container to at least ĹĒ above the sample.
|Pouring the mold for the new bait.||Above the top of the bait.|
The plaster will set up very quickly. You only have a few minutes to work with it. Cold water helps delay the set time a few minutes.
Donít pour any excess plaster down drains!!! Simply let any extra set in your pouring container. When it hardens, squeeze the sides of the container and it will crack up and loosen so you can throw it away.
Even though the plaster in the mold is set, I like to let it dry for 12 to 24 hours before I try to unmold it. Once you get the mold
|Removing the mold.|
|Take out the original bait.|
When you pull the prototype out of the mold you may have a little plaster flash around the edges. This is the time to neaten up the edges or seams, fill in any little air bubbles, or add any other details you desire. An X-acto knife works well for this.
|Fix up the mold as necessary.|
Once dry, you can start to put a coating on the mold. This helps the soft plastic release from the mold and gives the baits a nice shiny professional look.
The coating is two-part epoxy. I either use something like Devcon 2-Ton (30 minutes) or a rod finish like Flex-Coat. Mix it up as directed but then thin it with acetone till itís nearly like water. About a 6:1 ratio.
Brush the epoxy mixture into the cavity and on the top face of the mold. The first coat will soak right in. Let that cure for 24 hours. Add a second and third coat on consecutive days. By the third coat the mold will have a nice shiny finish and ready for pouring.
|Sealing the mold.|
Soft plastic and color can be obtained from several outlets like Del-Mart (www.del-mart.com) or Lure-Craft (www.lurecraft.com). I have been using Calhoun plastic from Del-Mart for many years and stick with it because I am used to its properties. Itís all a personal preference.
You will need the use of a microwave and an 8 oz. Pyrex measuring cup. It has to be Pyrex! No Anchor Hocking, no knock offs. It has to be Pyrex or it could explode and shatter glass bits and hot plastic all over you and your workspace.
Mix your plastic by shaking the bottle or any other means youíd like. Mix, mix, mix. When in doubt, mix some more. The most common cause for a gooey batch of baits is plastic that wasnít mixed enough.
For starters, pour about 4 ounces of well-mixed plastic in the Pyrex cup. At this point you can add color or glitter. Any of you that have read my other articles know my stand on color. "Any color is good as long as itís black!" Kidding aside, for Pike and Musky creatures itís hard to beat black. Solid yellow has some merit in clear water on cloudy days.
|Mixing the plastic.|
Color is sold in small bottles and measured by drops. Keep a log of how much color (how many drops) you use in a batch of plastic. You may want them darker or lighter on the next batch. If you want to try other colors there are recipes for hundreds of colors on sites like www.Del-Mart.com or www.tackleunderground.com.
My favorite black is about 20 drops of black per 4 ounces of plastic. It gets black, but not solid black. It remains a little smokey so that a little glitter (Again, I like black) will show through.
Add your color, add your glitter, even some floured salt if youíd like, stir well, and you are ready to heat the plastic.
|Pouring the plastic.|
Put your Pyrex cup in the microwave and heat it for about 1Ĺ minutes. Take it out and stir it with an old metal spoon. You will start to notice a change. It will go from a milky consistency to a more jelly like substance. After stirring, cook it for another minute. By now it should start to become a pourable consistency. It may need another 30 to 60 seconds till it gets about like pancake syrup. Stir it quick and get ready to pour.
|Complete the pouring|
Your mold should be on a flat surface. Start pouring into thinner spots like the tail and work your way into the body. The plastic will shrink slightly so over-fill the mold a little in the fatter areas.
Now, let it cool. Thin baits can be unmolded in a minute while thick baits may take 3-4 minutes. This is the reason it pays to make 2, 3, 4, or 5 molds of the same prototype. Once the plastic is hot, the more baits you can pour, the better. The plastic in the Pyrex will cool rapidly so between each pour it will have to be reheated another 30-60 seconds. Every time you reheat, stir. Every time you are about to pour, stir.
You will pour some bad ones from time to time. Donít fret. Throw it back in the cup and reheat. It may take a little longer to reheat, but they will eventually melt back into the plastic. Heck, even if an Esox chews one up, take it home and throw it in your cup for the next time you pour. I have a spare cup back in the workshop for casualties. Heat them up and pour some fresh ones.
Once the lure is cool enough to unmold, peel it out of the mold and place it on a flat metal surface or a piece of aluminum foil. These baits will continue to cure for about 24 hours. They may feel a little soft and sticky at first, but they will cure completely within the next day or so. If they donít you probably didnít mix the plastic well enough.
After they sit a day or so, put them in a plastic zip-lock bag with a few drops of Worm Oil. Worm Oil keeps them from sticking together.
|The Completed Product.|
At this point you are ready to slip one on a jig head and catch a Pike or Musky.
Just a few last minute warnings. The plastic stinks. If possible, heat it in a well-ventilated area. I have an old microwave that I keep in the garage. Inhaling too much plastic fumes will give a sore throat. I also wear a respirator. I donít think itís harmful, but it is an irritant.
Once you master this technique, you may want to move on to a two-piece mold which will produce completely round baits. But for now, get your feet wet by making one-sided molds.
Itís really great to catch a fish on a lure that you made yourself.
Editor's note - Marc Wisniewski makes lures and custom rods. The main lure is the Party Crasher Crankbait, but he also make the Abyss Weight Forward Bucktail, the Cisco Spin and a Musky/Pike jig called the Musky Hare. Jackson Lures carries all four lures and Smokeys, Guides Choice, and a shop in KY carry the Party Crashers. Marc as has been making custom rods since 1978 and I build with St. Croix and Rainshadow. His company name is Angling Designs, but please contact http://www.jacksonlures.com if youíd like to order something.
Last updated on ...February 9, 2007