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Make your own muskie lures

With the rising cost of everything these days, many anglers look to save a few bucks where they can. Whether it is tying their own flies or catching their own bait, outdoorsmen, being the resourceful breed that they are, always find a way to keep enjoying their obsessions.

For me, muskie fishing has become one such obsession, and I didn't bat an eyelash last summer when I spent ten, fifteen and even twenty dollars or more on a single monstrous lure designed to catch the fish of 10,000 casts. But balancing the cost of these lures with rising fuel prices, a new home and wedding expenses, has me looking for other options. Coupling my resourcefulness with my cheapness, it came to me at the vise one night while tying up a batch of trout flies: I'll just make my own muskie spinners; and so far, so good.

A great online supplier for learning the lure-making trade has been Stamina Inc. (online at Stamina has kits, and convenient part grouping, for whatever lure you plan on building. My brother and I split the cost of the lure components, including wire shafts, treble hooks, lure bodies and spinner blades. The total came out to ninety dollars for enough parts to make twenty bucktail spinners - at less than five dollars each - which saves us at least half on the retail price and provides us with a multitude of in-lines for any muskie situation.

What follows is the first part of a tutorial for those interested in saving money, turning out a commercial-quality lure, and landing that elusive 50-inch muskie on a homemade lure. We'll be tying a light-colored treble this week, and put the spinner together in next week's column for a perfect cisco imitator.

For the business end of the combination, you will need a vise of some sort - obviously a fly-tying vise is the best option to hold the 5/0 treble hook. To dress it up, have three hackle feathers handy; tried-and-true red is the color. Over that, we'll be tying in two layers of bucktail, gray on top and white on the bottom. We'll hold it all together with size "E" tying thread and liquid cement liberally applied with a Q-tip.

Once the hook is secured in the vise, make a thread bed where you will be tying in the red hackle feathers. Apply the liquid cement to the wraps and allow it a minute or two to sink in and dry as in Figure 1. Place the first hackle feather flat on the hook shank. Make three wraps down the hackle. Rotate the hook and do the same with the second and third hackle. Wrap the thread back up the hook shank and apply cement to the threads holding the hackles and trim the excess hackle feather at the top. Allow the cement to dry. Your hook should look similar to Figure 2.

Next, select a clump of hairs from a white bucktail. This will be used to form the first collar of the treble hook. In a fashion similar to the hackles, tie in your first clump of bucktail hairs on the flat portion of the hook, right over the hackle feathers, as in Picture 3. Fan the fibers out to cover the hook evenly. Using more tension when you wrap will help the hairs flare, giving the bucktail a fuller look. Secure the hair with several thread wraps and apply cement, letting it set for posterity.

On the other two thirds of the hook shank, place the same amount of bucktail hair, securing it in the same fashion. Once the first collar is in place, as in Figure 4, you can form the thread head of the first collar; this will also be the base for the second collar of hair.

Before starting the thread head, use a small scissors to neatly trim the butts of the hairs so they taper down toward the hook shank. This will help form a more secure head. Do this by trimming the upper hair butts to the ends, the middle butts to the midpoint, and leaving the bottom hairs a bit longer. From that point, neatly wrap the butts down with tight, adjacent wraps that sit evenly against each other if at all possible. Cement the thread head liberally and allow a few minutes for drying time so your treble looks like Figure 5.

Following the same steps, form the second collar of bucktail, this time using silver. Take your first clump, place it angling up the thread head, make sure the butt ends are close to the eye of the hook, but not in it. Secure the hairs with thread wraps, cement and let dry, like in Figure 6. Do the same with the next two portions of hair, being certain there is no open space between the three sections of the collar. To ensure proper placement, check and see that there is no thread from below showing between the tied-in clumps. If there is, fan the hairs out by pinching and moving fibers until there is an even distribution that conceals the thread beneath it.

Complete the second collar in the same manner as the first so it will look similar to Figure 7. Gently taper the butt ends up toward the eye of the hook, wrap carefully and securely, forming an even, tapered head. Apply cement liberally for a strong thread head. Wrap again, and whip finish or half-hitch several times near the hook eye and cut the tying thread. Cement the thread head and let it dry. Once dry, cement the thread head one final time to provide a lacquered look. These lures will have to stand up to some abuse - including repeated castings and hopefully a muskie attack - so make sure the bucktail fibers are secure.

Your finished treble should look like Figure 8. Next week, we'll complete the package with the crafting of a silver spinner shaft, making an inexpensive lure that gets the job done the same way a $12.00 bucktail would. While the satisfaction of making a quality bait at half the price is a good feeling, the thrill of catching a fish on a lure you made yourself is a priceless our outdoors.