Skeeter

Balsa Myths

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A few weeks back I spent alot of time testing different crankbaits in my pool made from several different types of wood to test the properties and characteristics of how they act it the water. I learned a ton about different types of commercial made baits as well as my own. One of the things that I will share is that this deal about balsa being the only wood that will backup and quiver when the crank hits something is crap. I have been told by some of the finest crankbait makers in the country that balsa is the only wood to use for making crankbaits because of these properties. WRONG!!!!!!!! Every commercial balsa bait that I tested floated up like a rocket. They all spiraled on the way up. As a norm, all balsa baits rotated 360 deg. for every 5 ft. that they rose. None of the commercial crankbaits quivered. The weight in all of them is too light to allow it. They all rose very very quickly. The thing here, is that all balsa baits, regardless of how you weight them, will spiral. They will just spiral quickly or more slowly depending on the way they are weighted. Heavier weighted balsa will rise about 1 - 2 ft. before the spiral starts severely. All of the commercial baits that I tried are really not weighted properly. This includes those made out of cedar also. However, the ones made out of cedar did not spiral when raising. They still come up way too fast. None of the baits that I tested "quiver" on the rise. They don't have time to quiver. They come up way to fast to allow it. All hardwood and balsa baits do backup when they hit something. The more dense the wood the less they backup. Balsa will backup about 1 to 1 1/2 ft. for every 5 ft. it raises. The poplar that I use in some of my baits and cedar backup the least. They will move about 6 inches for every 5 ft. of rise. The biggest problem that I did notice was that the majority of commercial baits are weighted improperly. Sure, lots of fish have been caught off of these baits, but that does not make them right. If I sold 30,000 baits a year, I am sure a fair amount of fish would be caught on them throughout the country. This does not make them correct. One commercial bait that was designed by one of the nations top crankbait pros for deep cranking, was a total flop. It is suppose to be specially weighted for the task. They are not made anymore, and I was able to get about 20 of them for $2.00 apiece. The bait sits almost level in the water before you start the bait digging. This is totally wrong. The placements of the extra weights is wrong. I redid the weighting and put one of my own special lips in the bait and can get that bait to dive quicker, deeper and run more accurately than it did out of the box. The action is much better also. Another thing, all of this stuff about how difficult it is to hit the 20 ft. mark with a crankbait is garbage. I make a crank that has a much smaller lip than anything that is sold commercially. It does not look like a frying pan hanging off of the front of the bait. It will consistantly hit 24 ft. with 12lb line. So far this summer, I have caught over 130 lbs of bass off of one of these plugs. My point here is....... Don't believe everything that you hear. Pros will not truely give you what it takes to make the perfect crankbait. If you think that a pro that is paying the bills and making good money through competition will share his secrets with you.... you are crazy. If you think that the pros that are making a living from cranks are throwing stock crankbaits, you are crazy too. If you were a pro and you won $250,000 this year throwing crankbaits, would you share with a national magazine or reporter the bait that you were using? Would you tell them what makes that bait so good? I don't think so.

Skeeter

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Wow Skeet you've been hard at it. That must of took some time and effort on your part to get all of that done. Very good information. Thanks for sharing that with us. I love it when you you guys get down to the nitty gritty. I also know what your saying about the pros not giving credit to the custom guys. Thats why it is very important to give your baits to the right people. John Sappington won the FLW Championship $250,000 with some help from our baits and he gave us credit http://www.flwoutdoors.com/ezineArticle.cfm?strObjectID=A5169FB7-17EA-46EE-BB5180D193A40165 Tommy Martin and George Cochran both stated they were using our baits in last years Classic http://espn.go.com/outdoors/bassmaster/s/b_fea_2003_TG_lures4.html So ya see. Give em to the right people and they'll take care of ya.

Again great information Skeeter. Keep up the great work.

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Thanks Hughesy,

You are correct. I have been VERY HARD at it. I still am. I have made about 7 different designs of crankbaits. They all caught fish. However, in my quest to make the best crankbaits that I could possibly make, I decided to put in alot of time studying what I believe, is the perfect crankbait. It is all open to opinion. However, after spending 3 years throwing crankbaits 90% of the time year round, I have learned alot. I thought I had it all down. But, I didn't. Of my 7 designs only 4 cut the mustard. And even one of those 4 designs had to be slightly modified to run properly. I have quit selling the other 3. I am back to the drawing board on them. You and Jeff have put your time in on your baits. They must be right because they are putting checks in the bank. I have some touring pros that are thowing 2 of my deep running cranks. They have not yet won a tournament, but they have definitely paid some bills for these guys. Come the first of the year I plan to have a web site to sell my baits. Believe me, the ones that I put on that site for sale will be correct.

Skeeter

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In the an article on the FLW website, readers were led to believe that his catches came on his own handmade crankbaits.

QUOTE:

"Sappington, who has made his own crankbaits for years, believes that every crankbait has a personality of its own. When he tuned that particular bait before the championship, he knew its wobble was perfect; consequently, he saved it specifically for the final rounds of the big tournament."

After Tim let it known on the other site that it was a bait that Jeff Thompson had carved and he had painted, Sappington made the statement that the lure he used was made by Tim Hughes. This is a perfect example of the fact that pros want to keep their secrets to themselves.

Skeeter

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The other problem with the FLW and some other circuits is, if your not a sponsor of the tournament you will not get any recognition. John is not allowed to wear our logo in flw practice or competition because we are not sponsors. That yanks!!!!!

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Great info. Skeeter. You've definatley done your home work,but like you said..it's a never ending task..Nathan

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Hughesy is right. I have always agreed with the opinions of Jeff Coble on the handling of tournaments and sponsorships. But as in other things, greed and the almighty dollar is trashing a beautiful thing. Anyone that really follows the sport knows this crankbait fisherman and what happened to him. The FLW should be renamed "Future Salesmen of America" I my opinion, anyone should be allowed at any time to wear the H&T logo.

Skeeter

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Skeeter, great stuff! Would you be at liberty to say what type of wood you used to get it down that deep (24').

Thanks Bob

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A little nestalgia. Thought some might enjoy reading it.

 

Skeeter

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Skeeter,

Do you think that what you said back then hold true for today's commercially produced cranks?

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Have you tried carving your bodies from cypress? I get great wobble from mine. I am not sure about "back up."

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Reading Skeeter's posts for the past decade, I know a few things:  1) He's an ornery cuss.  2) He has strong opinions about what works.  3) He knows how to make crankbaits that catch fish.

 

I doubt many understand the amount of hard work and experience it takes to do what he does, but the above post gives you an idea.  If I had a swimming pool, I'd spend more time floating in it with a cocktail in hand than I would testing crankbaits!

 

Skeeter, when your site goes online, please let us know.  Like to make my own but not too proud to shell out for better stuff!    

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Yes Mark, a lot of that stuff still holds true today. Most crankbaits are made light so that they will float in both hot and cold water temperatures. A bait that slowly floats up in 85 deg. water will definitely sink in 50 deg water. It is just the nature of the beast. I love wooden baits. I love to carve and shape my own. I use hardwoods more than I use balsa by far.  I have bought and torn apart so many custom lures. Lord knows how much money and time that I spent on those plugs. The ones that are made today are still pretty bad. :boo:  Bagley turned out some nice bodies but many of the lips were installed crooked. They are done that way today too. Poes always have been and always will be a mess. Crooked bodies, poorly installed lips, and off center belly weights are just a few of the problems with those poor things. The DT 10 and 6 are pretty nice plugs. Off of the shelf they are (in my opinion) the best out there. The DT 16 is just horrible. David must have been drinking shine through a straw when he ok'd that one. A lot of custom made plugs aren't right either. I can't tell you how many WEC plugs I have had to fix for people. The old Lebo and Lohr's lures were made well.  Lebo was sold to Lohr. Jerry made some really nice plugs (especially for the $13:50 price tag). But even he went to foam and just messed up a good thing in my opinion. Now they aren't made any more period. Calvin Johnson is another one that made a name for himself back in the day. I learned how to load a bait from him. But when he cut lips out of the Bagley lures it looked like he used a chainsaw. And I have turned out my share of baits with lips that weren't straight too. But I am pretty good at it now. ;) It is a hard thing to do when you do everything by hand. 

 

Skeeter

 

And Bob... I have no idea why you think I am an ornery cuss.  I am just mildly opinionated.  :halo:

Edited by Skeeter

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That brought back some memories and Skeeter still is a ornery cuss but one hell of a teacher.   Thanks buddy for taking the time to

help a wet behind the hears kid get started in this great hobby.

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I guess it's a "glass half full/half empty" kind of thing.

Mass-produced lures that don't do what they're supposed to do are a shame, especially since the technology and machinery exists to make them "perfect", but it does create a market for custom lures that do work.

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Mark,

 

It is not that they don't do what they are suppose to do. It is the fact the customer does not get a bait that will perform at its' maximum potential. Fish will bite an unbalanced crankbait with a crooked lip and/or a crooked body. However, an example that I have used for years best applies here.  You wouldn't try to shoot an archery tournament with crooked arrows...... so why would you try to hit a stump in 16 ft. of water multiple times with a crooked crankbait? The original concept of deep crankbaiting that was started by folk like Elias, Clunn, and Fritts was to hit a target (stump, rockpile, and/or ledge) over and over again from multiple angles until your lure gets bit.

 

The number one reason that most of us from many years ago came to this site to make lures was because we were tired of paying good money for crap. We gathered here to teach and learn from each other. In the "Industry" you have + or - tollerances that are allowed in manufacturing. This is what kills the end product. This is why there are those "Special Baits" that we cherrish so much..... one was made right!! It is true for plastic injection crankbaits as well. Most think that because they are shot by a machine that they are all accurate.  WRONG! I have seen plastic crankbaits where the molds that they were made in were off. One side of the mold different than the other. Plus, most of the lips are shot and included with the lure. This means a plastic lip. This means lips that will break easily. But who cares? You are only paying $6 or $7 bucks for them right? Their inexpensive compared to a well made $20 custom plug. But after about 4 or 5 trips of banging that cheap plug on the rocks it will break somewhere and or the clearcoat will wear off and the paint job will be just about gone. So you need to buy a fist full of them to get you through the year. I don't see the advantage in that. But, the industry feels that it just can't make lures for the masses without cutting corners somewhere.

 

We all have listened to the "Pros". They do it for a living, they will tell us the right lure to use and any modifications that we need.... right?  BULL! Most pros don't have a clue what makes a good crankbait. I really loved the last bunch of garbage that silent crankbaits work best. I read where Kelly Jordan says that he drills a hole and shoots super glue into the bait to silence the rolling balls used for rattles. Hope the balls stop in the right place or the bait is going to be unballanced.  Gee.... I wonder if that will affect the performance of the lure? I love how Megabass has channels running everywhere throughout some of their crankbaits. Little tungsten balls that can roll all over the place in special channels. That has to make the bait run accurately...right? :? And those paint jobs! Man.... that is one thing that the Japanese did for crankbaits. Those beautiful paint jobs. How many of you own a Lucky Craft, Jackall, or Megabass crankbait?  Boy, the finish really holds up on them huh? And my favorite of all is the guy that is looking to buy crankbait bodies in bulk so they can paint them up and sell them as custom crankbaits. Regardless where you buy them.... the majority come from China. They sure know how to make a crankbait right? They definitely know what an American fisherman needs to be throwing on the ledges of Ky. Lake. Lets get it straight... these are custom painted lures not custom crankbaits. There is nothing wrong with doing that as long as it is represented correctly.

 

Now we have crankbait rods that are almost 8 ft. long so that you can really bomb those crankbaits out there to get the "Big Uns". Ha!  Remember Rick Clunn and Arlie Napier during the FLW championship on Pickwick Lake in 2000. It was one of the most beautiful crankbait battles that I have ever seen. Napier threw a Hot Lips Express and Clunn threw a Poes 300. Both of them used 7 ft. rods. Clunn won $200,000 on that one.

 

My point on all of this is don't believe all that you hear. Perfection is what many of us on this site are trying to obtain. And from what I can see ..... we are all working hard at it.

 

Skeeter

 

P.S.   You're welcome Benton. It was all my pleasure. This craft needs alot more people like you. Find someone to share it with. That is what it is all about. 

Edited by Skeeter

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Skeeter,

I agree.

"Silent crankbaits" is a misnomer anyway, because if it has hooks and split rings, it rattles, as anyone knows who has dragged a lure through a bathtub. I design and sell crankbaits from the ground up, as does Skeeter, Benton B, Nathan, and some others who have been around here for awhile, and I'm sure they cringe like I do every time we hear that some "Pro" has "designed" a new bait. What an insult to lure builders everywhere!

Dino

Edited by Lure--Prof
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Wow! I learn something every time that I come here.  I build each one of my baits with hand tools (miter box, coping saw, cordless drill, dremel, and of course my trusty pocket knife). My basic goal is to make a bait that runs straight and wiggles, anything else is a bonus, sometimes I get one that will have a bit of hunting action.  I know that some of my lips aren't straight, some of my bodies aren't straight, etc. But that is what attracts me to handmade lures, there is no 2 baits that are exactly the same. They absolutely should do what the builder claims they will do though.

  That being said, I do have the utmost respect for you guys and if I am wrong in any of my statements, please feel free to correct me without fear of making me mad. 

  Thank you all for sharing what you have learned the hard way. That is what makes this such a great site.

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Why are there no balsa mythters?  Is it a "men get hernias/woman have hysterectomies" type of thing?   :lol:

 

Seriously,  I hope building cranks stays fun for everyone involved, even if you make baits for a living.

Remember, it's fishing.  

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Tracy,

 

You are doing just fine. I still make mistakes just like I did 14 yrs. ago. You are correct... each lure can have its own personality. I too still use hand tools that belonged to my grandfather from the 1920s. You will never get rich making crankbaits by hand. It just takes too much time.

 

I had a guy tell me that I needed to automate to step up production. He said that I wouldn't make any money the way that I do things. For me it is not the money but what my peers think. If I can impress them then I have done something. In 2008 at the FLW Championship on Lake Murray, Patrick Sebile took an intrest in my baits. He wanted to buy two of them but I gave them to him instead. That is when I knew that I had it right.That is the rush for me.

 

Skeeter

Edited by Skeeter
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Tracy,

 

You are doing just fine. I still make mistakes just like I did 14 yrs. ago. You are correct... each lure can have its own personality. I too still use hand tools that belonged to my grandfather from the 1920s. You will never get rich making crankbaits by hand. It just takes too much time.

 

I had a guy tell me that I needed to automate to step up production. He said that I wouldn't make any money the way that I do things. For me it is not the money but what my peers think. If I can impress them then I have done something. In 2008 at the FLW Championship on Lake Murray, Patrick Sebile took an intrest in my baits. He wanted to buy two of them but I gave them to him instead. That is when I knew that I had it right.That is the rush for me.

 

Skeeter

For me that was a boost of confidence.  I love it when my friends want my baits. I painted some blanks for a friend to fish in the annual Tyson bass tournament in bull shoals this past year, he caught a 5 lb bass on one and now he wants me to actually build him 12 of my wood baits for next year. I give away as many as I can afford to but only charge for them when I need more supplies. For me there is nothing like feeling a new bait working correctly on the test run ( I've even caught a few fish on unpainted baits while testing them).

 Thanks for the confidence boost and for sharing.

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To me, custom bait making is about getting baits to work just the way YOU want them - whatever that means.  It may be different from what I or Skeeter or anyone else thinks is "right".  We aren't the arbiters of "right".... the species of bass in your area of the country, in the water you fish are.  We can offer opinions based on our experience and our own biases, or on the opinions others have expressed about particular baits.  You have to winnow the wheat from the chaff yourself.

 

For instance, I build one shallow fat square lipped bait that has a very fast rise.  I want to fish it fast through cover, especially rocks, with only the briefest of pauses when it hits obstructions, and the high buoyancy lets me do that, plus it gives the bait more action.  Would it spiral if paused long enough to float to the surface?  Don't know and don't care because I don't pause it long enough to find out.  Skeeter probably wouldn't like this bait.  I do because it does what I want it to do when I fish it.  Would I also like to fish a shallow bait made to Skeeter's specs?  Yes!  If a slower presentation would be better on a given day, that's the one I'd want tied on.

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