Homemade Musky Baits

March 4, 2010 by  

By Nick Simonson

Muskie anglers love to throw the biggest, flashiest baits. But in these days of dwindling discretionary income, spinners with oversized blades, magnum flashabou skirts and price tags to match are becoming cost-prohibitive. However, you can produce a bait at home for half as much as you’d pay for popular store models and catch fish just as effectively – if not more so due to your ability to customize the bait for your favorite water. If you’re new to bait building, or just want to get the kinks out before starting in on your first big spinner of the season, log on to www.nicksimonson.com and search “bucktail basics” for a beginner’s guide to lure making which will help set the stage for this tutorial.

There are two principal parts to a super-sized spinner: the pounding blades in front and the pulsating skirt on the business end. And it is the profile of the spinner’s skirt that makes big fish commit after the thump of the blades has lured them in. To make a strike-inducing skirt on a mondo muskie spinner, you’ll need one package (20 inches) of magnum flashabou, two 3/4-inch coils cut from a lawnmower throttle cable along with some Size A nylon tying thread and some head cement (Figure 1). The magnum flashabou, thread and head cement are available through Rollie and Helen’s Muskie Shop (www.muskyshop.com), Barlow’s Tackle (www.barlowstackle.com) or Lure Parts Online (www.lurepartsonline.com) and the throttle cable can be found at your local hardware store for about a dollar per foot. We’ll be tying a full skirt and a partial skirt, which when combined on the spinner shaft will provide for some amazing action on the retrieve.

musky baitsTo make the skirts, you will need to extend your tying vise by taking a scrap piece of .051” diameter spinner shaft and forming a 90-degree bend on one end using needle nose pliers. Thread the cable coil on the shaft and lock it firmly in the vise so the cable coil sits snugly between the vise and the bend and does not move. From there, you can begin wrapping the tying thread on the coil to form a foundation, cementing liberally (Figure 2).

Cut the hank of magnum flashabou in half so there is a pile of strands approximately 10-inches in length on the table in front of you. Divide the strands into two separate piles, one consisting of two-thirds of the total strands and the other consisting of the remaining third (Figure 3). For the primary skirt, we will be working with the larger pile of flashabou.

Form the primary skirt by evenly distributing the flashabou strands around the coil and tying them in at their midpoint (Figure 4). The strands should lay flat against the coil and the tie-in point should be centered on it. After every couple of sections, apply some head cement to the tie-in area and allow it to set for a minute or so. Tie the strands evenly in sections that overlap so that none of the coil is showing and the skirt is full in all areas. When done tying in the flashabou, make several half hitches over the tie-in point and cement the area thoroughly. Allow the cement to harden and apply some more, letting the second coating set on your finished skirt (Figure 5).

To make the partial skirt, cut the strands of the smaller pile of flashabou in half, so you have a group of strands approximately five inches in length (Figure 6). Remove the first coil from the vise and replace it with the second coil. Form a thread base on the coil and cement it for posterity. Tie the five-inch strands of flashabou onto the coil by their bases, so the bulk of each strand hangs to the left of the coil. Again, be sure to tie these strands in evenly for a full-looking skirt and apply cement after every couple of sections. Once completed, make a few half hitches or whip finish at the tie-in point and cement it thoroughly as you did with the primary skirt (Figure 7).

Once the cement is dry, you should have two skirts – the primary and the partial (Figure 8). Placed together on the spinner shaft, they will form a bulky-looking body, but because they are so light and easily moved by turbulence in the water, they will provide pulsating and life-like motion sure to trigger the wariest fish. Next week, we’ll put the skirts together with the rest of the spinner components for a homemade lure with all the attraction of a store-bought model minus the sticker shock. My guess is, those monster muskies won’t know the difference…in our outdoors.

In last week’s installment, we tied up the skirts for our mondo muskie spinner. This week, we’ll combine them with the rest of the components to finish off a lure that will save you money and catch fish. In order to do so, you’ll need the following components in addition to the skirts: two 7/0 Mustad 3551 treble hooks, two 2X heavy size 4H split rings, one 12-inch long .051”-diameter spinner shaft, two spacer beads, five 9/32” nickel beads, one .31-ounce nickel body, two size 12 magnum spinner blades, two size 6 clevises and a two-inch length of heat-shrink tubing (Figure 1).

First attach a treble hook with a 4H split ring to the looped end of the spinner shaft. Next, thread the two-inch length of shrink tubing down the shaft and wiggle it into place over the looped end of the shaft, split ring and hook. This might take some effort and a lot of wiggling, but try to get it so the split ring and loop are completely covered and the rest of the tubing is on the hook shank. Once it is in position, shrink the tubing with the heat from the butane lighter, taking care not to melt the tubing. This step prevents about 95 percent of lure fouling on the cast and keeps the treble riding straight during the retrieve, maximizing your chances of a positive hookset when the fish of 10,000 casts decides to strike. After the hook is attached and secured, thread two spacer beads onto the spinner shaft (Figure 2).

The next step is to add the primary and partial skirts that we tied in Part I of this tutorial. Thread the primary skirt onto the spinner shaft through the center of the underlying coil at the skirt’s center. It should stack on top of the spacer beads. The lower strands of the primary skirt should cover the spacer beads so they cannot be seen, and the strands should just reach the bottom of the treble hook. If they don’t, remove one spacer bead; if they hang down too far, add another. Once the primary skirt is in place, thread the partial skirt onto the spinner shaft just above the primary skirt, forming the body of the bait (Figure 3).

At this point, thread on a nickel bead and then a split ring with the second 7/0 treble hook attached to it (Figure 4). Then, for the purposes of flash and weight, thread the lure body and the remaining beads into place (Figure 5).

Now it’s time to add some thump to the lure. The selection of blade colors and sizes is growing rapidly each season, and there are a lot of cool patterns and colors to choose from.  . For the purposes of this bait, we’re going with dual size 12 hammered nickel blades to emit even more crazy flash and put out the beat that draws muskies in. What’s more, the water these blades displace on the retrieve provides ample turbulence to get the flashabou skirt pulsing and flashing to help you seal the deal when a big muskie chases your offering.

Thread the bottom holes of two size 6 clevises on the spinner shaft and thread the clevises through the holes at the top of the spinner blades. Then thread the top holes of the clevises onto the spinner shaft. Make sure the spinner blades are situated with the curve facing the spinner shaft (Figure 6). Slide the clevises and blades down so that they stack up tightly with the other spinner components.

To create the spinner’s eye, you will need a pair of pliers and some muscle. Grasp the spinner shaft with a pair of round- or needle-nose pliers approximately one inch above the top clevis, with all components stacked together. With your other hand, grab the portion of the spinner shaft extending above the pliers and bend it 270 degrees around the nose of the pliers, forming the eye of the lure (Figure 7).

Applying a little more elbow grease, begin to wrap the tag end of the wire around the shaft below the pliers. Make four wraps around the shaft, forming an eye that will not be bent straight by a heavyweight fish. Using a wire cutter, clip the tag end of the shaft off, leaving a secure connection point that you can clip your leader to (Figure 8). Your finished bait is ready to hit the water (Figure 9). This pattern accounted for a monster my brother landed while trolling in the cool waters of opening morning of muskie season, but it really excelled when cast over cabbage and reefs in late summer when the water warmed up and the fish had the feedbag on (Figure 10).

A commercial flashabou spinner like the one we’ve put together will cost upwards of $30. But with a little free time you can save more than fifty percent on your muskie arsenal and learn a lot about lure making in the process. Give it a shot this spring and try out your color and blade combinations on your favorite muskie water this summer. Chances are, you’ll get plenty of follows on the lures you create, and undoubtedly the time will come when a toothy fish strikes your offering…in our outdoors.


5 Comments on "Homemade Musky Baits"

  1. Nick Simonson on Thu, 4th Mar 2010 10:33 pm 

    Please find the SKIRT TUTORIAL at the following link:

  2. Jon on Sat, 8th May 2010 9:52 am 

    where did you get the plastic spacer beads? I have not been able to find them anywhere?



  3. Nick on Sun, 9th May 2010 7:38 am 

    Jon –

    I get the clear ones and color them in with Sharpie permanent markers to blend them with the skirt patterns.

  4. Bob on Mon, 28th May 2012 9:10 pm 

    Great job they look awesome. The only thing I noticed to be different with yours and say the “Double Cowgirls” is that on the cowgirls they have a 3/8 egg sinker betweent he bottom hook and the skirts. Is there a reason you did not put one there?

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