Haul ’Em In With Custom Plugs
May 7th, 2014 by John N. Felsher

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Fred Hall adds the stainless steel hardware to a nearly complete lure.

When David Hall couldn’t find the old-fashioned wooden lures he liked to use for fishing, he came up with an idea.

After fishing together for decades in many Florida waters, David and his father, Fred, combined their two favorite hobbies into a business venture, designing, crafting and selling handmade wooden fishing lures.

“David was a visionary and an artist who loved to fish,” says Fred, a retired veterinarian from Orlando. “I started making furniture and just loved woodworking, but David was better at it than me. He wanted people to catch fish with our lures.”

David, a granite salesman, died in February 2011 at the age of 41 after an accident. But Fred continues the family business he and his son began in 2006.

The evolution of a fish-catching enticement. It starts with a block of wood that is shaped and ends with a finished custom lure.

The evolution of a fish-catching enticement. It starts with a block of wood that is shaped and ends with a finished custom lure.

Now, Hall ’em In Lures produces about 3,000 to 5,000 custom lures each year in its Orlando shop. Preferring quality American craftsmanship to overseas mass production, Fred and company handcraft each one from blocks of Spanish cedar. For some custom jobs, they use exotic woods from Africa, Asia and South America.

“The most common comment we get about our lures is they are too pretty for fishing,” Fred says. “The most exciting thing to me is when someone buys one of our plugs and comes back to tell us about the big fish he or she caught with it.”

Undoubtedly beautiful, these lures also catch fish. They may tempt a variety of species—from largemouth bass to large saltwater predators including redfish, speckled trout and snook.

Hall ’em In Lures also make bigger lures for offshore fishing.

“We started building saltwater lures, but many of them catch bass,” Fred says. “Capt. Steve Niemoeller, a guide with CFL Fishing Charter Service in Deland, Florida, designed a prop lure specifically for bass, but the Captain Steve’s Menace is also a very good redfish lure. We’ve also caught tarpon, grouper, mackerel—a variety of fish on our baits.”

To build a lure, Fred or his craftsman, J.R. Smith, start with a single block of wood. They shape the block with a chisel and a lathe, then sand it repeatedly to create the perfect shape. Sometimes, they cut blocks in half, inserting fish-attracting rattles into notches in the wood before gluing them back together—a rarity for handcrafted wooden lures.

The team then applies at least seven coats of paint in popular fishing lure colors to mimic baitfish or other prey. After applying the paint, craftsmen hand-dip each lure into tough resin multiple times before adding stainless steel hooks and other hardware.

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J.R. Smith uses a lathe to shape a piece of wood.

They cannot build just one lure at a time from start to finish, so they build multiple lures in stages. They might cut a thousand wooden blocks for one lure model one day and paint them another day. They might sand some rough shapes while the paints and resins dry on other lures. From start to finish, it takes about two weeks to turn a block of wood into a fish-catching enticement.

“We wanted to build some American-made lures of the finest quality,” Fred explains. “Each Hall ’em In Lure is handcrafted from carefully selected blocks of fine wood. Spanish cedar is denser and harder than many other woods. Our lures are tough. We’ve tried all kinds of ways to break our lures, but we can’t. Even when toothy bluefish and trout hit them, they hold up amazingly well.”

Fred makes 10 models of wooden topwater plugs for use in fresh or salt water. Most resemble throwbacks to a bygone era. Although each rendition of a particular model looks nearly identical, slight variations make every lure unique so each one behaves slightly different in the water.

“We use templates to stay as consistent as possible, but the different densities and variation in shapes and size of the wood allow each lure to be retrieved in a very unique way,” Fred says. “They all work a little differently.

“Because wooden lures have been in use since the late 19th century, they have a nostalgic quality about them. Many people remember their dads and granddads fishing with those types of plugs and want to remember the good times they enjoyed. Many other people who used to fish with those old wooden plugs can no longer find them so they come to us to make lures for them.” n

To place an order or for more information about Hall Em In Lures, visit www.halleminlures.com or call (407) 254-5207.