Friday, August 10, 2012

"I am nothing without my influences, I am nothing without my friends!"

I have a few things I have wanted to write about, but lacking the organization in my brain to clearly put it all together. So I reached out to the Choopy Lures Facebook page and asked for suggestions. I am glad I did because I got the great suggestion:

"Write about someone who made a difference in your life and craft as you were getting started as a plug maker."

I thought about it for a bit, and realized that it wasn't going to be as easy as I thought. So. you are now reading this after I started writing 3 days ago. I can't point to a single person, but I can walk you through my early years of lure building and some people that helped or influenced me along the way. 

Some early plug bodies
When I started building lures, I had barely started fishing again after a hiatus while I was in college. As graduate with a pile of bills and loans that had to be dealt with and living in Philadelphia. I had to live life on the cheap. The idea of spending 17 dollars on a Gibbs danny was kind of silly to me, when that was a tank of gas. I would certainly rather spend my cash on gas so I could go fishing, instead of on lures that collected dust when I couldn't afford to drive to the suds. I had two hands and a thirst for figuring things out, so spent my weeknights carving out poppers with an X-ACTO knife and a few prayers that I would keep all of my fingers.

In 1998, the internet was just gaining ground and while there were a few websites dedicated to striper fishing, lure building was rarely discussed. Since I was living in Philly, and did not grow up at the Jersey shore, I didn't have any roots in the local fishing community. I didn't have a lot of opportunities to talk lure building with anyone, or have a mentor / apprentice relationship where I could get some direction.

So for the first few months, I just made things up and tried my best to make something that sorta swam. In late 1998 or early 1999, I made friends with guzz on an internet message board. We shared a lot of emails about the lures we were working on. He was the first person that really helped me and we shared lots of emails filled with ideas with each other. He was a better builder than me, but we were both rather hungry for knowledge about lure building. I still stand to my opinion that the internet lure building craze never would have broken out the way it did if it wasn't for guzz. He was the heart  and soul of lure building at a critical part of its popularity. I can't say enough nice things about him. In case he is reading this: Hi guzz! We should fish again soon!!

Early Choopy Darter
I started to become a better fisherman, and bought a couple of Lex Lures swimmers and combined with my knowledge of Gibbs, I started to really put things together. They were both influential to me for a few reasons. Gibbs purely due to the way the small danny swam so seductively and was a great imitation for mullet that fall. Lex Lures because of how simple yet effective a lure could be. There were local builders like Bob Hahn, who made one of the more perfect needles for NJ and one of the best surfsters; and Billy McFadden, who made a plug that was everything a plug should be, and nothing it shouldn't.

Internet message boards lead me to find out about some other lure builders, most notably Mike Fixter, John Hab's. Fixter's completely blew me away. The pure size of some of his pikes were so entirely different than the way I fished in NJ. They really opened my eyes to the west coast striper fishery. And his needles would later catch a lot of fish for me. Plus Fixter's lures had a really great finish and made me focus on the finish of my lures more. For a long time I thought his lures were pretty much perfect, and you couldn't find a nicer person to talk to.

Choopy 1 1/2 oz  Swimmer Prototype
And speaking of needles, I must mention the KING, John Habs. I never really discussed lure building much with John, but his needlefish really opened my eyes on how to fish Rhode Island. Once I got the hang of fishing the boulder fields and current of Rhode Island, his lures made a ton of sense. I really respected how his lures were a representation of the water that they were created for. That idea really forced me to study not only a lures function, but also the general conditions and structure that was native to the builder. Whenever I bumped into John, he was always very kind to me and I was shocked he remembered who I was. To this day I always remind myself of his advice when the lure building boom was in full effect, "There's room for everybody". I miss how he would type in CAPS.

Looking back, its hard to believe there was so many builders and lures out there, that I didn't know about. And they were in my backyard! I don't think I knew about Lefty Carr for quite a few years. His influence on NJ lure building is overwhelming. Just check out the Asbury Park Fishing Club's flea market every spring. But that's the beauty of this hobby/business. New builders rise and you can see what makes them tick, and it forces you to think differently about what you are doing. I think R.M. Smith is a good example of that. He turned the world upside down with how well his lures function, and the amazing finishes he gives them. He has definitely made me think dozens of times how he paints a lure, and why I can't do it like he does!

First edition Choopy 1 1/2 oz Needlefish
Without a doubt, my biggest influences over the years have been a few friends that have given me advice, or told me to "make a plug that does....".  Without their encouragement I never would have had the confidence to sell my lures. There never would have been a Choopy Lures. They consistently listen to my complaints, give criticism and invaluable advice, and never once complained about my passive/aggressive nature when discussing lure building or the lure building business. I could write a lot more about them, but I will just say "Thanks" instead. You know who you are.


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