What’s more fun than catching fish? According to Jim Laskay of Enon Ohio, it’s catching fish with the lures you make. He must catch a lot of fish because he certainly makes a lot of lures. But quantity isn’t the real story They are small, beautiful and functional works of art. Entering his self-described “play room” is an immediate step into his world of lure making. There is nothing haphazard here. Lots of supplies, completed lures and tools of the trade are laid out. Everything is efficiently organized and within easy reach of his chair at the work table. It’s been a life-long adventure.
Laskay explains, “I was born and raised in Elyria. As a youngster, I used to wade to the lighthouse wall and fish for walleye. I started going to Avon Lake just a few miles down the road. The white bass come into it and I fished for them all day. I started just tying feathers onto a hook. They worked great for the white bass. One thing lead to another and it was a journey into what I am doing now. My job transferred me to upstate New York , right at the corner of Vermont and Canada. So I started making salmon and trout flies. Another migration to Enon and I got into making crappie and blue gill lures. That’s what I do now.”
His lures not found in the big box stores or in the catalogs. We laughed that lures have to catch a fisherman before they leave the store to possibly catch a fish. Laskay notes, “All I use to fish with for the crappie and bluegill are the lures I make. I tie some orange head buck tails for bass. I also like an all black buck tail that works really well on smallmouth bass. I make the lures and go fishing. I sell a few for about a buck. My wife says I am crazy.”
The smallmouth mounted on his wall was taken with one of the lures he made. Laskay chuckles, “I was actually fishing for crappie and bluegill when I caught that smallie. I had four-pound test line and a small bobber on the line”. I also chuckled explaining that I was fishing for bass when I caught the just over sixteen-inch crappie that is on my wall. Some days fishing just seems to go that way.
Laskay has an incredible eye for the detail and the quality put into every lure. He notes, “I get inspiration for lure design and colors from a variety of places. I get a lot of the colors from various fishing magazines. I see what I like and think will work. If I like it, then I make it. I saw the movie about Nemo and I created a spoon that looks like Nemo. The best part is, this sounds crazy, but bluegills love it.”
“Some of them have to be handled as many as twelve times if I do certain colors. Each one is hand painted. I buy the different sizes of willow leaf spoons. I use gold hooks because the solder will not stick to other hooks. I use a size 6 hook for the bigger spoons and a size 8 hook for the smaller ones. I take the spoon and hook using stainless steel forceps, which solder also doesn’t stick to, and clamp the two together. I set it in my vice, put some flux on it, run the solder onto the tip of my gun and touch the spoon. I simply drop it on the table and move to the next one. I have certain forceps that I use for different steps in the process. “, he explained.
He uses a plain vinyl paint available at any sports or hobby store, ” The paint on the spoons will never come off because each spoon is coated completely with a two-part epoxy with a little glitter mixed into it. Fingernail polish also works but I’ve not tried it without the epoxy coating. I epoxy the whole spoon and it will never peel or chip. If not after some use, an entire layer will peel off.”
Laskay has quite a steady hand to paint these tiny spoons. Everything is laid out at his fingertips and there is plenty of light for this delicate work. Laskay uses a variety of very common items in his painting. Rather surprising to this non-artistic writer, is eraser pencils are sharpened to a point and used to paint the eyes, toothpicks and dots on the lures he uses pencils. Laskay, “I used a lot of trial and error in determining what works and what will not work in painting.”
It certainly appears the fish do come to his lures. Lackey “On a recent trip to CJ Brown Reservoir I was using a bigger spoon without much success. I switched to one of the real tiny ones and they started hitting like crazy. I also caught two bass recently with the black Popeye lure. If the fish are biting good I just use the Popeye. if it is a slow bite then I tip them with fly larvae, maggots or wax worms. I keep maggots in my little bait refrigerator. I don’t tip them with minnows. Maggots are tough and stay on much longer than wax worms.”
I was overwhelmed with the attention to detail on the very small lures. Not very many people have the steady hand, artistic eye or the patience to accomplish this delicate work. Those that know him and fish with his creations are most appreciative of his talent. Laskay concludes,” I really enjoy the get-away coming into the workshop area and doing the lures. I build them when I want to unless I have someone wanting something special. If I get tired or don’t feel like doing it, then I take a break. Retirement is super. Plus my wife never has any trouble figuring out where I am !”
Larry S. Moore is a local resident and weekly outdoor columnist.