Making Suspending Lures

By Rob Brewer

Here are some simple, foolproof ways to modify factory made suspending lures.

A Fish Story

When I was around seventeen years old, a friend and I were fishing a stump field in a clear Pennsylvania reservoir. I remember it as though it were yesterday. It was one of those times when a light came on. And on it has stayed. I was targeting bass using a Heddon River Runt. I was catching a few bass, and every so often, a pickerel. Eventually, my lure got enough holes from the pickerel's teeth, that it absorbed enough water to become neutrally buoyant. Instantly, my catch rate skyrocketed. Now every time I reeled up to a stump and paused, the bait just hovered in place. The fish would appear out of nowhere and slam it during the pause. I realized the bait now better mimicked the movements of actual forage.

Ever since, I've had this affection for suspending baits and it continues to this day. Let me tell you, they're not only for cold water bass! About the only time I won't use one is when I'm cranking cover and I want a bait that will float out after impact. Over the years, I've tinkered with lots of lures trying to make them suspend. I've also destroyed several in the process. Here's the voice of experience talking about what works (and what doesn't).

For the purpose of this article, there are three types of baits; floating, sinking and factory made suspending models. I don't really like too many factory made suspending lures. I don't know if it's the manufacturing process or what, but rarely do they suspend to my standards. I find they either sink or float. Granted, it will be very slow, but I want it to hover in place. Because it's easier to sink a floater than float a sinker, we're only going to work with floating baits.

There are several lures that maintain original action and lend themselves to suspension modifications. To name a few, there's Poe's Cedar series, Bagley's DB series, Original Rapalas and several plastic baits like Bomber A's, Rebel Shad R's and Excalibur's Fat Free series. Odds are good one of these methods will work on your favorite bait too. Different baits require different methods, but some can be used on more than one type of lure. These methods vary from super simple to time consuming. You will need to make some sort of a test tank. Try an aquarium, bucket, bathtub or swimming pool. Read on, one of these methods should appeal to you.

Heavier Hooks

Often, just changing to heavier hooks alone will make a bait suspend. If this works, great, because you can always restore the bait to it's original condition. Be aware that you may have to experiment with several hook sizes to accomplish the buoyancy desired.

Solder Wire

The addition of fine solder wire (.032 diameter) wrapped around the shank of the front treble's shank is another removable modification. I use this diameter because it does not clog the bite of the hook, as thicker solders will do. When heavier hooks alone won't work, start adding solder wire to the hook shank. You can also crimp a small split shot on to the shank instead.

Suspend Dots/Strips

These are commercially manufactured by Storm Lure Company. These adhesive backed weights and strips are yet another removable modification. You can fine-tune these with a few strokes of a file. The draw back with these is the possibility of them falling off with heavy use and their lack of adhesion to some baits.

Drilling & Weighting

Here's where things get tricky. Also there is no going back from this one. These baits are permanently modified. Don't let that scare you. This method is for wood lures like Poe's and Bagley's. I suppose you could use this on a plastic bait, but I wouldn't. Choose a worm weight and set it on the hook of the bait you want to suspend. Pick a weight that will sink the bait. Now remove the hooks and bore a small 3/32" pilot hole on the underside of the bait between the diving bill and front hook attachment. Poe's baits are easiest to do this modification to because they use screw eyes instead of internal wiring to attach the hooks. You must be very careful not to foul the wire when drilling a Bagley. Now bore a hole in the pilot hole that is big enough to accept the weight, but tight enough to hold it in place with friction alone. Reattach the hooks and push the weight into the hole. Now test float the bait. It should still sink. Now remove some lead one file stroke at a time and test float between strokes. Once you attain the desired buoyancy, remove the weight and allow the bait to thoroughly dry. Once dry, reinsert the lead and seal with two-part epoxy or RTV.

Drilling & Syringe

This is the method for the plastic baits like Excalibur, Bomber etc. The good thing is this is another reversible method. Remove the hooks and bore a small 1/16" hole in the top center of the lure's air cavity. Using a hypodermic needle, inject some water into the cavity. Plug the hole with a round toothpick and cutoff almost flush. You will probably have to remove this a few times. Reattach the hooks and test float. Add or remove water until the desired buoyancy is attained. Now either cut off the toothpick flush or plug with a small dab of RTV sealant. To undo this procedure, simply pierce the RTV plug with the syringe and vacuum out the water or remove the toothpick and do the same.

If you take your time and don't rush things, you can be pretty certain of a successful modification. Accept the fact that you may ruin a few lures if you attempt the drill & weight process. Otherwise, the rest are pretty simple and foolproof. If you do mess something up, try to learn from it so you don't repeat it.