IF YOU WAIT LONG ENOUGH, old almost always becomes new. That’s true with haircuts, cars, baseball bats—and fishing lures.
As a fisherman and baseball coach, I get asked on a regular basis whether old lures will still catch fish, or old bats will still clobber baseballs. The answer to both questions is always the same. “Yes, if you put them in the game.”
Whether those old lures have lived out the past 10 or 20 years in a forgotten corner of the garage, they came your way via inheritance, or you found them at a garage sale, fishing lures are fishing lures.
Every one of them, with a little attention, can be knotted up and put right back into action. That lure potentially will work as well or better—I’ll explain why later—than it did originally.
To be clear, this is not to say that junk isn’t junk. A lure that’s been battered and beaten and broken is ripe for disposal. The packrats among us might remove reusable hardware before chucking an old plug into the garbage can, but as a rule, keep the treasures and toss the trash without overthinking which is which.
If you’re a fisherman, and your eyes still see “fishy” when you look down at an old plug or spoon or spinnerbait in your open palm, then yes, keep it. Throw it, and it will catch fish.
The resurrection process should begin with a cleaning, but don’t go to all that trouble for individual lures. Wait until you’ve got a pile. Then set aside an honest hour to breathe new life into that stack of old baits.
You’ll need a container of soapy water, a container of clean water, a toothbrush, maybe a little toothpaste for heavier grime. Add a roll of paper towels or stack of old handkerchiefs, and the tools to remove whatever hardware is on the plug or spoon.
The cleaning of a plug destined for fishing as opposed to display is simple and shouldn’t require explanation to this audience. Remove the dirt, dry the lure, then either reattach or replace its hardware.
If you like the color, leave it. If you think the bait would look better with dots or lines or red gills or a tail dip—or whatever else would instill confidence in you—paint it. Or let your kids paint a few, then show them the fish you caught on their creations.
Fishermen who are old enough or smart enough (or both) to recognize the perpetual value of spoons, can bring even the filthiest ones back to life with a good scrubbing. Once those spoons are cleaned, they can be kept that way longer, thanks to a tip from mid-coast kayaker Camille Null. Use a clear coat of Sally Hansen Hard as Nails.
When I earlier mentioned those old lures working better than in their original form, the reference was to advancements in hardware and reels, and the enhanced sensitivity of contemporary rods and lines.
Remember trying to set the hooks of a big topwater plug down a long cast of stretchy monofilament on a bulky reel and heavy fiberglass rod? I do.
Those points didn’t find purchase nearly so often as do today’s super-sharp hooks tied to braided line and yanked home by a strong, lightning-fast rod.
My good friend Joe Doggett still has a soft spot for all the old tackle. I’m lucky enough to be 10 years his junior and not so nostalgic for direct-drive reels and stainless-steel rods and water-sopping Dacron line. My thumb rode the spools of free-turning levelwinds, and I have no desire to go retro except out past the end of the rod.
In each of my tackle boxes, some lures haven’t yet seen their first out-of-package birthdays, Other lures might be creeping up on half my age, which means they’ve probably earned at least two fresh sets of hooks and hardware. Plenty of the remaining fall somewhere between those two extremes.
On the right tide or wind or water condition, cloudy or clear, any one of those lures might speak to me as “the one” that needs to be on the line.
New lures are rookies. They made the team and showed lots of potential. Maybe they even had some playing time on other teams, but they have no track record with me. At the other end, beyond all the middle ground on the bench, they are the veterans, a little longer in the tooth and maybe a step slower.
But with two outs in the ninth, game tied and a runner in scoring position, I’ll always send to the plate—or over the water—the one most likely to get me a hit.
Email Doug Pike at [email protected]