One thing I’m guilty of and I see I’m not alone these days is my addiction to custom painted crankbaits. Fishing is all about confidence, no matter the presentation or species you’re targeting. I mean, if you don’t think you’re going to catch anything, are you going about it the right way? And this is where confidence and custom crankbaits come into play.
I say this all the time, and I apologize for repeating, but have you shopped the crankbait section of your favorite sporting goods store lately? There are isles and isles of lures. Remember when there was like 3 lure manufacturers? Nowadays, it seems another tackle company springs up almost every day.
But with all that being said, the question I have for the fishing industry, are custom painted crankbaits going to keep exploding or will it level or eventually drop off?
Let’s take Berkley Flicker Shads as a prime example. They’re obviously becoming very popular in the walleye trolling game, as well as other species. They even have jointed versions now, which means I have another couple of trays to accumulate…
They have dozens and dozens of color options, and not only that, but the jointed series have a combination series where they have different colored “parts” from different Flicker Shads. And I haven’t even talked about actual CUSTOM PAINTED lures yet either.
Let’s now talk about Reef Runners. They’ve been around for a long, long time, and in my opinion, was the first aggressive tackle company to offer a wide color selection of crankbaits. It was smart, as there was literally like 100 versions of their deep diver alone. Anglers needed to have a variety, and it ends up hitting your wallet in a hurry. But again, if you buy a fishing lure and it gives you confidence, can it really be a bad thing?
But what I’ve mentioned thus far are only stock colors. Now we get into the fun stuff, the custom painted crankbaits.
Custom Crankbait Companies
Let’s not talk lure manufacturers anyone and get into those who are actually elevating the game of custom crankbaits.
DH Custom Baits
Dane Heid, the proprietor, and artist of DH Custom Baits, has been a fun one to watch the last couple years. While I would say for his talent, he’s still fairly unknown in some circles ( which is changing fast ).
On the Lake Winnebago NWT event this year, custom painted lipless crankbaits created by Dane produced 3 out of the top 7 finalists. Was that a fluke? Doubtful.
I personally have a few dozen of custom painted crankbaits in my box from DH Customs. In fact, my upcoming walleye trip will have many of these deployed in my trolling arsenal. I have some custom painted Berkley Flicker Minnows in size 9 and 11, as well as a few dozen custom painted Bandits crankbaits. As you can see in the pics below, they’re pretty darn sharp (and I’m confident they will produce).
You can check out the work of DH Custom Baits on Facebook.
I will be the first to admit that I don’t know a ton of history behind Domka Outdoors. I know it’s a tackle shop based out of Michigan, and I also know they paint some of the sickest Bandits that you can find on the web.
While they paint more than just custom Bandits, it just appears that it’s what they’re most known for. I virtually have to block that website from my browser. I literally cannot shop there without at least buying 6…
They pay great attention to detail and it shows. It’s not uncommon to pay up to $15 for a custom painted Bandit so their price is fair I feel.
Check out their website, if you dare, at DomkaOutdoors.com.
Dakota Custom Lures
Scott Schuchard got started by painted a wide assortment of fishing lures from blades to jigging raps and has been getting more into the custom crankbait game as of recent.
I’ve fished with Scott on numerous occasions and he’s a great guy and passionate about what he does. I’ve had him paint up various crankbaits that I’ve tested this past year. My personal favorites have been a Rapala Original Floater #13 and an assortment of #11 Flicker Minnows by Berkley.
Like the others mentioned, Dakota Custom Lures is growing in popularity and custom work. You can find Scott on his website, DakotaCustomLures.com.
My Favorite Custom Painted Crankbaits
I’m a fan of big crankbaits for trolling walleyes and muskies. I included muskies because I troll for them often but we’re talking a different class of BIG here, so I will keep this on walleyes as I recently wrote about musky trolling.
I usually fish big lakes and reservoirs, as I like the chance at catching more than cookie cutter fish that are often found in the sloughs. And with that being said, I like the large class of deep diving crankbaits.
I do most of my walleye trolling in the late spring to early fall, so I’m typically targeting fish in deeper depths at this time. So I pull out the deep divers for 2 reasons.
Most of the baits I run can get to around 30 feet of water. The exception is the Berkley Flicker Minnow #11, which runs to about 24-25 feet. Add snap weights or leadcore and you’re down there either way. The young of the year are getting larger, as well as a lot of the forage base. This mimics the larger sizes of food. As they say, you’re matching the hatch.
So when it comes to larger crankbaits I use, I’m talking Bandits, Rapala Taildancers #11s, Reef Runners, and Flicker Minnows. I occasionally use a few others, but these are my go-to crankbaits color patterns ( and yes, I included “Pimp Juice”, my favorite shallow water crankbait right now). And keep in mind, it was awfully hard to just choose a couple…and my favorites are always changing.
Custom Crankbait Wrap Up
So this goes back to my original question, are custom crankbaits a fad or something that’s going to continue to grow? Well, if you ask any of those companies I mentioned, they’ll tell you they’re plenty busy. And it’s not like that’s the only 3 out there, there are plenty of other solid crankbait artists out there (and lipless crankbaits are getting very popular). I can only name those I’ve used and admired.
So I feel that the demand for custom painted lures is only going to continue to grow. The companies that aren’t getting creative are starting to fall behind. The anglers want bolder and brighter and something that’s, well, just different.