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DFA Surface lures - the cutting edge of lure design
  |  First Published: September 2014



While diving lures and plugs dominate the hand made wooden lure market, I often wonder if the design and construction of sophisticated surface lures is where the cutting edge or lure making is headed.

I’ve found myself penning quite a few articles about the strength of the local cottage lure industry lately and with good reason. It seems that hand crafting wooden lures has never been more popular than right now. All across the country we have an increasing number of lure makers producing top quality, hand made timber lures. It’s got to the stage where it has become a boutique industry where the customers are prepared to pay a bit more to get something that we know not only performs well, but is built to last and looks good.

The interesting thing is that despite the huge jump in lure makers, I don’t think you couldn’t really say the range of lures on offer has increased at the same sort of rate. Most makers seem to concentrate on one of two broadly defined genres, depending on where they are based. In the southern states there are the guys turning out all manner of deep diving cod and golden perch lures, while up north there are those who specialise in shallower running barra or jack type minnows. Of course, there are a few exceptions but that pretty much covers the vast majority of timber lure makers out there at the moment.

What seems to have dropped off the radar are lures at the smaller end of the scale. Apart from a couple of notable exceptions, smaller hand made minnows suitable for bass, bream or particularly trout are getting harder to find.

The most significant factor for this is that smaller lures are time consuming and demanding to make. When you are working at the smaller end of the scale, everything has to be perfectly balanced and in tune. With the big buoyant body of a cod or barra lure, a mm or two either way doesn’t really matter. In a tiny little slim bodied 5cm minnow, you just don’t have that luxury and everything has to be perfectly aligned or it simply won’t swim properly.

As difficult as it is to hand craft small minnows, there is one branch of the art which I believe offers even more of a technical challenge and that’s the realm of small surface lures. Now I’m not talking your standard mini popper here that anyone can turn out on a lathe, but the much more subtle and intricate style of surface lures like bent minnows and stickbaits, which work on the surface or just below it.

Building small surface lures tosses up so many different challenges. Firstly, there’s the matter of buoyancy. It’s not simply good enough to make a lure that floats, you need to have a lure that floats at the right angle and with just the right amount of lure above and below the waterline so you can create the right sort of action and sound signature.

That probably doesn’t seem all that challenging until you realise you also need to be able to cast that same lure a reasonable distance. That means the lure needs to be weighted. Of course, you just can’t put that weight anywhere, it needs to go in the right place or the lure will tumble and tangle in flight. When you take all that into consideration and realise that we are talking about lures only 50-70mm long and with very little bulk to hold the weight and provide enough buoyancy in the first place, you start to realise the challenges involved.

Recently I spent an afternoon with Andrew Ready, from Red’s Lures while we tossed a few of his smaller surface specials in his testing pond. From my point of view, I consider the experience as time very well spent. I got to pick his brains and really get an understanding of just how much goes into the design and construction of his little lures. I also got to see how even the slightest changes in the position of an eyelet of change of hook size can drastically alter the performance of a small surface lure.

For those of you not familiar with Red’s Lures, I suggest you go onto Facebook and check out his page. Red’s specialise in custom lure re-sprays and I’ve used his services before with outstanding results. Andrew can take a beat up old lure, strip it back and then refinish it in amazing colour schemes which rival any of the latest and greatest imports. His airbrush work is quite simply amazing and he is doing stuff I haven’t seen anywhere else.

As well as re-sprays, Andrew is also putting together a very limited range of unique wooden surface lures and wake baits under the Red’s Lures DFA range.

Red’s DFA Range

Andrew is currently producing a very limited range of lures. In fact, there are just five models in his current line-up. These are all part of the DFA range, which stands for ‘Death From Above’. I think these unique lures provide a bit of insight into the sort of innovative work Andrew is currently up to so I have provided a bit of an outline of each model here.

DFA Ambush

The lure I found most interesting in the Red’s lineup was his take on the bent minnow shape. For his version, Andrew has settled on a body of approximately 70mm in length and barely 10mm across at its widest point. As the body tapers away at each end to a thin pointy tip, they have a very slim profile. Despite their small size and odd shape, Andrew has been able to weight them in such a way that they still cast far enough to be a brilliant flats lure.

These things float at rest and when retrieved can be worked a couple of different way. For example, a rod tip up retrieve will have them dancing across the top in a skittering fashion which whiting love. Point the rod tip down and they flip over and go just subsurface with a crazy haphazard wobbling action. Despite their small size, these things are an amazing flats lure with plenty of whiting, flathead and bream to their credit but they also do the business on bass in the fresh.

I know this style of lure is available commercially but the plastic versions can suffer in the casting stakes. Personally, I don’t know anyone else out there trying to make timber lures with these sorts of complex curves but if there is, please contact me and let me know I’d love to try them.

DFA Flick

These lures look so delightfully simple but like everything in the Reds range, there is a lot of subtlety involved in their design and development. Again, they are similar in dimensions to the bent minnow but are straight rather than curved. For whiting fishing Andrew sets them up with tiny assist hooks on the rear eyelet. Rigged like this they are deadly on whiting. Change them over to a pair of top quality light weight trebles and they are just as effective on bass and flatties. Worked with subtle flicks of the rod tip and you get a lure which stays on the spot and almost appears to leap straight up out of the water. If you prefer, you can work them a bit more conventionally to get a subtle walk the dog effect happening.

DFA Bug

These things are such a simple lure but they work amazingly well. Basically they are grub shaped (around 5cm long) lure with not wings or other fancy adornments. The profile is very cicada-like and they come with a single treble hanging off their belly. Fishing with them is as simple as the lure themselves. You just crawl them slowly across the surface or if you have the patience, cast them out on top of a snagpile and leave them sit there, occasionally giving the lure a gentle flick to make is send out a few ripples. If all that doesn’t work, then you can retrieve them like a wake bait and they swim beautifully along just under the surface, sending out a nice bulge that’s sure to get any bass’ attention.

DFA Snare

These have a classic upside down fish profile and can be used as a surface lure or a wake bait. Snares float at rest with just the nose and bib out of the water and when you flick the rod tip, air gets trapped on the face of the lure as it dives under, making that classic blooping sound which drives predatory species wild. You can however retrieve them in the usual fashion and they have a wide, rolling wobble that takes them just under the surface. These are another flats classic.

DFA Popper

In case you are wondering, Andrew does do a small cup faced popper. It’s probably the most traditional in his line-up but like all his lures, casts brilliantly for its size. It works on the flats as well as it does in the fresh and he does some of these in a ‘nude’ finish which takes advantage of the natural grain of the timber.

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Flathead on surface lures

While more anglers are willing to accept that flathead can be taken on surface lures, most still seem to think it’s an exception rather than a rule. Well let me tell you not only can the humble lizard be taken off the top, it can actually be the most efficient way to fish for them, particularly in really shallow water and over weed beds.

I recently spent a day wandering the flats down the inside of Fraser Island with Andrew Ready from Red’s Lures and we would have easily accounted for something like 20 lizards and as you can see from the photos hereabouts, they were all taken on lure worked on or just beneath the surface. While the fish weren’t huge, the hits were amazing, throwing water everywhere and I doubt there could be a more entertaining or effective way to target lizards.

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