A few drinks with Alan Dolan
  |  First Published: September 2007

Lure makers come, and lure makers go and only a few survive to mark their mark in the industry ­ Alan Dolan of Lively Lures is one of those survivors. Over the last two decades, Alan has watched many of his small business comrade’s collapse under the strain of a highly competitive market and large dominating corporations. He has battled through tough times and a struggling industry to finally see a promising future for his Sunshine Coast lure manufacturing company.

humble beginnings

Alan was born and bred in Brisbane and grew up in the bay suburbs of Wynnum, Manly and Tingalpa. He has very fond memories of fishing Moreton Bay with his father and grandfather chasing whiting and sand crabs. Occasional offshore trips were also a family treat, targetting reefies around the many Moreton Bay Islands.

After a somewhat colourful time at school, Alan decided on a career as a sign-writer. This hands-on trade forged a young Alan’s desire to carve patterns in rifle butts and subsequently handcraft fishing lures from timber. A pocket-knife and a few bits of sandpaper formed the beginning of what was to become an iconic Australian lure manufacturing company. In the mid 1980s, during camping trips to the tip of Moreton Island, Alan would sit at camp and carve lures to fish for flathead in those beach gutters. “I’ve still got those very same early creations today”, Alan recalls.

From those very first experiments, Lively Lures was born. It all started in a garden shed back in 1987. Alan knew immediately that to hand carve every lure from timber would be out of the question. The time and dedication needed to create the end product would not be feasible. “I have a great appreciation for those who still create and produce quality timber lures today” says Alan. However, he realised the need to mass-produce was evident and with $3,000, the long journey had begun.

Alan could not be happier with the present position of Lively Lures. He attributes its success to the support of the loyal fishing public. “I truly have a dream that Lively Lures will be around for a very long time - I love the stories of the family business being passed down the line to the next generation. For example, one of my favourite stories is that of the McPherson Dynasty ­ a great Australian fishing line manufacturing company passed down from generation to generation” Alan explains.

Currently his son Josh has taken an interest in the business and has been working at Lively Lures for over 4 years now.

product building

In the beginning the lures were, by today’s standard, primitively created. They were hand poured, mixed into syringes and injected into moulds. Nowadays it is a vastly different story with high-tech machinery manufacturing the product to fill the workshop to bursting point. Alan now plans to substantially expand his premises as he heads into his third decade of lure production.

Lively Lure’s has several well-known products throughout the industry including the Mad Mullet series and the Arafura Barra’s. Their standout lure in terms of popularity and hold on the market is the Micro Mullet.

The company is soon to re-release one of its most famous lures – the Assassin. The lure was the very first line produced by Alan and is still popular today. The new Assassin’s look great, swim beautifully, are available in ten colours over three models and are a great way to celebrate 20 years in the industry.

continuing the cause

Alan’s interest in the future of the industry extends beyond his own gain. He states concern over the current status of recreational fishing in Australia and is a great believer in bag limits on all species. He has always disliked greed and waste and recalls “seeing tailor slaughtered on Fraser Island back in the 70s and 80s by the thousand to be frozen down for the sake of it really hit home”.

Alan is a highly respected member of the recreational fishing fraternity and has earned the right to suggest changes to the current rules and regulations. His major stand is to campaign for possession limits on all species.

His favourite winter fish is the humble luderick and he tags every one he catches ­ up to now, no tags have returned. Alan is constantly asking the question of why luderick and other species, such as mangrove jack, have no limits.

Over the years, he and his mates have gained a sense of personal responsibility in caring for fish stocks. He believes that Australia is truly blessed when it comes to fishing as it is surrounded by ocean currents rich in fish life. He praises the foresight of fish stockers around the country to create fish life for all to enjoy and is quick to say “well done to all who participate”.

Alan’s message to the recreational fishing public is that he believes we all have a bit of ‘green’ in us, and that we must care for our environment. Alan likes to quote another great Queenslander in the mercurial Brownie: “Don’t destroy what you came to enjoy!”

Alan has no problem with professional line fisherman, declaring “they learn the craft through countless hours on the water and I believe they won’t fish out a fishery with limits and lines”. He believes everyone should have the opportunity to experience the joys of catching and eating a fish ­ just don’t take more than you need.

fishing adventures

Alan has certainly had his fair share of fishing adventures. His most memorable event was his first catch of black marlin 15 years ago on a Paklua Lure. A more recent venture was a 50lb barra cast and retrieved in Peter Faust Dam in tight timber. This massive fish was fooled by a Lively Lures 4” Mad Mullet (deep).

A good fishing adventure is never complete without a good mate to share it with. Alan has met a lot of great fisher’s in this industry but the one who stands out for him is Darryl Steel. Darryl is “a very good all round fisherman with a ton of knowledge” acknowledges Alan.

High on Alan’s wish list of trips-of-a-lifetime would be to go to Florida to flyfish for those 100lb tarpon. Given the chance, Alan would take Darryl and perhaps a couple of other close mates as well!

Here to stay

It seems that Lively Lures is definitely here to stay. The journey began from humble beginnings with Alan whittling a few lures in a campsite. Today it has developed into a dedicated factory with staff working long hours seven days a week and producing truly outstanding lures.

It has been a journey of a lifetime and one that few will experience. Alan Dolan deserves every ounce of success that comes his way.

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