• Published:May 15, 2014
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Luremaker John Lau became inspired to try his hand at lure making after his first trip to Kona, Hawaii. As an avid angler from Papua New Guinea, Lau didn't have access to the many different custom lures available in the States. But when he learned you could actually make these beautiful lures yourself, he was determined to figure it out.

On subsequent trips to Hawaii, he sought out advice from veteran luremakers such as Joe Yee and Marlin Parker. Lau kept improving his lures, and soon earned the respect of his fellow custom lure makers as well as captains -- not only do Lau's lures look good, they catch fish.

FishTrack had a chance to ask Lau about his start in lure making, some of his favorite shapes and tips on lure choices.  

Q: What is your fishing background and how did you get your start as a custom lure maker?

A: Fishing has always been a part of my life. Marlin fishing was the ultimate goal and making the lures to catch them was my dream. I fished my first HIBT (Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament) in 1980. This was the first time that I saw such a variety of custom-made lures. My next HIBT was in 1983. In the Hawaii Fishing News, there was an article on lure making written by Mr. Jim Rizzuto. I purchased all the necessary materials and this would mark my humble beginning.

Q: Do you remember the first lure you ever made? What was it and how did it come out?

A: My first prototype was a small Duckbill shape, which I turned with a piece of wood on my drill lathe. I then made the lure with a lead insert wrapped with prism paper and doll's eyes. Polishing was not too bad and I buffed it with toothpaste.

Q: What are some of your favorite materials to use for the inserts?

A: Green snail shell, called Talibung in our local language is my top choice. The natural curve gives out brilliant colors with the reflection of the sun. I also use Gold Pearl and Paua shell.

Q: You have some very original head shapes. How did these come about?

A: I wanted to make some lures that would look very different from the rest so I came up with a variety of Duckbill shapes. These have very lively action and have proven to be very successful.

Q: How important is it to make a lure that pulls straight?

A: A good lure should run true and not want to run off to one side. The lure face must be cut straight, otherwise it will track to one side. All of my lures are weighted. My smallest lures all have the maximum lead weight [they can withstand]. They have all the action of their counterparts and track extremely well in most conditions. Smaller lures without weight would have trouble and flip over.

Q: How many lure shapes do you currently make or offer? Which one is your favorite?

A: I have 18 different molds which I use all the time but it is fair to say that I have three lures that would be my favorites. The Talibung, a medium-sized lure with 12 ½-inch skirts with green snail shell -- this caught a 249 kg (549-pound) blue marlin in Kerikeri, New Zealand, on 15 kg line. The Linda with a 14-inch skirt with green snail shell caught the heaviest blue at the HIBT in 2005 on the Tara ll. The Good Head has a 14-inch skirt with green snail shell. This lure caught the heaviest blue at the HIBT in 2006 on the Humdinger.

Q: Do you think large lures catch more marlin?

A: Large lures do not necessarily catch more marlin but they may catch bigger marlin. Small and medium lures are most popular as larger ones can only be trolled with heavier lines. In the last two years in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea, 11 blues have been tagged and released on my boat using small lures on 16-pound test.

"Large lures do not necessarily catch more marlin but they may catch bigger marlin."
-- John Lau

Q: What is your favorite lure shape for an all-around offshore lure that will catch marlin, wahoo, tuna and mahi?

A: The "Ali," a new lure I made last year is certainly the one I would use most. Last year in the Tropicana Billfish Tournament in November, this head shape caught six blues and a sailfish and all were tagged and released. We will be running this lure in Kona this year at the HIBT.

Q: What advice would you give to someone looking to get started in lure making?

A: Get hold of the book by Jim Rizzuto on lure making. Buy a hobby lathe coupled with a variable speed drill. Ask a lot of questions and make your own lure shapes.

Q: Do you sell your lures? If so, where can people find them?

A: I personally do not sell lures. It is a fun hobby for me. Those who wish to purchase some Lau Lures can email me, as they are sold through my lure-making friend Mr. Bernard Seeto who uses my molds.