Editor’s Note: Kean Clifford dropped by the Outdoor Life offices to walk us through creating a popper lure using a 3-D printer. Clifford is the owner of Prey Tackle, where he uses his knowledge o__f lure craft, fish behavior, and 3D modeling to create high-tech lures designed for 3D printing. __Thi_s is part of a bigger story on a new generation of basement bass lure makers who hit the big time, which you can check out here._
I started 3D printing about three years ago. It’s surprisingly easy, and a fun way to make fishing tackle. I’m not alone, and this relatively new approach has exploded. Many fishing lure files are available online for free downloads (these files tell the printer what to make and how it should look), and some have been downloaded more than 10,000 times.
Consumer-level 3D printers can cost anywhere from $300 to $3000. The difference in price reflects how detailed and reliabley a printer will produce a plastic object—whether it’s a fishing lure or something else. These prices keep dropping, too. Today a $1,000 printer is more than capable of producing the plastic body of a lure similar to the hardbaits found in sporting good stores. MakerBot’s 2nd generation printers are the printers I use to produce my own lures at home. The amount of material required to 3D-print the plastic body of a hardbait lure costs about 50 cents or less.
Companies that produce customer objects through 3D printing are rising in popularity. For $15 to $30, an angler can get their custom lure produced and shipped by one of these companies. I’ve tried shapeways.com before, and while it’s more expensive for each lure, it’s stress-free and doesn’t require purchasing an actual printer.
But no matter how you get them printed, designing 3D models is becoming easier and easier thanks to growing interest in at-home 3D printing. If you’re curious to try it yourself, consider a great starter program like Tinkercad. It’s a free cloud-based program and it’s simple enough that elementary school children can use it. The first lures I made (topwater poppers) were done through using Tinkercad.
If you don’t want to start from scratch, consider downloading lures designed by other anglers. At Thingiverse.com, anglers can search through several uploaded lures for 3D printing, all shared for free with the public by generous anglers. Plus, a downloaded lure can be easily customized using Tinkercad, saving anglers the hassle of learning more complex 3D modeling.
If technology just isn’t your game, see how these bait masters are making lures by hand. But if you’re looking for a unique custom lure or a cool new project, give 3D printing a try—then see if your creations can actually catch fish.