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Hand Crafted, Balsa Wood Crankbaits Rule

by: Brad Wiegmann

  When it comes to fishing lures, nothing has been attempted to be copied more than a high quality, hand crafted, balsa wood crankbait.  The low standard knock-offs come and go.  Even manufactures of plastic molded crankbaits have tried to reproduce the action balsa crankbaits but have yet to be successful duplicating it.

  Although there is a high demand for hand crafted, custom painted, balsa wood baits few companies or individuals produce enough for anglers to purchase.  One family owned business, BassHunters Custom Crankbaits in Knoxville, Tennessee specializes in custom, hand crafted, balsa wood crankbaits and custom paint jobs.  Owner Brian K. Moore has been selling BassHunters Custom Crankbaits ( to anglers for over 4 years.  Each hand crafted round or flat sided crankbait comes painted with a pre selected color pattern or custom painted to an angler’s specified design, computer circuit chip board bill, stainless steel hangers, epoxy injected body, VMC Barbarian hooks, and a 10 step painting process to go through before being sold. Anglers also have an option of coffin, round, or square for the bill shape.

  The quality of the finish and the attention to detail draw countless anglers to purchase hand crafted, balsa wood crankbaits; however, its how these crankbaits react in the water and catch bass that entices professional bass anglers to them.  Moore explained, “The major difference between plastic crankbaits and balsa wood crankbaits are, balsa wood crankbaits have an enticing movement backing up when paused and their bouncy causes them to run or track completely different; that’s what causes bass to strike them.”  When selecting either a round or flat sided crankbait style, Moore said, “The really subtle action a flat sided crankbait has allows it to excel in conditions like bluebird days, calm wind, and lakes that have a great deal of heavy fishing pressure; while the round sided crankbaits do extremely well in heavy wooded cover, bouncing erratically off wood, both of these movements can not be replicated by plastic crankbaits.” 

  So, not only do hand crafted, balsa wood crankbaits have an enticing movement in the water, they also can be painted to specific color pattern.  For that reason alone countless anglers are purchasing baits and having the crankbaits painted.  It’s not unusual for Moore to get request to paint crankbaits that resemble tilapia, blue gills, bream, or other bait fish.

Moore recommended the following colors depending on water clarity: dark or tainted water clarity, school bus yellow which resembles a golden shiner in Florida, stain or muddy water clarity, solid pearl “shines” in it or chartreuse, clear or green water clarity, try to match the hatch, shad or more natural patterns, ultra clear water clarity, gray shad, sexy shad or natural colors, and early in the year, red and orange, spring crawl, for smallmouth, pearl ayu, splatter Horton, or any with a subtle chartreuse strip. 

  The biggest demand for had crafted, balsa wood crankbaits comes from professional anglers like FLW Kellogg’s fishing team pro and BassHunters Custom Crankbaits Pro staff, Jim Tutt from Longview, Texas.  I asked Tutt, “Why use a balsa wood crankbait when there are so many high-tech, overseas made crankbaits available?”  “The 2 main reasons are because of their erratic action in the water and they float faster to the surface making them less likely to get caught up in rocks or grass,” explained Tutt.  He also pointed out, “The prime time for balsa wood crankbaits is summer and in the fall, I will fish more shad color patterns during this time of year using a model BB 2, BB 3, Band-it Killer 100, Band-it Killer 200, or Band-it Killer 300, around wood and lay downs; I normally fish the BB 3 where other anglers will be fishing a jig” Tutt continued, “In the spring, I will fish with the smaller balsa wood crankbaits like BassHunter’s Lil Petey to match the hatch; however, smaller balsa wood crankbaits also catch a lot of bass when the reservoir has a lot of pressure on it, or can be used to catch released fish.”  Like the majority of anglers, Tutt mainly uses a baitcaster reel spooled with 15-to17-pound test monofilament line when fishing balsa wood crankbaits. However, not just any hand crafted, balsa wood crankbait will do for Tutt, “I think the key things that separates BassHunters Custom Crankbaits from other balsa wood crankbaits is the super tuff clear finish and the hooks will not hang up together.  Because the back hanger is positioned sideways.” 

  In the end, for anglers it’s all about catching fish.  Custom, hand crafted, balsa wood crankbaits do exactly that. 


Brad Wiegmann is a professional fishing guide on Beaver Lake and outdoor writer.  Contact him at (479) 756-5279 or by e-mail at