How to Make & Use A Lure Holder For Airbrushing/Painting

If you browse through any lure making message board, you’ll likely come across a series of posts that explain the “absolute best way” to hold a lure during the painting and drying process.

The posts will usually be accompanied by elaborate photos with hooks and rubber bands, detailed schematic drawings, long shopping lists with rare parts, and lengthy testimonials highlighting some recent modifications.

Unfortunately, if you actually try to use those approaches, you’ll likely end up frustrated and back online searching for something new to try (at least, that’s what I found myself doing!)

After many hours investigating all these techniques and building countless contraptions, I finally settled on the approach below.

It’s inexpensive, quick, versatile, and can easily be modified to suit many different types of baits.

It’s called the “GripStick Technique” and it takes about $10 and 20 minutes to assemble everything needed.

Background on the GripStick Technique.

The GripStick Technique uses a single wand (a.k.a. “GripStick”) for holding the lure.

A 15 gauge panel nail is epoxied to one end of the wand and a soft “loop” section of velcro is affixed to the other end.

The wand is made from a 3/8″ wooden dowel (see image to the top right).

To hold the lure, the nail is simply pushed into the wooden lure body at the point where a hook screw will eventually go.

The unique ridges on the “panel nail” will form a compression fitting with the wooden lure body and securely hold the lure onto the end of the GripStick during the whole painting process!

When the painting process is done, simply remove the lure from the GripStick and use the hole left behind as a pilot hole for your hook screw!

Turning the lure while it dries is also SUPER easy when you use this approach. Because we’ve put a 2″ length of loop velcro (the softer side of velcro) on our GripStick, we can now hang it from a length of hook velcro (the prickly side) attached to a turning block to rotate while the paint dries. (See image titled “Turning Block”).

Lastly, because your lure can be held in one hand, you can easily manipulate it during painting.

For instance, if you’re painting around the sides, you can easily roll it in the fingers of one hand while spraying with the other to get precision control of the paint placement.

You can also clamp it into a vice if you want to use both hands.

Lastly, you can roll it behind stretched mesh while spraying through the front of the mesh to add scales.

How to Make the GripStick

Making the GripStick is really quick and easy and all of the supplies for this technique can be picked up at Home Depot (or any hardware store) for under $10 (not including the turning motor).

To make the sticks, you’ll need the following supplies:

  1. One wooden dowel that is 3/8″ wide and 36″ long >> The diameter is important because it will need to be wide enough to get a good hold with the velcro. You can go fatter, but don’t go skinnier.
  2. One package of “Steel Panel Nails 15 Gauge x 1 5/8” >> this is a special type of nail that is carried at all big hardware stores or home centers (Home Depot, Lowe’s, …). You need this specific type of nail…normal nails won’t get a good compression fit. They usually come pre-painted in white.
  3. Epoxy >> (I use “GOOP”, but any strong epoxy would work).
  4. One package of self-adhesive VELCRO industrial strength strips >> You can buy a package that contains two “loop” strips (the soft side of velcro) and two “hook” strips (the prickly side of velcro) for about $3.50.

Now…follow these steps to assemble them!

  1. Cut the wooden dowel into 8 inch segments.
  2. Take a wooden dowel segment and drill a 1/2″ deep hole in one end that is slightly wider than the width of your nail. Make sure the hole is centered.
  3. Clip the flat head of a panel nail and epoxy the remaining shaft into the hole you just drilled (make sure the point of the nail is facing out!). Allow the epoxy to dry.
  4. Cut a piece of the “loop” (soft) piece of velcro that is at least 1 1/4″ wide and long enough so its ends just touch when you wrap it around the dowel.
  5. Peel the adhesive strip off the back of your velcro piece and wrap the sticky side around the dowel.
  6. You’re done! You’re GripStick should now look like this (only without a lure on it!).

TIP: If you’re making heavy musky lures, use a longer velcro strip on your wand because you’ll need more surface area of velcro to offset the weight of the lure.

To use the GripStick, simply push the nail end into your wooden bait about 1/4″ in a spot where you will eventually put a hook screw or line tie screw. Wave it around a little to make sure you have a good hold…then start your painting!

Now that your sticks are done, you’ll need to make an attachment for your turning motor that allows you to quickly mount and unmount them. Here’s how you build that:

To make the GripMount turning block, you’ll need the following supplies:

  1. One basswood block that is at least 4″L x 2″W x 1″H. >> The key here is to use a LIGHT wood and have at least two sides that are 4″x2″. The height just needs to be tall enough to support a thumbscrew going through it. I bought this block already cut to size at Michael’s for about $1.
  2. Two 2″ by 4″ strips of self-adhesive industrial strength velcro >> use the ones you purchased for the GripStick.
  3. One 1/4″ wide and 1 1/2″ long thumbscrew >> longer is okay too. You’ll use this as the set screw to hold your GripMount onto your turning motor.
  4. Drill / Bits.

Now…follow these steps to assemble the GripMount turning block…

  1. Drill a motor shaft receiving a hole in the center of one end of the basswood block. The hole should be the same diameter and length as your turning motor shaft (probably about 1/4″ wide and 3/4″ deep). >> Test the hole by slipping it over the shaft of your motor. If it fits snug, then you’re all set. If it doesn’t fit, widen/deepen your hole until it does.
  2. Drill a second hole through the side of the wooden block and perpendicular to the first hole. This hole will be used for the setscrew that will hold the block onto your motor shaft. It should be SLIGHTLY SMALLER than the diameter of your thumbscrew (1/4″). The hole should intersect with your motor shaft hole.
  3. Screw the thumbscrew into the second hole you drilled until you can see the tip of the screw coming out into your motor shaft hole.
  4. Apply the “hook” (prickly) strips of velcro to the sides of your basswood block.
  5. Slide the block back over the shaft of your motor and tighten the thumbscrew to hold it in place.
  6. Turn on your motor and make sure the block spins smoothly without bumping into your motor.
  7. You’re done! Your GripMount should now look this…

To use it, position your turning motor so that it hangs off the end of your workbench. Then simply velcro your GripSticks to the GripMount and let them turn until dry.

Experiment with different ways of positioning the GripSticks (horizontally, vertically, diagonal, …) to get the best drying action.

Here is a photo showing the supplies needed to help you while you’re shopping for parts.

NOTE: This GripStick configuration can only be used with wooden lures and assumes that you’ll put in the hardware after the paint dries (which I recommend).

If you’re painting plastic lures or lures with the hardware already attached, substitute an “Alligator clip” for the panel nail at the end of the wand. Instead of compression fitting the nail into the wooden bait, simply clip the alligator clip onto the lure lip or hardware to hold it.

Here’s a photo showing the traditional GripStick next to a GripStick where the panel nail is replaced with an alligator clip.

Here’s a version with a “Mini Clothespin” attached to the end. (you can buy these in the craft section of Walmart – they’re about 1 inch long).

Simply epoxy it to the end of a dowel. I use these when I want to hold a lure by the bill, but don’t want to scratch it with the teeth on the alligator clip.

They work well if the bait isn’t too heavy. If the bait is heavy, I wrap a small swag of cloth around the lip and use the alligator clip.

Here’s a version with an alligator clip attached to the end. Simply open up the metal base until its wide enough to fit over your dowel and then epoxy it onto the dowel.

I’ve also provided a close-up so you can see how the alligator is attached.