Making Japanese Minnows

This article describes how to make a Japanese style minnow with the metallic finish commonly found on high-end imported lures. The article is courtesy of Hiroyuki Konagai.


1. Using a paper pattern, trace an outline of the lure body onto both sides of your wooden carving block (Paulownia wood is used in this example, but basswood would also work well). In this example the wood is 13mm thick and the length of the minnow is 9cm. Paulownia is easy to shape and hard enough to make a durable lure. Moreover, the wood’s high buoyancy adds lively action to the minnow plug.

2. Draw a center line down the belly side of the wooden carving block and make a cut into it using a saw. The cut should be narrow and shallow, forming a groove in the belly of the lure. This groove will be used for inserting a wire.

3. Saw along your pattern to create the lure’s rough form.

4. Smooth the surface with sandpaper and shape both sides so they are symmetrical. The head and the tail must be tapered for smooth painting.

5. Remove the four angled edges with a carving knife to round the lure.

6. Smooth the edges with sandpaper and make the final shape of the lure. At this time, check if the right and the left half of the lure are symmetrical. If they aren’t, sand or carve the lure to make the side’s match.

7. Use a box-cutter to make the groove for attaching the lip. Use a punch to make the indentations for the eyes.

8. Make an eye wire with 8mm stainless steel wire, and insert it into the groove on the belly of the lure (see step 2). The eyes (3 wire circles) can be made by twisting a wire around a round metal stick and binding it tight with a pair of pliers. The wire eyes will become the hook connectors for the lure. This method of connecting the the head and the tail eyes are with a single wire insures makes the bait withstand intense strikes. After you insert the wire, apply a small covering of woodworking glue on top of the wire to hold it in place.

9. Insert a long narrow lead weight into the slot between the middle and front wire eyes.
Play around with different weights until you find one that provides the desired action.

10. Close the slot with waterproof wood putty or epoxy. When the putty dries, shave off any excess and smooth the surface with sandpaper.


11. Buy some aluminum foil tape (sticky on one side) and apply it the lure. Smooth the tape by rubbing the surface with a wooden stick.
Note: If you do not have aluminum foil tape, you can use glue or double-sided tape to apply common household aluminum foil to the surface.

12. Cut off any excess aluminum foil. Next, rub the surface of the aluminum foil with an iron stick (if you don’t have an iron stick, use anything else that is made of iron). This will cause the aluminum foil surface to take on the realistic glitter of the live minnow.

13. Dip the lure into clear urethane and let it dry for one day. Then turn the lure upside down and dip it again. Repeat this four times.

14. Mix clear (transparent) orange paint with clear (transparent) yellow paint to create a clear (transparent) gold color. Paint both sides with the clear gold paint using an airbrush.

15. Paint the belly with orange, and paint the back with black. Hang it to dry it for one day.

16. Spray the whole surface of the lure with a clear paint and let it dry. Repeat this three to five times. This prevents the color from melting down on the next dipping.

17. Stick on the eyes with a quick-drying glue. Next, dip it four times in clear urethane (like step 13).

18. Cut a polycarbonate board (2mm in thickness) and shape the diving lip (or purchase a precut lip).
Put the lip into the slot using the epoxy glue.

19. Attach the treble hooks using split-rings and your lure is complete!

Article by: Hiroyuki Konagai

FAQ. After this article was published, we received many questions. Hiroyuki answered the most common ones:

Where do you put the join of the foil. (How To Guide, Step 11)

First I stick a sheet of aluminium foil tape on one side of the lure and cut excessive aluminum foil. Next I stick an another sheet of aluminium foil tape on the other side of the lure and cut excessive aluminum foil.(I can see straight cutting lines both on the top and the bottom of the lure.)

What kind of paint are you using on your lures? Can I use it on my flyrod poppers?

I’m using acrylic paint (usually used for hobby painting like plastic models). I think it’s okay if you’re making poppers with cork or some other woods. (You may need undercoating.)

Where can I purchase the “urethane clear” coatings?

“Urethane clear” is used for wood flooring coating in Japan. I buy that from a fishing-tackle shop in Japan, but I’m not sure where you can buy it in other countries. (Editor’s note: This coating is available at most hardware stores in the US. FLEX COAT is also a great alternative to the Urethane and doesn’t require as many coats.)

Is there something close to the “urethane clear” coatings?

In Japan “Cellulose cement” is also popular and some people use “Epoxy clear coating”.

Does the aluminum foil have adhesive or glue on one side to make it stick to the wood? (How To Guide, Step 11)

Yes, the aluminum foil has adhesive tape and I can buy it as an “aluminum foil tape” (for repairing kitchen sinks) in Japan. If it’s not available in your country, I think you can use an aluminum foil and a double-sided adhesive tape or glue instead.