MULHERIN: Got worms? Pouring your own plastics is addictive | Sports |

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MULHERIN: Got worms? Pouring your own plastics is addictive | Sports |

Craig Coleman has created several custom colors, like this firetiger pattern

An opened injection mold shows a handful of freshly created drop-shot worms.

Craig Coleman pours hot plastic into an open-pour worm mold.

Craig Coleman has created several custom colors, like this firetiger pattern

An opened injection mold shows a handful of freshly created drop-shot worms.

Craig Coleman pours hot plastic into an open-pour worm mold.

Craig Coleman has always been surrounded by fishing lures. Whether it was in his uncle Don Braley’s basement or at Capt. Chuck’s when his parents owned it, it’s always been his natural habitat.

He’s always been a tinkerer, too. He loaded his own ammunition with Braley and learned to fletch arrows with his dad, Richard.

So it should come as no surprise that Coleman, a longtime salmon tournament fisherman, first mate and licensed captain is surrounded by lures of his own making once again. But his newest addiction looks a little more mad scientist than any of his previous endeavors.

Coleman pours his own soft plastics for bass. Whether it’s a simple worm, a tube, a crawfish, a swimbait or a creature, Coleman probably has a mold for it.

There are two reasons to pour your own worms. First, you might be able to create things you otherwise can’t buy. Second, it’s cheaper on a per-worm basis, after some startup costs.

Senkos are a heavily-salted brand of plastic worm that have become a staple of bass fishing. If you’re not fishing wacky-rigged Senkos for spring and early-summer bass, chances are, you’re either not an avid bass angler or you’ve been living in a cave for a decade.

They’re a great lure, but they are as much as a buck each.

“Once I started fishing tournaments and bass leagues, you burn through Yamamoto Senkos,” Coleman said. “At $4 a pack and as many as eight packs in a weekend, it adds up.”

For that same $32, you can get an open-pour worm mold and get started pouring your own.

How many can you pour for how much? Well, if you go for the bulk 5-gallon bucket of plastic, it will cost you about $95. Five gallons is 80 cups.

Coleman gets about 40 to 45 worms per cup of plastic.

That’s roughly 3,600 worms to a bucket of plastic, or roughly 3 cents a worm.

If you buy in smaller quantities, your costs will be slightly higher, but you get the point.

Of course, no one buys just one kind of plastic. You can get soft, medium or firm formulations of plastic and then you need colors and metal flakes. And more molds.

But there is another benefit.

“There is a certain satisfaction to catching them on something you’ve made,” Coleman said.

Coleman said he throws soft-plastic lures about 99 percent of the time when he’s fishing for bass. While it might seem sometimes that the bass only want “green pumpkin,” he’s found that you can often dial things in with a color change.

“I usually start with green pumpkin until a fish tears it up, then I’ll switch,” Coleman said. “If I don’t catch one in the first five minutes on that color, then I’ll try a different one.”

Coleman said knowing his worms only cost him 3 cents apiece is actually an incentive to keep changing things up.

“You buy a Yamamoto, you’re not going to be as quick to tear it off and change colors.”

While open-pour molds are simple and inexpensive, they are somewhat limited. You’ll always have a flat side because the open part of the mold isn’t really molded.

Injection molding costs more, with molds costing around $100 each versus $30 for open-pour.

Injection molding yields more finished-looking products and you can have some fun, too.

You can inject two colors of plastic. You can also make hollow-core baits and then inject a different color into the core.

There are also attachments that let you get a swirl effect.

Coleman has played with colors in just about every way possible, going so far as to create firetiger plastics that utilize black, orange, lime green and yellow.

Want glitter in your worms? There are dozens of colors. Want one that floats more or sinks faster? Add float media or more salt.

If it sounds like it adds up quickly, it does, but Coleman said with inflation in the sporting goods market, your dollars go farther with home-poured lures than they will at the store.

“If you go out and spend $100 on plastics, you don’t get much,” he said.

You start with a mold and some plastic, which you can buy at or any number of tackle suppliers. Coleman pours about a cup of plastic at a time, then heats it up to 350 degrees (2 minutes in a microwave) and stirs it to get a good mix.

Then he mixes in some pigment and glitter. Less pigment gives you a more translucent worm, while more pigment makes an opaque worm.

Silicone molds are the most inexpensive, followed by cast open-pour molds. Coleman said the cast molds give worms a matte, unfinished look. If you want shiny worms, you can go to machine-milled molds or, you can do what Coleman did and spray the molds with high-temperature paint like you’d use on a barbecue grill.

If you’re using an open-pour mold, it’s really that simple, you just heat the material and pour it into the molds — like the old “Creepy Crawlers” toys. But your worms or baits will always have one flat side to them due to the open top on the molds.

If you’re using injection molding, it’s more complicated, but also more fun.

A single injector will pump plastic deep into a two-sided mold.

This gives your lures a finished look.

Take the hot plastic out of the microwave, pour it into the injector, connect the injector to the mold and push the plunger. When plastic leaks out, you know you’re near full. You can drip a little extra into the hole after you remove the injector, just to make sure there are no voids as any air bubbles out of the mold.

Making two-color plastics is as simple as connecting two injectors together.

A mold with a c-chaped channel will combine those two plastics in a swirl before passing them on to the mold.

If you’re really creative, you can combine hand-pour techniques with injection techniques — that’s how Coleman created his firetiger.

You just hand-pour a little color into parts of the mold, assemble the mold for injection, then inject other colors over the top of it.

One of the nice side-effects of the production process is that there’s very little waste.

Leftover plastic is saved and can be melted down and used again. Mistakes can also be melted down and re-molded.

“If we grab a handful of (waste material) green pumpkin is what it always ends up,” Coleman said. And bass love green pumpkin-colored lures.

You can add different scent to your lures, which makes bass hold onto them longer after the initial strike. Some of the most popular scents are crawfish and shad, but there’s also a tournament blend with anise oil in it and even a coffee scent. Coffee, being one of the strongest scents out there, is believed to cover up the smell of human sweat and whatever else you’ve been touching.

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MULHERIN: Got worms? Pouring your own plastics is addictive | Sports |

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