When I sent Charlie Muller of Choopy Lures a few questions about his plugs hoping to gain a little bit of insight about him and his plug making, he sent me these answers back. It’s easy to see how passionate he is about both fishing and lure-building in his comments.
Charlie makes a number of plug styles out of Wall, New Jersey under the name Choopy Lures. He makes needlefish, metal-lipped swimmers, spooks, and darters, all in fantastic-looking color schemes, and sizes ranging from small freshwater-sized pikies to big 3-ounce swimmers (I found myself a pair of nice keeper stripers on my first outing with a Choopy 3-ounce swimmer in a pink scale pattern, before a bluefish decided to run off with it).
I urge you to check these lures out at choopylures.com. Charlie’s website is filled with helpful information and blog posts about how to fish his lures and new products that he has coming out.
On The Water: As I can see from your website, you began making lures in 1997. How did this begin? At what point did you realize you were able to turn these into a brand?
Charles Muller: When I made my first lure, I didn’t have any goals other than to keep all my fingers since I was carving it by hand with some X-ACTO knives. When I made my next batch, I was just hoping not to lose an arm in the lathe. The idea of selling one of them, was so ridiculous, that it never even crossed my mind.
I started making lures for a few reasons. I was bored, I thought Gibbs were a bit expensive (later I would realize that they are much cheaper than making your own) and it satisfied a critical thinking part of my brain that needed some exercise. The small Gibbs danny is a great little plug, and trying to figure out how to make a piece of wood move like that, well it had my attention. Just like I had to figure out why stripers held in certain seams, I had to figure out how a danny swam, and replicate it under my own terms to match some of my fishing.
In 2003 I was engaged and looking to make a few extra bucks. Some friends of mine were fishing my lures and had good success with them, and pushed me to sell them. There was never a business plan to turn the lures we were fishing into a brand. It just kind of happened. I had no idea how long I would sell them, but all these years later, I am still at it and hopefully for a long time.
OTW: Your website is very impressive and informative. Is this important to your business model? How did the website evolve into the website that it is now?
CM: I think communication with your customers is essential, especially in a business as fickle as fabricating fishing lures. Colors, baits, etc. can change from year to year, and month to month. I attempt to use my website, and other social media to engage customers and see what colors or styles of lures might be producing for them, and what I need to do to continue producing a better product.
In January 2012 I changed the format of the website. Previously it was just the basic information about the lures and where to buy them. I was a bit frustrated with it because of how much effort went into updating it. I wanted to start writing more, so I changed it to a more blog oriented atmosphere where I can easily write and update the site. I try to write something every week, but sometimes get a bit busy and its every two weeks. I really like how it is set up now. I can take a simple question like colors, how to tune a plug, or updating people on how I make a lure, and give the readers a bit more insight on how or why I do the things I do. I have a few stories about fishing I am going to write about in the future as well. I am not sure I have anything truly unique to add to the world of fishing, but I enjoy writing about fishing and lure building regardless.
OTW: What would you say is the most important aspect of the lures? Color? Action? What steps do you take to insure their effectiveness?
CM: A lure’s action is always the most important to me. I have never seen a dud of a lure in yellow catch fish, even when yellow was the hot color. I have seen a olive or white plug with killer action catch fish when everyone thought yellow was the hot color though.
Quality control is very important to me. I don’t use CNC equipment and every lure still gets touched by me 20 to 30 times before it leaves for a shop to be sold. I have a pretty specific process in how I make them that helps insure that they all get fabricated pretty much identical. Wood isn’t a consistent material though, so there are always going to be some very minor variations between lures. The hardest part about building lures isn’t making just one, its working out the process to fabricate hundreds of them in an economical and efficient manner.
Before they are ever sold, they all go through a pretty rigorous process to test them and work out the designs. I am really fortunate to have a handful of friends and loyal supporters that help me test out ideas. Some lures have taken years to get from the initial prototypes to where they are ready to be sold.
OTW: Would you say the old adage is true; that lures catch more fishermen than fish? You sort of hinted at this in your blog about the unpainted lures, which I really enjoyed. Do some fishermen pay too much attention to detail in lures or is this attention to detail the difference between catching and not catching fish?
CM: I think confidence is the key. Whether it is confidence in “X” or “Y” color, or the action of the lure, I think you have to fish what you are confident in. So if you are really confident in simple solid colored lures or the super detailed painted lures, I think thats what you have to fish. I am not so sure lures catch more fisherman than fish, but it doesn’t hurt either. Some lures are just so cool looking, that you just have to have it.
When I make my first prototypes, I don’t seal or paint them. I take them to the water and give them about 6 casts to see if I am even in the right area code. After 6-8 casts, they usually start soaking up water and don’t swim the same. On the next rounds of prototypes, I will seal them, but I don’t paint them. Over the past year, there have been a lot if fish caught on these unpainted prototypes. I joke that I will never paint another lure again, but it really solidifies to me that action is more important than color. Or it is possible the fish really like that yellowish tan color of the natural wood.
However, it is next to impossible for me not to have a schoolbus darter, midnight eel needlefish or a few other colors in my bag. While I believe action trumps color, there are definitely some colors I have a ton of faith in and rely heavily on.
OTW: What is your favorite place/conditions to fish your lures?
CM: This is such a hard question to answer. There are times I am in absolute love with casting darters from a boulder field, jigs in an inlet or needlefish from the beach. I am really comfortable in all of these sets of structure and gravitate towards them certain times of the year. It’s like asking to pick a favorite child.
Recently I have really enjoyed fishing freshwater more and hopping around ponds in a jon boat fishing my 3-inch pike and some prototype spooks and popper I am working on. It has given me a different understanding of a fishery I haven’t been a part of since I was a kid, and is very refreshing. I have certainly come to realize that I really love fishing. It doesn’t have to be striped bass or surf fishing like it had in the past. Every species has their own set of challenges and if I’m fishing, I’m happy.
OTW: Any fish stories about Choopy Lures that you’d like to share?
CM: No one story stands out, but I really enjoy getting emails or talking to people about their success and failures with my lures. It’s always awesome to know that your products are being fished with success, but hearing about fisherman catching their personal best, or how it salvaged an otherwise tough night of fishing always makes me smile a bit more.
I don’t claim to be a great fisherman in any way, but I do like sharing the little bit that I know. I get a lot of satisfaction helping people fish my lures. Sometimes they will be fishing a lure too fast, or tying direct, or have some minor glitch in their gear or their approach. If I can help troubleshoot what they are doing and they start catching fish, it’s very satisfying. While I am not the most popular lure builder, I am very grateful to those that purchase my lures and fish them.