The Right Bait
Yantis angler hand-carves fishing lures, gets results

Patti Sells | News-Telegram Feature Editor

Jerry McCallie, 67, enjoys fishing for largemouth bass with his own hand-crafted top water lures, and in a pirogue he built himself.
Staff Photo By Patti Sells

July 31, 2005 -- Many fishermen come up with their own homemade bait recipes, but not too many anglers actually whittle their own lures and build their own boats.

Jerry McCallie, 67, enjoys fishing for largemouth bass with his own hand-crafted top water lures, and in a pirogue he built himself.

“I have just always liked woodwork and working with my hands,” said McCallie, who has made Yantis his home for the past eight years.

According to McCallie, his Old Fisherman Lures are hand-carved from selected wood and have been tested and proven to provide excellent results right from his own backyard, which just so happens to be Lake Fork, the number one trophy bass lake in the state.

“Fishermen catch bigger bass here than any other lake in Texas, and I’ve had excellent results,”said McCallie, who explained the thrill of top water fishing is watching the fish take the bait and getting that big splash. “I only fish with my own plugs. I don’t use anything else.”

McCallie said he whittled his first lure when he was just a teenager growing up in Port Arthur.

“It was pretty rough. I hand painted it, and it didn’t look to good,” he laughed.

McCallie has since perfected his numerous designs using a wood lathe, scroll, chisel, sander and an air brush to paint the lures in a variety of colors for all light and water conditions.

“You don’t see anything like this on the market,” McCallie said.

And he would know, since he has worked in the sporting goods section of a local discount store for the past six years.

Most fishermen, according to McCallie, use spinners and worms to fish in the open waters of the Lake Fork, while he on the other hand, enjoys fishing the shallow banks of Coffee and Mustang Creek in his homemade pirogue.

“They’ll go anywhere you want,” said McCallie of his 70 pound plywood pirogue. “They’ll go in the shallow creeks where no other boats can get up into.”

Fishing the murky banks of Lake Fork may have something to do with his growing up exploring and fishing the marshy inlets, and mysterious waterways of his hometown.

He said he began fishing the bayous and bays of Port Arthur, Texas with his father and older brother at the young age of 4, and readily admits, he’s been “hooked” ever since.

“I don’t know about others,” he said laughing. “But it’s an addiction for me. When I’m not working, I’m fishing.”

The only thing McCallie likes better than woodwork is of course, fishing.

At one time he tried making a career out of his favorite pastime, when he and his brother purchased a 40-foot deep sea fishing boat and fished commercially off the coast of Florida. Out for 10 days at a time, he said he never quite got use to the five to 10-foot swells, so after a year, he gave it up and went back to the lazy, laid back ways of lake fishing.

“He’ll go out and fish all day,” said his wife Linda, who explained that her husband has always enjoyed the calming effects of the great outdoors.

“Fishing is just peaceful,” he explained. “I like to get out there by myself and paddle around in the water and see all kinds of birds, turtles, water rats and otters.”

According to McCallie, his family has lived in several states, and he’s fished in lots of lakes, but when he saw Lake Fork he fell in love with it and moved the family to the area. What better place for an avid bass fisherman who has his own line of top water lures.

“He has always taken a lot of care and time in making them,” said his son, James. “Fishing and making lures is just something he loves to do for his own pleasure.”

McCallie said he doesn’t worry to much about selling his unique top water lures. They can’t be found in any stores and he only has a small blurb about the product on his son’s website.

“I just do it for the heck of it,” McCallie laughed. “If I catch a fish I’m satisfied, and even if I don’t catch a fish I’m satisfied. Fishing is just a good way to start and end the day.”

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