Trolling Lures

Have you ever wondered what goes into manufacturing the tackle, gear and accessories we all use today? Anglers often take for granted the tremendous effort it requires to engineer, design and produce all of the equipment and countless components which combine to enhance our boating and sport fishing experiences. You name it, and somewhere in Florida is a team of professionals investing long hours to produce the assortment of fishing and boating gear we so cherish. We wanted to learn more about these people and about the products they specialize in and believe that you, too, will be fascinated with what we discover in our ongoing quest to find out “How It’s Made.”


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It may look like a lavish tackle shop, but the Big Game Showroom is a custom lure shop under disguise. Photo: Steve Dougherty

The thrill of persuading an intelligent billfish into viciously striking a colorful piece of plastic is sure to raise the pulse of any offshore angler. No matter how many times you’ve witnessed such a situation, the moment an aggressive billfishes’ instinctual tendencies takeover, you’re sure to feel the rush!

…lure heads are poured at a nearby facility where they manufacture approximately 600 lure heads a week.

Trolling lures are an excellent alternative to live bait fishing, and manufacturers have been reaping the benefits of new-age technology and lure design processes since the inception of this exciting style of fishing sometime back in the early 20th Century. From stainless steel, brass, bar-stock aluminum, polyurethane and various plastics and epoxy resins, lure makers are designing trolling lures that track straighter and perform more consistently than ever before.

There are few brands in the sport fishing industry that hold as much clout and deserve as much recognition as Black Bart Lures. The company’s originator, Captain Bart Miller, is responsible for putting his clients on numerous record-breaking catches and helping anglers in all of the world’s oceans triumph in big money tournaments. Captain Bart is a veritable wealth of knowledge, and it can be safely stated that his unique and extremely productive line of trolling lures have enticed more trophy marlin than any other brand of trolling lure on the planet.

As a proficient live bait angler in Hawaii, Captain Bart was tired of the way he’d been catching pelagics and wanted to push the envelope to 8, 9 or 10-knots in an attempt to cover more ground. He was tired of waiting for the fish to come to him. With no trolling lures available for what he wanted to accomplish, Captain Bart designed his very first lure with a head made of koa wood and skirting material cut straight from lawn chair strapping. Judging by the scrapes, nicks and scratches on that original wooden-head now encased in glass at the lavish Black Bart Big Game Showroom in Riviera Beach, it’s obvious that Bart Miller’s concept not only hit the nail on the head, but drove it straight through!

While perfecting the art of hand-carving koa wood in his garage, Bart had an epiphany. With the various plastics and casting resins that came to fruition during the 60s and 70s, Bart redesigned his koa wood and lawn chair strapping designs into modern day marvels manufactured from high-tech casting resins and durable vinyl skirts. Today Black Bart Lures are molded from clear urethane; however, the shape and design of his lure heads remain relatively unchanged.

Living on his 14-acre Hawaiian coffee plantation in the 70s, Bart transformed the dilapidated two-story building that once housed the plantation workers into a custom lure shop. From his mountaintop plantation to the bountiful stretches of the Pacific Ocean, Bart was serious about his R & D. His extreme dedication led to some of the world’s greatest catches. In 1983, he subdued a 1,265-pound fish only to outdo himself in 1984, boating a behemoth 1,656-pound blue marlin.

In a relatively short time, Black Bart Lures have dominated the blue-water billfish scene with monster fish and numerous tournament wins. Hand-built to precise standards by quality craftsmen, Black Bart Lures are “dangerously perfect.”

All Trolling Lures are not Created Equal!
For those of you reading this editorial that still believe a trolling lure is a trolling lure, you are sadly mistaken. Sure, any lure can catch fish on any given day, but to be successful day-in and day-out, to entice the largest billfish and tuna over and over, it takes more effort and consideration than fishing your favorite purple and black jethead off the long rigger. Every Black Bart Lure is designed for a specific position in the trolling spread and when fished in the correct location, during the proper conditions and under the right circumstances, these exquisite and visually appealing lures will dramatically increase your crew’s effectiveness and ability to capitalize on big-game targets.

The next time you are rummaging through your offshore trolling lures, pick up a rag or T-shirt and place a lure head in the palm of your hand. If you rotate the lure in your hand you will feel that the head is typically oblong and off-balanced. The reason that most trolling lures have minor imperfections is because once the casting process is complete a lengthy task of polishing and buffing is required. If every lure must be polished and buffed, how can you expect there to be any consistency when it comes to action and tracking? Black Bart Lures are hand-poured with clear urethane that requires no polishing or buffing after curing. The process is substantially more expensive than traditional casting resins, but when the lure heads are popped out of the mold, they are immediately ready for the next step in the assembly process. This ingenious design combined with the best possible materials ensures that every single Black Bart Lure design has precise measurements and consistencies that mirror the next.

If not for the fact that the Black Bart Showroom isn’t zoned for pouring resins, the entire process would be completed in-house. Instead, we learned that lure heads are poured at a nearby facility where they manufacture approximately 600 lure heads a week. Wow! After discerning eyes and hands inspect and approve each lure head, they are brought to the showroom for final assembly.

Before the lure head can be dressed with custom colored Black Bart skirts, it must be fitted with two essential elements. Chafing gear in the form of a clear tube (Image 1) is installed first and then a hook lock (Image 2) is glued to the bottom of the lure head. Once these steps are complete, it is now time to install the skirting material.

With over 600 skirt combinations, the possibilities are endless. Due to the wide variety of lure heads manufactured by the Black Bart professionals, lure skirts have to be custom fitted to each head (Image 3). Once the top of the first skirt is cut to the appropriate diameter matching the selected lure head (Image 4), it is turned inside out and placed upside down on the head. A healthy dose of Pledge® helps the skirt slide onto the head, and thus enables a super-tight fit with virtually no visual deficiencies (Images 5 & 6).

Once placed in the exact position, the skirt is tied into place with a strand of 35lb. wax rigging floss (Image 7). The skirt is then rolled down the head and folded over the rigging floss (Image 8). The next skirt is also trimmed to fit the precise diameter of the lure head and turned inside out as well. Another spray of Pledge® helps the second skirt pass over the existing skirt material (Image 9). The top skirt is pulled into precise position where it, too, is tied into place with a section of rigging floss (Image 10). Once the skirts have been placed in the proper position, the last step in the process involves trimming the tail end of the skirts (Image 11).

Every step in the operation is done to exacting specifications, and I had to tell the skilled craftsman to slow down the process several times because after years of skirting lures, he could do this with his eyes closed and one hand tied behind his back.

The Black Bart Big Game Showroom is a first-class operation that doubles as a custom lure shop. With so many skirt combinations, numerous head shapes and the ability to customize any lure head with specific colors, shapes, materials and patterns, the attention to detail and first-class craftsmanship of Black Bart Lures cannot be matched.

With a quick glance at the interior of the Black Bart Big Game Showroom you will immediately come to the realization that this is not your average tackle shop. A replica of Captain Bart Miller’s Black Bart cockpit with fully-functional fighting chair sit inside the 3,600 sq. ft. lobby, and numerous trophy catches commemorate the history and fish catching ability of his hand crafted trolling lures.

Utilizing unbreakable plastics, Flash & Glow technology and Pro Balance weighted inserts, any winning tournament team will tell you that Black Bart Lures track and attract like no other. If you’re on the hunt for serious big-game and you don’t have Black Bart Lures on your side, you better have some luck!