“Here’s a better picture where you can see how big she actually was …. That little lure in the corner of her mouth? That’s this head, right here.” Andy Moyes proudly displays a dirty iPhone screen and then gestures toward a shiny black-and-green Kaiwi lure. The fish is Steph Choate’s 1,018-pound blue marlin from Mozambique, and the Kaiwi is the surprisingly small lure that felled the thousand-pound fish. “I’m telling you,” Moyes says, “elephants really do eat peanuts.” Moyes’ shop is a modest little spot in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he is making completely custom lures — and doing it alone. The hopper of custom lure-makers is full. No, it’s bursting, and I can’t help but think, How can Andy’s lures be that much different? And yet they are. Trays of brilliantly colored heads dry. An army of molds stands at attention, awaiting the next pour. Endless shapes and sizes are organized with Fordist-era uniformity. The kicker is: Andy has achieved an unprecedented level of precision with his lures, and he has done it all by hand.
M: Why lures?
I got into making lures before I’d ever gone marlin fishing. We had a lathe in the garage. At 13 years old, I was making lures out of pill bottles. By 17, I worked as a mate. I moved to Costa Rica and ran a charter boat there; after, I bought my own charter boat. Eventually, I started running a private boat. My schedule kept me in Costa Rica for the winter, and then I’d head to the Bahamas, St. Thomas and Venezuela. It wasn’t until we started targeting the big blue marlin in the Bahamas Billfish Championship that I cared about lures. Before that, it was all dead-bait fishing.
M: Is that where you’d experiment?
Oh yeah, all the time. Every day it was something different. Playing around with weights and watching how it affected their roll. Tinkering with stuff under different sea states. It was fun. And then I stopped making them. The resin was so toxic and dangerous that I just started modifying other people’s lures: drilling holes in them, weighting them differently, making them run the way they should run in particular sea conditions.
M: Did you have health issues because of the materials you used?
Yeah, I did. Even wearing a mask, I got to a point where I couldn’t taste my food. I dealt with a bunch of other respiratory issues. It just wasn’t worth it. It’s funny because when I came back around, I had to work with a plastics engineer for, like, six months to develop a different, less-caustic material.
M: But in a way, it turned into a positive for your product, right?
Exactly. The clear casting resin that everyone else uses is nowhere near as strong nor consistent as the stuff I’m using now. If one of my lures happens to be somebody’s all-time favorite, he catches a million fish on it and it gets clipped off, I can confidently give him another of the same model knowing it will run exactly the same. You don’t get that with other lures. Seriously, I’ll take my micrometer to 10 of the most popular head designs out there, and they won’t be the same width or weight.
M: Lure-making has deep roots in Hawaii. How did you integrate into such a tight-knit community?
There is definitely a degree of localism there. It’s tough because it seems like everybody there makes lures — be it a hobby or their business.
M: Did you ever get any pushback from Hawaiian lure-makers?
There’s a level of competition there — but it doesn’t really matter to me. The guys who like my stuff like it, and those who don’t, don’t.
M: Some prominent Hawaiian captains are pulling your lures in their spreads. Is that the ultimate endorsement?
For sure. I have a group of guys using my lures over there who are at the top of their game. Hell, even if they pull one, there’s still a chance that they’ll catch that next great fish on it. Capt. Bryan Toney caught the women’s world record — a 1,305 for Jada Holt — on one of mine.
M: Everybody is a lure-maker nowadays. What do you do to stay ahead?
Maintain quality. I keep what I make as consistent as humanly possible.
M: What’s the secret to increasing quantity without sacrificing quality?
Well, you don’t (laughs). I don’t want to sell out and have my product suffer.
M: What’s it like knowing multiple granders pick your lure over others in the spread?
There’s no better compliment to your hard work and effort. It’s good when people call you from halfway around the world in the middle of the night saying, “We just caught a 1,300-pounder on one of your lures.”
M: Is color actually important?
I don’t know … some guys think so. Matching the hatch probably isn’t a bad idea — I think what’s more important is how the lure swims. The lure has to be on the verge of disaster: not tumbling, but like it’s fleeing. We’re re-creating nature with plastic, which is hard. Bait-fishing is easy. When a marlin comes up on a bait and eats it, he eats it.
M: What’s next?
I’m just going to keep trying to make my own lures. I want people to pick up my product and say, “That looks like an Andy Moyes lure.”