How often do you look at a lure and decide it needs a stripe of red marker under the gills or a touch of bright-orange Krylon on the blade? Some of the most successful anglers I know buy a lure and immediately add their own subtle color changes. But Larry LaRue makes lure color his business. A Gulf War veteran, Oregonian LaRue is somewhat of a mad scientist of color, painting known Northwest producers like Kwikfish and selling them under the moniker Looney Lures. But if you think his wild color schemes are meant to catch the angler’s eye only, think again.
I first read about LaRue in Fish Alaska magazine. There I found out that he suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and uses his hobby as a “way to find internal peace.” The skulls on his lures represent “war time memories.” But there is some serious thought behind LaRue’s colors. Interestingly, LaRue places a lot of emphasis on water temperature when choosing lure colors. And his creations are catching fish and turning heads in the Northwest. LaRue inspired me to start digging through my wife’s nail polish collection and tinkering, so I got in touch with him to find out more. Perhaps he’ll inspire you, too.
FS: What was the turning point in your fishing career that made you decide you wanted to begin painting your own lures?**
LaRue:** It wasn’t so much that I was unhappy with the available colors, but as I learned how to fish in the Northwest I began to understand how the colors were effective or not effective in different areas, temperatures, and depths. After I retired from the military in 2004 I began painting my own spinners under the guidance of renowned Portland angler Fred Trowbridge. In 2006, I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Phil Rabideau, a lure inventor for Mepps and master of color technology. He took me in as his student and taught me about salmon and steelhead behavior, lure attributes, structure, the barometer, tide, and moon phases. After hundreds of hours of study I mastered color technology and applied it to my custom designs. My wife says I think and see like a fish.
FS: Do you remember the first custom lure you painted that caught a fish?
LaRue: My first spinner was a #7 Indiana blade, hammered back, rainbow with a blue tip. I was so jacked up that I gave everyone I was fishing with the same blue tip blade and we all caught fish for two weeks. That’ll do it to ya!
FS: What is your top-selling color now?**
LaRue:** My top seller is the “Green Monster” (above) because as a rule of thumb here in the Northwest, emerald green and fluorescent green are the first colors salmon and steelhead moving from salt- to freshwater before spawning are attracted to.
FS: What is the most important thing an angler needs to know before selecting a lure color?**
LaRue:** Fish, particularly salmon and steelhead, react to color differently in cold, cool, and warm water, but they all have an optimum temperature. In water colder than that optimum temperature, they’ll react strongly to bright lures. At a cooler, mid-range temperature, use mid-range tone lures, like brass, chrome, or gold. If the water is warmer than the fishs’ optimum temperature, they get uncomfortable so you have to use dark lures because brights often spook them more than attract them.
Aside from Kwikfish, LaRue also paints spoons and spinners, so if you’re interested in buying some of his lures, you can reach him at email@example.com or at (503) 954-0487. Looney Lures currently has no website, but LaRue will happily send you a shot of his vast color line up and help you pick patterns based on the water conditions in your area – JC