Skip to Main Content
View all Whittle More

Fishing Lure

Posted by Chelsea Place on

Whittling a Decorative Fishing Lure

Simple project makes a fun display or gift item.

By: Lora S. Irish
Originally published in Wood Carving Illustrated


•7/8" x 1 1/2" x 4" basswood (lure)

  • 1/8" x 1 1/2" x 1 3/4" basswood (tail)
  • Scrap paper and cereal box
    cardboard (templates)
  • Sandpaper: 220 grit
  • Cyanoacrylate (CA) glue or wood glue
  • Acrylic paints: black, titanium
    white, medium green, pale
    yellow, red, burnt sienna
  • Permanent marking pens:
    metallic gold or silver (optional)
  • Gloss spray acrylic sealer
  • 2 each 1/4" wood screws
fishing lure finished carved piece


  • Pencil
  • Carving knife
  • V-tool: small
  • Paint brushes (optional)

Whittling is individually expressive and uniquely creative—it is a perfect way for beginners to learn the love of working wood, for intermediate carvers to hone their skills, and for advanced carvers to enjoy the challenge of returning to one-knife work.

This whimsical whittled wonder is a decorative folk-art style fishing lure. Fish decoys and lures were once necessary tools for providing food for the table. You could add real hooks and turn the project into a functioning lure, but I created it as a decorative item.

Using simple shapes, a few carved accents and details, a bit of added wood or copper for fins, and one knife, you can carve a vintage-style fishing lure.

If you are a new woodcarver, try using basswood for this project. Although classified as a hardwood, basswood is soft and easy to cut, with a tight fine grain. Its clean white coloring accepts paints well.

Start by removing the sharp corners of the square blank. Draw a centerline and round the blank toward the centerline to give the blank a rough pillow shape.

Fishing Lure Pattern

Lure: Roughing Out The Fish

step 1 photo

Step 1: Trace the fish shape onto the blank.

Transfer the outline of the fish’s body onto a piece of thin cardboard to create a template. Cut the template and trace the shape of the fish onto one side of the blank. Transfer the location of the front of the two fins and the center of the tail onto the opposite side. Use these marks to position the template correctly and trace the template onto the other side.

step 2 photo

Step 2: Rough out the carving.

Carve away the excess wood around the back, belly, snout, and tail. Taper the sides of the face slightly. Roll the knife quickly along the curved tail to get a smooth cut. Create sharp corners by cutting into the area from two directions.

step 3 photo

Step 3: Carve the top and bottom fins.

Sketch the thickness of the fins and the line where the fins join the body. Stop-cut along the line where the fins join the body. Then, carve the wood down to the marked thickness.

step 4 photo

Step 4: Shape the sides.

Minnows, which most fishing lures represent, are relatively thin. The head and tail are thinner than the chest and belly. Sketch the shape of the head and tail, which are both V-shaped, and carve off the excess wood. Taper the wood toward the head and tail.

Lure: Carving The Details

step 5 photo

Step 5: Finish carving the fins.

Taper the top and bottom fins toward the outer edge. The thickest part of the fin is close to the body. Carve a series of V-shaped notches in the fins.

step 6 photo

Step 6: Refine the fins and body.

Remove any rough wood where the fins meet the body by making small cuts with a sharp knife held at a shallow angle. Then, press the back side of the knife blade (the blunt side) across the joint line to press in any stray fibers. Round the sharp edges of the fins where the fins meet the body.

step 7 photo

Step 7: Remove any remaining rough areas.

Use a sharp knife to remove any remaining rough areas. Then, buff the carving with a crumpled brown paper bag. The bag is abrasive enough to remove dirt and other marks from the carving without removing any of the
knife-cut planes.

step 8 photo

Step 8: Add the gills.

Use the pattern as a guide to position a penny on the side of the fish; trace around the penny to outline a gill. Extend the gill to the underside of the mouth. Make a stop cut along the gill line. Cut up to the stop cut from the body to separate the gill from the body. Smooth the body down into the gill slit. Repeat on the other side of the fish.

Lure: Adding The Tail And Fins

step 9  photo

Step 9: Carve the wooden tail add-on.

Trace the tail pattern onto the tail blank. Alternatively, use a penny to draw two half-circles
side by side, and then extend the lines from the half circles to create a rough heart shape. Carve the outline of the tail with a knife, but do not carve the notch where the tail meets the body.

step 10 photo

Step 10: Shape the notch on the tail.

Trace the shape of the back end of the fish across the point of the heart on the tail blank. Carve
away all but 1/8" (3mm) of the wood outside the pencil mark. Use 220-grit sandpaper to smooth the inside of the cut area and to lightly round the sharp edges. Mark the thickness of the tail onto the lure body.

step 11 photo

Step 11: Define bottom of nose.

Use the tip of a knife to carve away a bit of
the wood inside the lines marked for the tail. Make several small cuts, creating a shallow groove. Fit the tail into the groove and use 220-grit sandpaper to smooth the groove. Remove any sander dust with an old toothbrush, and test the fit again. When the tail fits properly, attach it to the lure with cyanoacrylate (CA) glue or wood glue. Refine the area where the tail meets the body.

step 12 photo

Step 12: Outline the nose and eyes.

Trace around a penny twice on a sheet of thin copper. Cut the circles with craft scissors and cut each circle in half. Flatten the copper with flat-nose pliers. Carve a thin groove two-thirds to three-quarters of the way down each side of the body, starting behind the gill and ending about 1/4" from the tail. Slide the copper fins into the grooves and lock them in place with CA glue.

Painting The Lure

Draw the nose and top of the eyes. Starting at the inside corner of the eye, plunge the knife tip in and cut to the bottom of the nose. Then start at the inside corner and cut to the outside corner of the eye. Repeat the two stop cuts on the opposite side.

Adding The Hardware

Draw the nose and top of the eyes. Starting at the inside corner of the eye, plunge the knife tip in and cut to the bottom of the nose. Then start at the inside corner and cut to the outside corner of the eye. Repeat the two stop cuts on the opposite side.

Show Off Your Work!

We'd love to see your finished projects. Share them with us on social media!

About The Author

Lora S. Irish is a prolific designer and author. Lora is the author of several how-to woodcarving books. All of Lora’s books are available at Lora and her husband, Michael, have put together an enormous warehouse of digital carving patterns at

Template downloads are provided courtesy of Fox Chapel Publishing.

Shop Whittling Knives

Knives best suited for whittling have multiple blades to be able to make a variety of cuts and carve outs without needing to switch tools.

Older Post Newer Post
By continuing on this website you consent to our use of cookies and similar technology, which collect and share with third parties the IP address of your device and browsing information, to make your browsing experience as useful as possible. For more information, see our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy