balsa wood fishing lure

Is Traditional Balsa Wood Manufacturing Really Better than HCM?

Since the late 1980s, there’s been a divide among fishermen on whether the traditional balsa manufacturing process for Bagley lures is superior to the company’s newer heat compression molding (or HCM) process. In fact, fans of vintage fishing lures, the early Bagley lures (circa the 1960s-1980s) swear by the original’s ability to outdo every crankbait on the market. And they’ll spend tons of money to add such items to their antique fishing lure collections.

But is there really a difference in quality? Especially when we know the new process allows for 100% consistency in terms of design, size, shape, and function?

Before you can answer this question, let’s take a quick look back at the early years of Bagley Bait:

A Brief History on Bagley Fishing Lures:

Back in the 1960s, Jim Bagley, founder of Bagley Bait, was inspired by the growing popularity of using balsa wood to manufacture fishing lures. Recognized as both a natural and superior material, when compared to other woods and plastics used for making fishing lures on the market, balsa’s ability to replicate the swimming actions of baitfish outperformed the competition. However, during that time, most balsa baits were lighter and hard to cast. Because of this, Jim saw an opportunity to create a heavier, more castable bait product to attract larger bass.

The Traditional Balsa Wood Process:

During the traditional process, balsa wood is separated by its weight density. Once sorted, the designer carves the wood to form a shape, using a mandrel that replicates the outline of each particular lure model. After which, the carved lure is sent to be tumbled. The tumbling process sands down each lure body to create a smoother surface. Based on the type of fishing lure model being produced, a hole is drilled into the lure body in a specific location. Soon after, a small piece of lead is inserted, glued into place, and eventually patched and sanded. This gives the new lure its balance and specified weight for casting.

This traditional processing requires multiple stages of production and treatments. For example, a handler will apply many coats of primer, paint, and lacquer to achieve the bait’s finished look.

The New HCM Process:

woman assembles fishing lure




The HCM manufacturing process is a cutting-edge alternative to the traditional balsa carving method. It allows for unlimited design opportunities by freeing the lure designer to precisely position internal weighting for optimal balance points. The traditional process could not achieve this type of perfection. When the balsa is sectioned, its halves are placed into a heated metal mold. They are then compressed together to form the mirror left and right halves of a particular lure model. The heated molds cause the balsa body form to shrink. It then slightly burns the wood to create a harder balsa exterior. The compression creates truer consistency in lure weight. And the heat process tightens the wood grain to create a smoother exterior surface. This also requires fewer coats of primer and paint.

By re-imagining how to manufacture balsa for Bagley fishing lures, this new age of Bagley Bait products and lures is able to catch bigger game fish! To learn more about our process or if you’d like to see our Bagley Bait lures in action, visit our website or shop online to experience how Bagley Bait performs better – every time!

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