Where to start, or how to start… let’s try at the beginning.

A country called SFRY (Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia), existed for almost 50 years –the part of which was Republic of Serbia. SFRY became “famous” all around the world during 1990’s, because of the saddest possible reason – civil war. Yugoslavia was a country of incredible geographic riches, in a relatively small space, with all types of water surfaces, that can be found in the world. In that sense, it was a country of true blessing for all the anglers that live in it.

For example, you could fish on Danube in the morning and after that, in the evening, you could drive for 4 hours and reach another completely different river. Next morning you would fish on Drina, one of the largest mountain rivers in Europe. From Drina to the fishing in the Adriatic Sea, it took you another 7-8 hours of driving. It is still possible, but you have to cross at least one border, to finish this task.

Although, socialist in its structure, country was pretty open to the rest of the world, and the world was open for the citizens of Yugoslavia. They could travel without visa to most of the Western and Eastern Europe countries. Also, important point was the fact, that country became economically strong in the 70’s, with diversified manufacturing. Yugoslavian companies exported many different sorts of products to all the corners of the world, even though it wasn’t a capitalist country. Key factors, that drove the creation of the Serbian School of Hand Made Lures, can be summed in these four:

  • Being free to travel;
  • the existence of strong manufacturing companies,
  • the fact that a lot of these different types of plants were in Republic of Serbia, 
  • the diversity of river and lake types in Serbia,

In the early 70’s there were no true Big fishing shops in Serbia or Yugoslavia, that could already be found all over Western Europe. Passionate anglers from Serbia, that would travel to any of these countries, for any reason, would always bring some wooden lures back home, which were not available in Serbia and Yugoslavia. Sure, some people made wooden lures even before the 70’s, but with opportunity of “importing” the lures from big fishing tackle companies, many passionate anglers got in touch with wooden lures from abroad. They analyzed how those lures are actually made and learned more about it. You see, many of these anglers worked in big plants, so they had good understanding of what it takes to make a final product from raw materials. They would also often make some objects-instruments out of wood, so after using wooden lures of world-renowned brands, they had their own ideas, how the wooden lure should “wobble” in the lakes and rivers, where they usually go to fish, so those attract more trophies. Besides that, they tried to use lures made for lakes and pike fishing, for fishing in strong mountain rivers. Those lures would simply not work… just not built for such strong currents and for fishing big trout or Danube Salmon – Mladica. There was a big demand for hard baits that are good for strong currents, but there were none, so that also helped in development of the right lures.

Most of the needed materials to make a lure, were not available in shops, you simply could not buy them. On the other hand, some of the materials were in abundance in some factories… Some of the guys that started making lures, worked in big factories. Some had relatives or friends working in factories. Yugoslavia was a socialist country and everything was public property. Of course, it was not normal to just take whatever you need from the factory your work in, but sometimes materials were “borrowed”.

When an angler sets his mind on catching a fish by creating a lure, nothing can stop him… disappearing spoons in an angler’s home were a normal thing 40 years ago – it’s not his fault that with few adjustments those are perfect for catching Pike. Craftsmen found ways to get materials and to experiment. For some, these experiments were cheap, for some very expensive, but they still were able to work on crafting a PERFECT wooden lure, designed for catching the predators in the closest rivers and lakes.

Another important driving force of the “trend”, was the fact, that the anglers with their own wooden lures, did catch more fish, than others, and there is nothing more devastating for an angler, than to catch less than his best friend. After a certain period of time, fact of how the lure “works”, wasn’t enough by itself. It became really important, how it looks too. Air brush came into play…  Serbs are very passionate about bragging rights, and that was also a very strong motivation for the craftsmen to improve their lures, not only in a sense of catching more, but in a sense of the esthetics of the lure too.

Another important driving force of the “trend”, was the fact, that the anglers with their own wooden lures, did catch more fish, than others, and there is nothing more devastating for an angler, than to catch less than his best friend. After a certain period of time, fact of how the lure “works”, wasn’t enough by itself. It became really important, how it looks too. Air brush came into play…  Serbs are very passionate about bragging rights, and that was also a very strong motivation for the craftsmen to improve their lures, not only in a sense of catching more, but in a sense of the esthetics of the lure too.

All of the above, resulted in first signals for the talented craftsmen, that this lure building could be an additional income, or even a life calling for them… More and more anglers would ask for hand crafted lures, and some were more than willing to pay for it…

1980’s were really important for the further development of the Serbian style wooden lures. Less talented people, that could not make a perfect lure, dropped out, and guys that have already proven their worth, had to spend more and more time in their working room, making lures for other anglers. For some reason most of the craftsmen were based in two Serbian cities – Užice and Čačak, that are just 50 km apart, and with completely different geography. In those two cities emerged two craftsmen, that first became worldwide recognized. Aleksandar Veselinović (Čačak) – creator of first massively manufactured Serbian lures – Ugly Duckling wobblers, and Slavko Minodraž (Užice) – chief lure designer, from the end of 80’s till the middle of 90’s in Japanese YO-ZURI. This was a confirmation of existence of the Serbian Lure Crafting School. Their visions were recognized all around the world…  While they were building brands of mass manufactured lures, some craftsmen continued making lures by HAND, in their homes, concentrating on a certain style or a shape of the lure, and the way they painted it. They became recognized in Serbia for the lures they craft. Some of the craftsmen became popular for their lures for Trout, some for Danube Salmon, or Zander, or Pike…. Still, most of the lures they made were for their own needs, or for their friends. Only small number was sold.

Then came gruesome 90’s… civil wars, economic sanctions, pitiful wages or even no work. Against all odds, this was the best time for the craftsmen, to further develop their talent.  Most of the craftsmen discovered a new stabile income in lure crafting. Demand for lures, in those difficult times, grew, because anglers spent much more time fishing than before. More fishing with handmade lures, meant more feedback from the anglers. Small lure companies started appearing, encouraged by the success of Ugly Duckling’s balsa wood lures. Other craftsmen became more recognized. Just to mention a few: Nikola Kosić – Nik, Milomir Mišo Starcević – Goldy lures, Slobodan Arsenijević – Calypso lures, Zvonko Kokić, Dejan Madić – Mada… Every single one of them, was developing his own style…

Serbian market of lures was created, spontaneously, and on that market, some, were making more cheaper lures using plastic or foam, and others, stayed dedicated to hand crafting and creating of more expensive hard baits. Serbian lures have become recognized throughout Europe, mostly for fishing Danube Salmon – Mladica and all sorts of Trout. Although small companies, that manufactured efficient and cheaper wooden lures or plastic wobblers, came to be, the demand for handmade wooden lures increased. Lures made by the hands of true craftsmen, always caught more. Most anglers are not prepared to pay more for the handcrafted lure, and like to criticize the wood as a soft material. They say, that it is not reasonable to spend that much money on a lure, and they are partly right. The thing is, that fish do not reason the same way that humans do, and one of the proven ways to catch one, is to surprise it with something new, every time. This SURPRISE EFFECT is THE WHY, true anglers pay more for handmade wooden lures. There are no two IDENTICAL ONES. Every single lure, is UNIQUE. Even when you see two that look completely the same, they are not identical, because it is impossible to repeat the same movement of the hand, in a process of lure “sculpting”. And when the sand paper comes into play, to even out any bumps, even the most doubtful ones, have nothing to say anymore. Lot of anglers pay more, just to have a very beautiful lure in their box, but actually what they are paying for, is the fact that there is no IDENTICAL ONE, to the one they have purchased.

Some of the Craftsmen mentioned above, are still going strong, as creative as the day they made their first lure. Adding new colors, further developing their lures, testing those on different types of waters, becoming students of their own creations. 100% devoted to the craft. Most importantly, effectively answering any type of challenges, put in front of them by anglers: “I need a lure, that would go 2m deep, but with the ability to sink very fast, and weigh not more than 5,5g., balanced perfectly!…for Pike, Zander, Catfish, Chub….” I know, it sounds, like I do not know what I am talking about… but after selling at least 10 000 pieces of Serbian hand-crafted lures, to mostly very passionate anglers, that keep coming back, I believe that I have the Authority to make such a statement. TRUE Craftsmen, and the lures they create, are the proof, that this is a type of ART that draws out, OH’s and AH’s from anglers, that enjoy just looking at these lures.

Something so beautiful is created only as a result of true passion for the end result, with one goal in mind – to reach the unclimbable heights and challenge the laws of physics. 

Beauty, Perfection, Devotion, ART…. Strong Words, but let me finish with a touch of reality, and show you the flip side of this golden coin.

You could be asking yourself – If this is all true, why haven’t I heard about it before… How come those Craftsmen are not world-renowned BRANDS… Why these lures aren’t present in the best fishing shops in the world… To get answers to these questions, you would have to visit Serbia first, get to know the people a bit, get confused by their actions… at least 15 times in a matter of 10 seconds…, or just read my version of answers. So, if you are ready to read my version, I’ll start with several most important points:

  • There are only 2 fishing shops in the world, that are 100% devoted to the “no compromises” policy, offering only the TRUE Serbian Hand Made lures, made by craftsmen that see this as a life calling, not a hobby. Sorry those are both in Moscow, Russia.
  • Why cannot I find these “fantasy lures” in the best equipped shop in my country? Sorry guys, I have been busy, building this business model in Russia, for the last 15 years. 
  • Lot of people in Serbia, unfortunately, are not truly devoted to the craft, and they are just trying to make an additional euro or two. For some this is just a hobby, creating few lures per month, and selling those for absurdly low prices… To others, this is just a way to make money…simply money on their mind. I call those people “walking copy machines”… they have no ideas of their own, all they do is copy popular lures. These 2 types of lures, mostly end up in the hands of hard core traders, and those people will promise Moon and the Sky, just to sell one more lure. A BIG NOISE is created… and where there is too much noise, you cannot hear the music.
  • There was never someone who is ready, to make a Serbian Brand out of this Art and to establish and protect the standards. There was lot of talking about it, lot of ideas forced into the hearts and minds of Craftsmen, lot of solutions never implemented into life, even some attempts… Nobody ever really put their time and money where their mouth was. I have been investing, myself, my money and my time in creating a Market of quality Serbian Lures in Russia, for more than 10 years now. It is not perfect, I could have done more, but it EXISTS. Now the time has come, to create this one platform, where TRUE Serbian Lures can be found… to be tested by time, and passionate anglers. Maybe I will succeed…, maybe not… you be the judges of it. At least, I am willing to try and working on it…

More texts are coming… about each “crazy” guy, who’s lures are available in this web-shop, about fishing trips, about lure types, about why some of those are a must on certain fishing expeditions….Who knows, maybe we’ll publish your own text, about certain lures, and why those are your “weapon of choice”.

Catch & Release!! 

Author: Бранко Аранђеловић

Edited by: Гордана Маринковић

Photo’s: Ален Косановић, Светлана Гуменная, Милан Симоновић, Миломир Старчевић, Никола Косић, Миодраг Ћирић, Евгений Корнилов, Александар Леденчан.