The following is my opinion only.
I'm hoping to share it and garner your opinion and knowledge based upon your experience. Please feel completely free to add your ideas, opinions, and experience after reading this...
A great epoxy finish can make a mediocre bait look good and a great bait look amazing. It is one of the most noticed, admired, and talked about things when it comes to fishing lures.
(So are bait eyes, but that is another most interesting and almost phenomenal topic, which I'll bring up later.)
Even if you do not build baits, you might still consider learning how to apply epoxy. It can make your "store bought" baits look better and last for years beyond their normal lifespan.
Don't let the following discussion fool you. Although builders strive for perfection in every finish, applying epoxy isn't brain surgery. Anyone can learn to do it, and you have nothing to lose because your store-bought baits are going to get roughed up unless you protect them with a better finish.
Baits are cheap
...until you buy a couple hundred or more over time. Many commercially sold lures have absolutely terrible finishes. Some very popular baits and some very expensive baits almost seem to be built with planned obsolescence by way of a cheap, flimsy, non-durable finish...so read on. I won't name names, but some very popular and rather expensive musky lures, for example, have a finish that is downright shameful.
Few things are talked about more than which clear coat is best, when bait building addicts get together.
Everyone has their favorite and the purpose of the this thread is not to change anyone's mind as to which should be used. I would like to share my experiences and discuss what I see as advantages and disadvantages.
The foundation of the discussion goes something like this
: Devcon is easier to use and can be mixed, applied, and cured quicker. It sets up nice, flow out well, and is stronger and harder. Envirotex is softer, but clearer, less prone to fogging, and won't yellow when exposed to UV rays under fishing conditions.
I've used both and still do.
I consider Devcon to be a harder, tougher finish overall
. It is less prone to delamination over foil finishes and it is far less fussy to apply. It is also less prone to showing dust in the finish, which is something that drives building addicts to a slow and painful insanity. Devcon is extremely strong, but it can chip if the bait suffers a powerful enough impact at the right angle and it can show scratches and hook rash more readily than "Etex". If a fish torques the hook hanger hard enough, it can chip near the point where the screw eye enters the bait.
But...Devcon 2 ton
is the only
stuff I will use to secure lips to the bait, period. It will hold that lip secure under the harshest of fishing conditions. If you can find a fish that can rip a Devcon-secured lip out of a fishing lure, you do NOT want that fish in the boat with you.
It is also one of only two materials I will use to secure screw eyes to the bait (Gorilla glue or similar products are the other material I use for securing screw eyes.)
Envirotex is far more beautiful finish
. It is almost perfectly crystal clear and when layered properly, produces a deeper finish. It is just plain beautiful stuff. It is far less prone to UV yellowing, and does not show hook rash or scratches on the bait as quickly or as obviously as Devcon. (The Devcon scratches and hook rash do however, disappear when the bait gets wet.)
Envirotex is also much more difficult to use.
It is "runnier" and takes much longer to "set up"...about 2 to 2 1/2 hours on the lure-spinning wheel versus Devcon at about 20 minutes or so. As a result, Envirotex will slow you're building process down a lot. You must be patient with the stuff, and there is far less margin for error. If you put it on too thick it will sag or create high spots and wavy lines in the finish. It probably should be allowed to cure for at least 24 hours before applying a second coat, or you'll risk and incomplete curing process. Allowing 48 hours or 72 hours for the first coat to cure would probably be even better to assure proper curing between coats. One can easily see how this slows the process of completing a bait.
Additionally, Envirotex seems to be a dust particle magnet.
It almost seems to have a static charge that attracts dust particles when applied in "normal" thickness, which is the thickness you get if you mix it and begin applying it immediately (more on that in a moment).
Both Devcon and Etex are difficult to sand.
Any errors in application, any dust boogers or dirt or paint particles that drift through the finish during application, are hardly easy to sand out afterward. But errors can be removed from both with patience, time, elbow grease, a keen eye for detail, and the appropriate grade of sandpaper.
Envirotex is a softer finish.
It has some "give" to it and this is what prevents it from chipping and being prone to scratching and hook rash. But because of its softer finish, it is also prone to taking on the shape of whatever is laying against it if it is subjected to higher temps even after it is cured. In other words, if you leave it laying against something in the sun, for example, it might take on the impression of what its pressed against.
Which do I prefer?
Lol, I've been building baits in one form or another for about 13 or 14 years, and I've been chopping wood for hard baits since early 2005 and I'm still not sure. I like them both and I hate them both.
For looks, I'll take Envirotex any day. Its just a prettier finish overall. If I'm going to subject a bait to the rigors of fishing, I'd turn to Devcon for its toughness and strength.
At this point in time, I'm trying to make peace with Etex.
I've tried it several times in the past and put it aside because its too slow and too fussy to deal with. But as Jules said in Pulp Fiction, "I'm trying, Ringo, I'm trying." I love the look of the stuff, and I'm trying to see if I can blend the two types on the same bait to see how it will work out in the long run.
I've had the pearl bellies on just a few
of my earlier baits yellow a bit, using Devcon. Now you'd never
notice it if I showed you the baits, but I do. Only another certifiably-insane lure building addict would understand how that makes me crazy.
For now, here's what I'm doing:
I'm sealing the baits with Minwax sanding sealer and then applying a coat of one or the other before priming. I then secure the lip with Devcon 2 ton epoxy. I am experimenting with a few baits to see if I can get away without resealing around the edges of the lips with a second coat of Devcon. Not sealing around the edges of the lip a second time makes me a bit edgy as to whether or not the lip will remain sealed, but I'm trying it anyway because I'm trying to eliminate what might be an unnecessary step in the process.
Beyond sealing the lip with Devcon, I'm currently using strictly Envirotex.
I've discovered a few things about Etex that I'd like to share...
If you mix it and allow it to sit for about 20 to 25 minutes
, it goes on much
thicker. It also behaves much better; not so prone to running. But this is a very delicate balance. Put it on too thick and it will give you a very slightly "wavy" finish instead of a perfectly smooth one (which doesn't bother me all that much), and it is prone to sagging on the drying wheel.
On smaller baits, such as bass and walleye baits, where a thinner epoxy coat is required, just apply either type of epoxy immediately after mixing it. Too thick of a coat of epoxy of any type may have an adverse effect on smaller baits. Also bass and walleye baits do not have the risk of being pierced by musky teeth.
Unlike Devcon-finished baits, you cannot just slap Etex on your bait, stick it on the drying wheel, walk away, and forget about it.
You must monitor the bait on the wheel for about 45 minutes to perhaps an hour. If it sags on the bait, you must remove the bait, remove the excess Etex, and return it to the wheel.
Allowing the Etex to sit for 20 minutes prior to application to the bait also seems to remove that seemingly static charge, which attracts dust particles form the air somehow. Letting it sit seems to yield a much more booger-free finish for some reason.
My man, Tigger, tells me that he heats his Etex
in a microwave before application. I haven't tried that yet, but I may. If you look at his baits, you quickly learn to listen carefully when he talks about finishes.!%
You must rotate Etex quickly after you pass the heat gun over it...
I hold all my baits in a small pair of vice grips. I clip them in by the tail hook-hanger for certain paint applications and when applying Devcon or Envirotex. I've noticed that when I hit the Envirotex with the heat gun to remove the bubbles, you must immediately
being to rotate the bait in your hand (by way of rotating the vice grips) for a minute or so to prevent sagging. It isn't that tricky, but you must rotate the bait for a few seconds and let the Etex cool a bit before taking it to the drying wheel, because it will want to sag. It does flow out nicely though and will "level out" for you. I try to keep the bait parallel to the ground so that the Etex does not run toward the head or tail section of the bait.
Enough for now.
Hope that helps our newer builders and I welcome all opinions, whether it be from the newer guys or the old salts.