Anglers looking to catch a large string at Greers Ferry Lake don't need to look any further than Tumbling Shoals where 75-year old Fred Carpenter hand crafts durable, affordable fishing lures that have caught the eye of many fish, and fishermen, from this area and beyond.
After many years of trolling the reservoir and learning its intricacies, Carpenter said he began designing his “Fish Dinner Lures” specifically for Greers Ferry's conditions. Now he also produces some special orders for guides on the Little Red River and fishermen from seven different states with various needs.
“White and silver is the color on this lake,” Carpenter said. “The big [companies] like Rapala make lures designed to catch fishermen with all of their color designs. These are designed to catch fish.
“Look at that Rainbow trout,” added Carpenter as he pointed to a manufacturer's magazine. “That is just a picture placed onto a spoon. It's not going to catch a rainbow trout. I have yet to see a fisherman out-fished with a white or silver. Everything I make is a white base, which is the color of choice out here on the lake.”
The lures are unique in that they can catch all species of fish available on Greers Ferry while covering a wide range of water depths. “Before I sold these lures wholesale, I worked with a couple of guides on the lake and ended up finding just how I wanted to fish. So, the lures are my choice for fishing on the lake. I will make custom lures but they pay a little extra for them.
“My lures are unique in the fact that every lure I make, with exception to the spinners, can be fished from top to bottom. My topwater lures are sinking. They are weighted and sink but are designed in such a way they reel back in real fast, come up to the surface and skip along the surface like a fleeing shad,” added Carpenter while displaying a worn down white shad bait he used to catch 95 hybrid and white bass in five days. “I am going to frame that one,” he chuckled, pointing out the eye was partially missing from one side. “Their teeth have just worn it out and I use a five-coat process to paint them. They are all hand-brushed.”
Carpenter got the idea to mold and construct his own baits from an old friend.
“I retired 14 years ago and actually couldn't afford to keep buying new lures because I had lost so many on this lake because there are so many trees out here,” said Carpenter. “A friend of mine said, 'Why don't you try and build some.'
“I got a catalog with components and started making my own lures and pretty soon I started catching so many fish out there that everybody was wanting to buy them. It was nothing big until about four years ago,” added Carpenter.
Page 2 of 3 - Known as the premier fishing guide on Greers Ferry Lake, Cody Smith of www.fishgreersferry.com uses Carpenter's baits because they get the job done. “He does custom stuff for me all the time,” said Smith. I can't say enough about his stuff. It works. He is one of the best in the business. He is a great guy and knows his business.”
Smith said it's hard to pick a favorite lure. “The Fish Dinner Lineup of baits is really diverse, so to pick my favorite is a very hard task. While working with Fred Carpenter and testing these lures in the design stages I've personally caught thousands of fish on his line up of baits and have 100% confidence in the lures. He has developed a series of artificial baits that fit most every situation the angler may encounter while on the water pursuing an array of species.
“If I had to pick just one lure...The Cindy K Spinner would win out. The ease of use factor often makes it my first choice for putting my clients on action from the get go. Even before I can establish the ability of my clients I can put the "Cindy K" in a beginner or seasoned vets hands and have confidence that they are going to get a bite from the moment the bait hits the water,” added Smith.
“The "Cindy K" is an awesome search and destroy bait,” Smith continued. “The angler can cover lots of water at many different depths just by changing the presentation and speed of the retrieve. Relying on my electronics heavily I can direct my anglers to present the lure at key levels in the water column where the fish are holding. Our catch to cast ratio dramatically increases once our speed and presentation is dialed in for the day. The Cindy K is a slightly smaller and more compact version of Fred's original creation "The Glitter Spinner.”
“I really prefer this more compact version the majority of the time here on Greers Ferry as our bait fish population is primarily made up of Thread Fin Shad. These shad only grow to 5" long during their lifetime and most don't make it past three inches. In designing this lure we went through lots of sizes, paint combinations, blades, weights and colors tweaking it so when it comes out of the package you can have 100% confidence it's ready to catch fish,” concluded Smith.
Carpenter estimates he makes an average of 1,600 lures per year.
“I produce them one at a time everything from scratch. I use wires to cut, bend and shape. I bend every wire one at a time. Some have nine bends before I can pour lead around them or plastic around them. I build my own molds out of rubber.
“It takes me all week to make 100 lures and I will spend 50-60 hours to make those 100 lures. I probably only make $ 1.50 a lure so I work for next to nothing. I might sell $250 worth of lures and take about 60 hours to do it.”
Page 3 of 3 - Carpenter is currently undergoing treatment for cancer found in three different areas. He said he is winning the battle right now, but needs the extra income to help cover insurance premiums for his medicine. “I was suffering the financial stress of three major cancer surgeries and that kinda wiped me out of retirement so I needed to supplement my income.”
Carpenter's lures range primarily from $2.90 to $4.50 and can be purchased at fishdinnerlures.com or four stores, including Golden Outdoors and Angler's Depot in Heber Springs, and Fish N' Stuff locations in Higden and Sherwood.