my fishing cape cod logo

How to Build a “Surfster” Metal Lip Swimmer

When I first bought my lathe in 2008, the first thing I did was drive down to Cape Cod Tackle to load up on every supply and lure part I could get my hands on.

While browsing the overwhelming variety of metal lips, one stuck out to me in particular - the surfster lip. It's heavy lip and distinctive cup convinced me to add it to my bag of goodies. 

When I got home, I decided that I would use the surfster lip to build my first ever saltwater lure. Even though the plug has a very traditional shape, I was excited to see the results of making modifications to this time-tested design. 

More...

The "Traditional" Surfster

Knowing what I know now, I built my first surfster completely wrong. Traditionally, the surfster is an unweighted surface lure, designed to have a tail-wagging action and lots of roll, leaving a distinctive v-wake in it's path. 

The surfster excels in calm water, becoming borderline useless in rough surf, strong current, or even if retreived too quickly. Since the plug is unweighted, surfsters will cast even more poorly than the typical metal lip swimmer.

A classic Creek Chub Surfster - from Joe's Old Lures

However don't let this negativity disuade you. The "surfster" style lure goes back decades, and has caught countless fish, but for the saltwater fisherman, it is certainly a niche lure, suited best for calm waters. 

Building the Surfster

So how then does one build a "proper" surfster? Traditionally, the plug is unweighted, relying on duel belly hooks to keep the lure on keel. Some builders will weight the surfster, adding a belly weight just forward of the center point of the lure.

The heavy cupped lip also lends the lure a surprising amount of weight, causing the plug to swim with it's tail up. The widest part of the lure should be it's middle point, and the top of the front 1/3rd of the lure should be sanded into a slope.

Some of my small surfsters - at 5.5 inches in length.

Perhaps the best modern rendition of the surfster is the "Troublemaker" surfster, and I would encourage anyone interested in building a traditional version of this plug to study them.

It is not uncommon to see surfsters made with a traditional "z style" lip as well. 

Tailoring the Surfster to Your Needs

Back in 2008, when I first experimented with this plug, I knew none of this. I didn't know it at the time, but I learned a valuable lesson that day; there is more than one way to make a cake.

For the first surfster that I built I weighted the nose of the lure, between the single hook and the lip, and built the widest part of the lure at roughly a third of the way up along the plug.

Interestingly enough, the lure swims almost identically to how a surfster should swim, despite being a seemingly different lure in design and appearance. 

Another one of my "surfsters."

I actually still build my own "surfsters" this way.

I've found that by leaving the head rounded, without the traditional sanded down slope head, and a small weight in the chin, the lure still swims with the tail wag and roll that is characteristic of the surfster.

The lesson here isn't just about what makes a surfster a surfster, but to remain open minded when experimenting and building lures.

The fun thing about this hobby is that you can build whatever you want - just be sure to create plugs that best meet the conditions you fish. 

Thanks for reading! I hope you give the surfster a shot.

What do you think?

Let me know by commenting below.

Connor has two goals; to build the best custom wood lures possible, and to help you catch more fish! Connor’s business is called “Washed Ashore Fishing” and some of his most popular plugs include the Slim Eel Swimmer and the Small Surfster.

Leave a Comment