Year of the Crank Bait Review : Custom Lures Unlimited Ikon/Ikon M2
||Custom Lures Unlimited
||Cal & Battisti
Total Score: 8.0 - GREAT
Forward by Terry Battisti: Although he didn’t know it at the time, Kelly Barefoot got his start in the bait making business as a young boy in the Cub Scouts when he fashioned a spoon out of a hunk of metal. As he grew up, he and his brother could be found at his father’s archery shop helping him make and paint custom arrows and bows. That experience got him interested in making topwater baits and pouring plastic worms.
Terry Battisti joins us on the California Delta for a day of tackle testing.
His father wasn’t the only mentor he had, though. His mother, heavy into crafts, would take him and his brother to pottery classes where he again worked on his painting skills.
The Ikon is part of CLU's Mike Ioconelli series of baits.
By the time he graduated high school in 1988 and headed to college, he had already mastered an airbrush. But while in college, Kelly turned his focus from bass fishing to saltwater fly fishing. The bait maker in him turned to tying saltwater flies and it’s a skill he still uses today for his baits that require a feathered treble hook.
Each of these square billed wooden cranks is hand carved.
After graduating college in 1995, Kelly returned to Raleigh, NC, known as the crankbait capital of the world, and began fishing any and every local tournament he could get into. At this time, he also got into carving his own crankbaits and was winning a number of tournaments on his own designs. That’s when he started his business custom painting crankbaits and selling the Haw River Humpback – his first crankbait design.
With amazing detail for a wooden bait.
By 2002, his painting business had grown immensely but he was getting burned out of just painting. On the side he had been carving baits and repairing old wood lures for anglers. That’s when he decided to introduce a line of injection molded baits to his customers.
The IKON is a three inch bait weighing a manufacturer specified 0.6 ounces.
In 2005, Jerry Wright of Save Phace found out about Kelly and asked him to paint Skeet Reese’s Phish Head mask. That one opportunity turned Kelly from a local lure painter and designer into a nationally recognized name.
The IKON M2 is a two point six inch (2.6") bait weighing in right at half an ounce.
But, with all this recognition, Kelly still wasn’t happy. He wanted to design and make wooden baits that were as successful as the old-time baits yet ones that had realism like the injection molded Japanese baits of today. In 2003, he set out on that quest.
Both baits feature a square, Lexan diving bill.
By 2006, his business had grown so big he had to make a decision whether or not to continue with the bait company or quit his job in childhood developmental pediatrics. With the support of his family, he resigned from his day job and became a fulltime lure designer.
The splatterback finish has become a signature paintscheme of CLU.
Since then, Kelly has released a number of successful wooden baits. The IKON and the IKON M2 are the most widely recognized. But Kelly is not one to rest on his laurels and has a number of new baits either on the design board or ready for production. Just wait until you see what Kelly Barefoot and CLU are getting ready to release
The Ikon has become one of Terry Battisti's go to baits
Introduction: Our introduction to Kelly Barefoot and Custom Lures Unlimited came in 2006, right on the cusp of his launch into a full time business model. I contacted Kelly for some custom painting services and it was at that time he shared with us his plans to build more hand carved wood baits. Finally, earlier this year, when he was ready to launch his IKON and IKON M2 baits, we reconnected resulting in today’s review. It was shortly after I had received our test baits from CLU that Terry Battisti and I spoke and I discovered they knew each other. Terry took the next opportunity he had to drive out to California so that he could join me on the water for a full day of fishing the CLU IKON and IKON M2.
Custom Lures Unlimited Ikon/Ikon M2
3" (0.6 oz) : 2.43" (0.5 oz)
9 standard + custom options
#4 (VMC Black Nickel)
$25 (custom options vary in price)
Impressions: The IKON is a hand crafted, three inch lure weighing in at just over half an ounce (CLU rates this lure at 0.60 ounces). It features a square diving bill made of Lexan, stainless steel components, and detailing reminiscent of plastic cranks – yet the IKON is made of wood. The IKON M2 is a smaller version of this same lure measuring in at just under two and a half inches and weighing half an ounce.
Here's the CLU Ikon in Bluegill.
Field Tests: I fished the IKON and IKON M2 on both the California Delta and Clear Lake using a variety of combos during our Year of the Crank coverage. The full day field test conducted with Terry was performed on the California Delta.
Another fabulous detail on many CLU baits is this crackle finish.