Matt Thayer is carving, turning, painting
“Yeah, I eat, sleep and breath fishing,” Matt Thayer said. That’s not unusual in our part of the world, where we enjoy easy access to fresh and salt waters but Matt’s equally immersed in the sport and business. He’s a woodworker, boat builder, teacher, fisherman and from his home base shed and six foot workbench, a world class lure creator. “Matt is definitely an old soul with a strong skill set for building some incredible lures, especially his wooden plugs,” said Bob Buscher, the man who caught a thousand largemouth in 2019. “Matt’s custom made plugs pass the test,” said South County bass fisherman Aaron Flynn, being almost as modest about how well Klondike Custom Creations attract fish as Matt is when speaking to his art. It’s very clear, Matt is a rising star.
“For about six years I’ve been heavily fishing, like twice a week but I’ve fishing my whole life. My father would take me trout fishing, I did a little light saltwater stuff with him and my grandfather,” Matt said. Those good days lit a spark. “Ever since I got out of high school, I started fishing hard,” he said, which lead to turning his creating the finest fishing lures. “I started just for myself. I started making my own spinner baits because I couldn’t find the single Colorado blade type that I liked.” His spinner baits are in high demand now. “I’m known as the spinner bait guy,” he said with a laugh.
It’s also clear Matt is inspired. After graduating the Chariho Regional High School carpentry program, he quickly realized framing houses or “ground up” carpentry wasn’t his true path. “I wanted to learn the finer side of carpentry,” Matt said. He was drawn to finish work, detail work, time consuming art with wood. Planing, turning, sanding, understanding, seeing something inside a slab of cedar or white pine; it takes not solely patience but communion with your medium to produce excellence, so for two years he studied at the International Yacht Restoration School in Newport. “I wanted to learn the process of working on a wooden boat.”
Thayer creates some of the finest fresh and saltwater lures anywhere
“I was a wood turner when I started, now I’m a very proficient wood turner,” Matt said with typical modesty. Watch Matt turn a rectangle of cedar, shavings piling on his arm, his hands moving right to left, same speed for two passes, slower now, even pressure now, light on the left, turning the wrist just so. Watch as a popper’s wide mouth quickly emerges. It’s magic to see something so pretty come from working hands and even more so when it later calls a big largemouth to attack. “I’ve learned a ton just from trial and error,” he said. “Especially with the wood baits, it combines woodworking and fishing.” Matt works with pine and cedar for their buoyancy and ability to handle weight from lead or wire. Most of his Klondike Custom Creations require 48 hours from start to finish.
“I taught myself about painting, clear coats, aqua-dynamics, weight placement. Weight placement is very tough. At first I said, no, I’m not going to learn how to airbrush,” he laughed. He worked just with just black or white. “I started off with a no name compressor and airbrush. I’m not the best with the airbrush, but I can get by. Never thought I would ever, ever airbrush…The most challenging are the, and I don’t make a lot of them, the big winged baits, called crawlers or creepers, like a Heddon Crazy Crawler. They weigh three ounces, it’s an eight inch cedar bait,” he said before pausing. “It’s definitely starting to become a business for sure, I’m in a few shops in RI.”
Much of Matt’s momentum results from meeting fishermen who ask him what will work. “A lot of guys don’t throw the spinnerbait, but they’ll ask me what color I’m throwing at a particular lake,” he said. Matt is a young guy who’s been creating bass lures for just five years and already people are asking him what they should use in ponds statewide. And he knows what to tell them, which is not some simple sales pitch but an experienced answer to a question he’s asked himself. He offers advice on color and size and then maybe takes an order. “Gold willow blades, we can do that!” he said, laughing.
“I am really close with Matt, he’s a great dude! I have fished with some of his homemade baits and have caught fish while using them. I have caught some good fish using his chatter baits,” said David Smith, friend and avid bass fisherman. “He also puts together some great color combos on bladed jigs and spinnerbaits,” said Buscher. “I’ve caught some monsters this year on his gold bladed chatter baits. That over-sized chatter blade makes a mega vibration like no other with plenty of flash as well. When you need to get the fishes attention, that’s the bait to throw,” said Aaron Flynn. “The spinner bait is the go-to lure but the SkitterWake is a winner at night,” Matt offered.
He’s modest about his art and potential
So just a few years into the art and business of creating the finest fishing lures, Matt Thayer has the best names in the sport raving about his talents. They share pictures of fish landed with his lures, helping to build his new business. All the while, he’s teaching boat building at the Westerly Education Center and competing in bass tournaments around the state. Next month he’ll fish South Kingstown’s Worden Pond.
In typical humble style, he said, “It’s been on my miss list, not my hit list.”
“I can’t even tell you how many spinner and buzz baits, chatter baits, jigs, etc. I’ve made. Close to 1500 I guess.” Add to that another 250 wood lures. Tackle wholesaler Lure Parts Online now carries his work, proving Matt’s talent is exceptional and in demand. Hope Valley Bait & Tackle in Richmond, The Tackle Box in Warwick and Big Bear Bait & Tackle in Pascoag carry his fresh water plugs while his saltwater selection, including pencil poppers and spooks, can be purchased at Breachway Bait &Tackle in Charlestown.
“Not a lot of older guys like my stuff. The younger guys do,” Matt said.
Change often is hard, especially if you’re stuck on four inch black rubber worms but considering the craftsmanship, detail and perfect balance Matt builds into his Klondike Custom Creations, many old timers might just reconsider when they’re asking for counsel from one of the most talented and modest young fishermen on the water.