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Try bioplastic fishing lures

by Green Plastics


Mike writes in to ask:

I am interested in finding a eco-friendly replacement for plastisol for use in soft plastic fishing lures.  I have my own mould and make worms as a hobby.  I am concerned about the effect of plastisol on our waterways and our fish and am interested to see if you know of any solution.

The mold is 2 pieces and I pour the plastisol in using a pyrex measuring cup.

Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks for your email, Mike! I think this is a great project, and a perfect application for home-made bioplastic. These types of lures should be easy to make, and will be completely biodegradable in the environment.

Soft plastic fishing lures with moldsFirst, some background for people who might not be familiar with fishing lures. Soft plastic lures are produced from a liquid plastic plastisol. This material is manufactured as a white liquid about the consistency of water. When the plastisol is heated it turns clear and thickens to a material about the consistency of syrup, which upon cooling forms a soft plastic material. This is the basic material for making soft plastic lures.

Plastisol contains polyvinylchloride (PVC) and a plasticizer. The PVC is not biodegradable and will last many years in the environment. It will take a long time to break down, and will never actually biodegrade. Most soft lures also use substances called phthalates as plasticizers. Phthalates have been associated with public health risks.

The desire to fish in an ecologically responsible and safe way has been an increasing concern in recent years. One fun and very responsible way to make your fishing more ecologically responsible is to make your own environmentally-safe, bioplastic fishing lures.

If you want to make environmentally biodegradable molded fishing lures, the simplest moldable material is likely to be a gelatin viscose. One recipe for this material is described on p. 174 of the Green Plastics book. The basic recipe is this:

Combine 3.0 g (1/2 tsp) glycerol (ordinary drugstore variety) and 12.0 g (4 tsp) gelatin (ordinary supermarket unflavored gelatin) with 60 mL (1/4 cup) hot water.  You can feel free to experiment with adding small amounts of food coloring, as well, if you would like.
[This formula can be scaled up for larger amounts.]
Mix all of the ingredients together in the amounts above, and stir.  Keep mixing until there are no clumps, and heat the mixture to 95 C or to when it starts to froth (whichever comes first). Stir the mixture while you are heating it, and once it is at the right temperature (or starts to froth), remove the heat and keep stirring.  Scoop out excess froth with a spoon, and make sure there are no clumps.
Pour the hot clear liquid (in the bottom of the mixture) directly into molds of the desired size and shape. When dry, remove the objects from the mold and trim as needed.
You may need to play around and experiment with the exact proportions to get the consistency that you want.  Remember this simple rule: If you want it to be harder, use less glycerol; if you want it to be softer, use more glycerol. It may take up to several days to dry completely, depending on the temperature and humidity of the air in the place where it is drying.
But your end result will be safe and biodegradable: and the material will eventually swell and completely biodegrade in the presence of microorganisms.

Good luck, happy experimenting … and happy fishing!

Comments (14)

  1. ilker şah says:

    hi. I applied this recipe. when it was completely dry, I put in tap water but it was very sticky after a while and melted. what is wrong?

  2. John says:

    What can be done to make it more pliable? More stretchy, like plastisol.

    • Kingfisher says:

      This requires a special agent that prevents dissolution of the gel in water. It’s not so simple with the eco-friendly plastic.

      • John Petersen says:

        I see. I altered the recipe a bit and it made it alot softer but I’m still running into the issue of toughening it up without losing to much flexability. I will add cotton fibers to the mix and see how it turns out.

        I expect to lose some flex, but it may hold together better after a bite or two than with nothing in it at all, sort of like coating fiberglass.

        Is there an eco friendly sealer that can be applied to the outside of these baits made of bioplastic?

  3. Camilla Winther Nissen says:

    Have you found a solution regarding it not dissolving when getting in contact with water?

    • For me–Yes and no, it’s suppose to biodegrade, just not on the hook. A lot of progress has been made, you can see what has been going on here https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10202218357690285.1073741855.1530113827&type=1&l=f0b4db6681

      I altered the recipe 9 or 10 times. I did find a couple of recipes that held up in water for 10 hours without much degradation, but those recipes wouldn’t hold on the hook very well. But they can’t still be used once the mold issue is resolved. I began running into the issue of them molding while in a plastic bag at the 5 day mark. I think the mold issue is now under control, we’ll see in a week or two.

      Once the mold issue is under control, the plan is to move on to colors and toughness. I’ve spoken with a pro fisherman who fishes the tournaments all the time and they are open to biolures, but I’m having an issue with keeping the cost down and finding the color white that is safe for the environment. I’ve also contacted the Fish and Wildlife Commission to determine whether it is a natural bait or a lure, because tournament anglers aren’t allowed to use natural bait. And it seems the line is blurred, because I can’t find white and am using fish scales to whiten it (which isn’t going very well), which makes it tilt more towards natural bait. I think once we come up with a final product, the recipe will determine what is what.

      It’s been a heck of a ride, and still a long ways to go.

      • Edit- They ^”Can” still be used once the mold issue is resolved.

        • Katrina Wert says:

          Hey John- Is there any way to get in contact with you for more information about your work with soft plastic lures making? I am working on a project testing the different biodegradation rates of store-bought and homemade plastic lures and would love more information on the various recipes you’ve used.

        • Katrina Wert says:

          It won’t allow me to leave a subject line but the first name on the request will be Trina. My final research report might even be helpful in writing grants and finding funding for your project/product as well.

          • johnepete says:

            I am looking for a way to get the information out to the people for free, but it does need to be funded. I should tell you though, anything we discuss will be in an open public forum, so the public can use the information and most importantly, it will become public domain, so that the information we’ve found can’t be protected and monopolized.

            With information this important, I don’t believe that people should have to pay for it. If you’re ok with that, we’re good to go.

        • Elwood Carter says:

          How can we keep them from becoming moldy?

          • johnepete says:

            I added salt to prevent mold Elwood. The baits still began breaking down fairly quickly in their package, they will stay intact for about 3-4 weeks before biodegrading.

  4. Sturla says:

    Have you tried titanium dioxide to get it white?
    You could also try citric acid as a preservative, most fish should like the taste of it too.