The Lure of Success

John "Bird" Miner makes fishing lures in Hawaii.

John “Bird” Miner
Sport fishermen turn to Kauai’s John “Bird” Miner for handcrafted lures and rods.Kristin Baird Rattini

John “bird” miner, founder of Hawaiian Sea Lures and Hawaiian ­Custom Rods, flips through fish photos on his phone with the same button-busting pride as a new parent. “This was the biggest ahi in Hawaii in 2018, caught on one of my lures,” he says. “This catch was from the Blue Marlin World Cup Championship.”

Since launching his handcrafted lure line in 1990, Miner has developed a devoted following among big-game anglers, with customers from Australia to Gabon to the Northern ­Mariana Islands. His vivid lures—with equally colorful names such as “Ice Man” and “Dirty Man”—are a fixture at Bisbee’s Black & Blue marlin tournament and other major cups.

He doesn’t have to look far for inspiration for his new creations. From his home studio in Hanapepe, Kauai, he can watch the ­Pacific waves roll in on the island’s southwest shore. At night, he can sometimes be found in those same waters, scooping up mullet that he dries and encases in some of his best-selling lures.

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“When it comes out of the mold, a lure looks rough,” he says. “But once I sand and polish to bring out that shine and luster, and I add the skirt, it’s a wow moment.”

How did you get the nickname "Bird"? I grew up in Rhode Island. As a kid, when I'd say my last name, it sounded like "myna," like the bird. It stuck. I now name a lot of my lures after different birds.

How did you get into lures? A friend wouldn't lend me his lure, so I decided to make my own, and they sold. I've always been good with my hands, and my dad was an artist, so I like to think I got some of my talent from him.

What do you ­enjoy about your work? I'm a creator. I'm putting something in the sea that seems so natural that fish can't tell the difference. That's thrilling.