Roberto Pulido is a legendary South Texas Tejano singer, and when he is not on tour making music you can usually find him out hunting or fishing, that is when he is not in his workshop handcrafting fishing lures made from deer antlers.
"I'm a musician, and I think art and music go together," Pulido says, as he works a hunk of antler into the shape of a topwater lure. "I started this hobby about five years ago."
Pulido says his first creations were not real pretty, but he kept refining them, and now he has some shapely designs that do more than look good on the work bench. "I like to experiment until I hit the nail on the head. Man, believe it or not, they are working. I guess it's the thrill that you make it work out of a product that you started from scratch."
"I don't sell them. I give them to my friends to try them out. I always ask them, just take a picture." He has quite a collection of snapshots scattered around his workplace that show happy anglers with a variety of fish from trout and reds to impressive offshore catches like big ling.
He recalls with a smile one of the early fishing trips he made with a handful of his antler lures. "I asked my friend, hey why don't you try one of these?" But his fishing companion was skeptical of Roberto's homemade lures and replied, "Well, let me catch some fish with my lure first, and then I'll try one."
"I went out there and caught three trout before he caught one," Pulido says with a laugh. "Man, he was asking me for that lure, and you know, he started catching fish. We ended up catching our limit"
"I'm hooked on it, okay. I spend so much time here in my office/garage, but it relaxes me. I have to be doing something. I just cannot sit on my butt and do nothing," he says with a grin. You have to make time for something that's relaxing. A lot of people like golf. I find happiness in doing something like this."
He makes three basic bay lures, one a slender three and a half inch or so topwater with a single treble hook attached. He also makes a smaller topwater and a spoon. All the lures are cut from shed antlers that he has collected and then sanded into the shape he desires. He then coats them with a clear resin and applies a custom color scheme that varies from lure to lure. The bigger bay topwaters have realistic eyes firmly glued in place as do his offshore creations.
Each lure retains the natural beauty of the individual antler that it came from. They are remarkably durable, and every lure he makes is one of a kind. "When we pick up the sheds every animal's antlers are different, and every lure is unique. A lot of people I give them to don't want to use them, they just want to keep them, but I want people to use them."
"I guess one of the biggest thrills is when you go fishing and you catch some fish and then you make some ceviche!" says Pulido with a sparkle in his eyes.
Captain Gilbert Vela is no stranger to the allure of Roberto's creations. "Roberto and I have been fishing together for years and years," Vela says, as we pull out of the slip at Jims Pier on South Padre Island. "It was probably about five years ago when I threw the first one out, and they work. They work like a little jerk bait or topwater. They will sink, but they stay on the surface pretty well."
It's a perfect morning to test out the lures "de cuerno" and Roberto has brought a couple of bags full. "Man, I love it out here," he says as Vela cuts the motor, and we prepare to make our first cast. The wind is just strong enough for a slight chop, and the sun is unobstructed by clouds for optimum sight casting.
Within minutes, a nice trout slams into one of Roberto's little topwaters. "This boy, he was pretty hungry," Roberto says as he lifts the trout aboard."
After a little more trout fishing, we decide to try a special point where Gilbert says we just might be able to snare a snook. On his third cast, Gilbert sets the hook on a lively "robalo". It is not a common snook however, but a fat snook. Fat snook don't get nearly as big as common snook and this one is pushing 20 inches. "This is one of the biggest fat snook I've ever had on my boat," Gilbert says admiringly and then releases the fish.
Okay, chalk up another species for the lures "de cuerno." Now it's time to try for some big game. Gilbert cranks up the engine and we head for the flats in search of redfish.
"We got a redfish! Una Corbina!" Roberto exclaims. "Yes, it's ceviche time," he exults as Gilbert nets the heavy fish.
Captain Vela has put us on the fish. We pick up several more reds, and then Gilbert and Roberto get a double hookup. One of the reds is a brute, and soon Gilbert and Roberto are doing the redfish fandango on the bow as they dance about lifting and dipping rod tips trying to keep their lines from crossing.
"Whoa, this guy's a whooper!" Vela says, as he slides the 30 inch plus red onto the boat. When he hoists the fish, the top of the antler lure is hardly visible in the reds gaping mouth. "You can just barely see it. He just inhaled it."
The lures "de cuerno" have proven effective this day. It has been a great day of fishing with friends, and now its time for some seviche.
"My dad would tell me, Roberto, you are making all this stuff and you are always giving it all away. I said, Dad, you know sometimes you give something away and you see a big smile on somebody's face, hey; there is no money that can replace that."
Copyright 2007 Richard Moore