My Job is Not Glamorous
My clothing is trashed and I have resin in my hair
I love the reactions when people ask me what I do for a living. Sometimes I get three heartbeats of a blank stare. Sometimes a little frown of incomprehension.
And then invariably I see a “WOW” skitter across their faces and hear the effusive, “Whoa, that is so cool!”
I make marlin lures. Great big, beautiful, colorful, intricate, performance-driven tackle. It is the proverbial labor of love.
There are plenty of people in this world that make fishing tackle. The shock factor is that;
- I am a woman, and
- I live in Montana.
Plying the seas for big predatory fish has primarily been male territory for many generations. I am so proud to say that there are amazing women making incredible strides in the sportfishing game these days. I’ve caught and fought (and released) more fish than I can count — many of them bigger than me. It is a physically taxing sport that requires dedication and passion.
But lure making?
Still mostly men in the arena when you’re talking about big offshore tackle. There are not very many of us artisans hand-crafting these lures on a full-time professional basis to begin with, so people are generally surprised at my odd vocation.
And while fishing is big business here in the mountain west, it’s clearly not the salt water variety. Fly-fishing locals tend to look puzzled when they see my giant, heavy lures that appear to be for dinosaur trolling.
The shock and awe are understandable. My online customers are mystified that a Montana fisherwoman can be a pro in the offshore world.
Marlin and all other billfish, as well as flashy and elusive pelagics like mahi-mahi, tuna, and wahoo, are the stuff of dreams and posters and tropical bucket-lists. So of course people think I live a charmed life with a dream job. It just sounds so badass.
But, like many professions, it is a struggle.
Lure-craft is an art, not a mass manufacturing junket, so profit margins are small. Some months I have not had a paycheck. I keep making.
Covid shut down all the big seaports for a time, and people quit fishing. I sold very few lures for a nearly a year. I scrambled, and kept going.
I spend countless hours on creative pieces that sometimes sell for far less than they are worth, and get requests for custom things that are often downright impossible (though I’ll usually give it a try.)
And sometimes it’s an ugly struggle.
I melt lead and probably breathe fumes, even though I wear my respirator. Shards fly off the band saw and prick my skin all around my safety glasses. I spill resin on my clothing, and catch my hair in the lathe. Yesterday I tore a fingernail off, and last month I smashed a finger in the pressure tank.
And after all that, I spend hours sitting up in bed at night on my laptop, editing photos and tending to my website.
Despite the challenges, I love what I do. I am a fisherman to my core, born of salt and sea, and a creator to boot. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
But it gives me new respect and consideration for all those that have the proverbial glam job. We look at fashion models and style mavens, envying their glamorous careers. How much of their punishing diets and crazy schedules are an ugly struggle that we don’t see?
A dear friend of mine is a professional chef, working on luxury yachts around the world. “Dream job,” you might say. “He’s so lucky!” But due to health concerns, this man cannot eat the wonderful food he prepares. He spends his days watching others play in the sand and sun while he works, just like the rest of us.
Common sense says that every occupation has its ups and downs, but we too easily forget.
We meet a broker or financial advisor with a fine home and fiscal security and say, “Wow, must be nice …” before we think about the ulcer she might have or the family he never sees.
Before I envy the dream someone else seems to live, I look down to see if there’s holes in her Jimmy Choos from the miles she put on them. Then I really just want to look her in the eye and shake her hand, and smile at a kindred spirit.