Some find solace resting on the sandy, sugar-white shores of the Gulf Coast. Others find satisfaction in books, escaping from reality with the turning of every page. For Russell County welder Marvin Pope, happiness comes when he’s surrounded by schools of fish — real and artificial.
In a shop behind his Phenix City home, Pope handcrafts unique fishing lures. For nearly 20 years, his hobby has brought him joy and food to the table. And for those who’ve been lucky enough to own one of his prize lures, the results have been just as good.
“I’ve been making lures for at least 18 years,” explained Pope, 59, an avid bass fisherman. “I got into it because I didn’t like some of the stuff on the market. I wanted to change it, so I did.”
The changes seem to have worked for Pope, who said it’s been ages since he’s bought a lure. With the exception of the clear plastic lure bodies, which he uses as the raw base of his crankbait designs, every lure Pope uses and sells is 100 percent original. For his best-selling wooden frog lures, he hand carves and paints the bodies, fashioning them with “legs” and hooks once fully dry.
“Word got out about the frogs, and now I’ll have people come up to me when I’m out in town wanting to buy any lures I may have with me in the truck,” he said. “They just love ‘em. I have a guy in Brazil right now waiting on a few of them, too.”
Upon examining his workshop’s sea of lures, it’s easy to see Pope is the angler’s version of a modern-day Van Gogh. However, instead of canvas he uses lures; and in place of oil-based paints he uses cans of KRYLON spray paint. It took the better part of two years to perfect his painting technique, but Pope said he enjoyed the learning curve.
“I started by airbrushing the lures, but it didn’t take long to realize that wasn’t going to cut it. I just didn’t get the effect I wanted,” he said. “So, I moved on to canned paint, and it’s worked for me ever since. The quality is much better, and it only takes me about 10 minutes to paint a five-color lure.”
A fishing fan since childhood and a collector of lures for more than 30 years, Pope said he’s seen his share of fish break the line and get away. But, he’s also reeled in more fish than he can count – a feat any outdoorsman hopes to achieve. To hear him tell it, though, his wife’s heart is the best thing he ever caught.
“She’s my best buddy, my partner in crime,” he said of his wife of 41 years, Dianne. “And I reckon she’s got me pretty much broken in the way she wants by now.”
Though she doesn’t quite share her husband’s love of reeling in trophy fish, she does share a sense of pride when discussing his talents.
“He can make anything, fix anything, build anything,” said Dianne, smiling as she recalls her husband’s handiwork. “He loves fishing, but because he works so hard, he doesn’t always have as many opportunities as he’d like to be on the water. Making these lures is the next best thing — he gets to do what he loves, which is stay busy, and he gets to surround himself with fish, only we don’t have to clean them afterwards.”
To allow others to reel in as much success in the water as he’s found, Pope offers anglers the ability to purchase lures he has made and tested over the years through his side business, Royce Lures. Prices range between $7 and $12, depending on the style.
A fisherman at heart, he also recognizes some lures are too good to toss aside. For these, Pope offers a custom repainting service for $5. Lures can look just like they did when originally purchased, or he can use a new color scheme – whatever the customer wants.
Contact Pope via email at firstname.lastname@example.org to purchase Royce Lures or to submit a refinishing request.