LEGACY LIVES ON - Like father, like son; Mo Helton crafts cobia lures (VIDEO)
Standing in his makeshift workshop in the garage making Ding-A-Ling cobia lures, Mo Helton tends to get a little emotional this time of year.
“I tear up all the time when I start making them,” said the 57-year-old Helton as he dipped another jig head in the paint Thursday afternoon. “I just start thinking about when I was 11 and 12 years old and helping him with them.”
Mo is the son of cobia legend Frank Helton who died in October 2012. Out of Frank’s love for cobia fishing, he developed a cobia lure in the mid-60s that he dubbed a Ding-A-Ling.
Over the years the lure has progressed, Mo said.
“At first it was like rope and we had to untwist it, but it worked good,” Mo said.
“Then we progressed to deer hair, but it’s hollow, so it breaks and doesn’t last. Then we found this hair … it’s a nylon, really small nylon. We’ve been using that for years.”
Before Frank passed away, Mo promised his dad that he would continue to make the jigs which he has done for the last three years.
Just last year, Mo sold 16 dozen of the Ding-A-Ling lures east of Destin in Panama City.
“Frank never sold a jig east of Destin, ever.”
“I pretty much can sell as much as I want,” he said, noting the lures are as popular as ever.
The Ding-A-Ling goes for $10 a lure, however, Mo says he sells them cheaper by the dozen.
It also comes in a rainbow of colors and a couple of different size jig heads.
“I get a lot of requests for orange,” he said, noting he makes them to order.
As for the jig heads they come in 2-5/8 ounces or 1-7/8 ounces and all are outfitted with 9 ought Mustad hooks.
It takes Mo about four days to complete a jig.
He does it all, from pouring the lead in a mold, painting the jig and wrapping it with colored hair.
“I’ve got all the colors,” he said pointing at the many small bundles of colored hair on his work table.
The painting of the jig is a timely process. He puts on two coats of paint, then color paint, and finishes it off with a clear coat.
“I’ve got 22 dozen here right now, and hopefully I’ll have these done by Monday,” he said.
And out of the 264 Ding-A-Lings hanging on his wall, 214 are already sold.
“But I’m still taking orders. Just call,” he said.
With cobia season just days away, Helton figures he’ll probably make about 35 to 40 dozen when it’s all said and done this season.
Can a Ding-A-Ling dial up a ling?
“I remember when we threw the first orange jig,” Mo said.
He and his buddy Jim Bryan were fishing with Capt. William Frank Davis when they found of pair of cobia, often called ling, on the bar, going out of the Pass.
After a little coaxing, Bryan threw the orange jig.
“The cobia went to the bottom and ate the jig,” Mo said.
When fishing for ling, anglers have been known to use eel, tube lures and jigs.
“The jig is going first. I’m always going to throw the jig first,” he said.
“If you have a good driver at the wheel and a good driver on the pole,” it can be done, Mo said.
Last year when fishing the Crab Cruncher tournament with Capt. Tommy Green, they spotted a cobia.
“We threw an eel at it and it wouldn’t take it. Then I threw a jig at it … that fish went nuts,” Mo said.
“I don’t know if it’s the color or the action.”
“I think it’s the guy working it, and making it work.”
And making the Ding-A-Ling jig work, was something that Frank Helton knew how to do.
Mo recalls a day he got a call from his dad asking him to come over right a way. Knowing his dad was 80, Mo rushed to Fort Walton Beach to his dad’s home.
Upon entry, his dad goes over to his work bench and picks up a jig and hands it to him and says, “use this.”
His dad had made a new multi-colored Ding-A-Ling.
Not questioning the wisdom of his dad, Mo has used the jig time and time again.
“Every fish I’ve thrown it at, has gobbled it up,” he said.
How did Frank know what would work?
“Because he’s bad ass and knows what’s going on. He’s a freaking legend.”
And Mo is honoring his dad by continuing to do what he asked — make the Ding-A-Ling.
So, “I’m dipping jigs and getting ready,” Mo said.
“It’s my passion. It’s what I live for this time of year. It’s what I do.”
To order a lure, call Mo at 850-978-0760.