In the shop behind Heath Hernandez’s home, just outside of Youngsville, the owner of 2 Deep Lures demonstrates his craft, as he whips up a small batch of bass lures. He’s confident, quick, and precise – and he’s barely 12 years old.
In the time it takes him to explain how the 2 Deep name came about, he is practically done with the batch. “I’ve been fishing since I was able to walk,” he explains. “Around three years old, I was fishing at the bow of the boat with a Cars [movie] fishing pole. I was catching all of the sacalait, and my grandfather asked, like he always did, how deep I was fishing. My response was, ‘too deep.’ Plus, I am the second son in my family, and my dad called me ‘Number 2.’ So, that is how I got the name 2 Deep Lures.” A few minutes later, he pulls the jiggly worm-like baits from their molds.
Making lures is not entirely new to this fourth-generation angler. The six-grader has tinkered with them in the past, making a crude version of hard bait by gluing a beer bottle cap to a wine cork with two hooks. In March 2020, finding himself homebound, homeschooled and daydreaming of fishing, there was no better time to learn to make the soft plastic bait that his family has been fishing with for years. “All this time we’ve been fishing with soft plastics and never knew how they were made,” says Heath’s mother Blanche, who along with dad Kenneth was supportive when their son asked them to help him buy his first lure mold, some plastisol (a gel-like plasticizer) and coloring for about $100.
Most everything else needed to make the plastic critters can be found in the kitchen: a butter knife, Pyrex cups for melting the plastics, a microwave oven, measuring cup, a bait injector and (very important) heat-resistant gloves. “I’ve burned my hands a few times,” Heath admits.
During the COVID shutdown in 2020, the St. Cecilia student studied at home from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and then headed to his “bait- making station,” as he calls it. The shop is the ultimate man cave, packed with workout equipment, four wheelers, a dirt bike, a small bar area and a sofa. Over the bar hangs a photo of a 7-year-old Heath, with his brother and his dad, showing off the 100-pound tuna he caught.
A pegboard on the wall behind Heath’s station displays small bags of the eight different lures: Stanko 4”, Finesse Worm, Big Worm, Basin Bug, Sacalait Jig, Bay Bug, 6” Big Stanko and Fluke, all used to catch fresh and saltwater fish – bass, red fish, trout, flounder and sacalait.
One of the differences between a lure from 2 Deep and others on the market, Heath says, are the colors. “The fish like mine because they are colors they’ve never seen before,” he claims. (We’ll have to trust him on that one.) “One man wanted a custom color with no glitter; you can’t get that from a larger producer. Other companies use only five colors. I try different things to come up with interesting colors, like using paprika, sidewalk chalk – to look like the color of shad fish – Kool-Aid® powder with glitter, and I’ve tried coffee grinds.” Asked if the fish can smell the coffee scent, he responds without missing a beat, “It’s a good morning bait.” So, he’s witty, as well as polite and grounded. Noted by this writer.
Heath engages his Instagram followers for help in naming the colors of the lures, like the light blue with a smidgen of green and some glitter called Electruce and an aqua blue aptly named Deep Ocean. Winning entrants get a free pack of lures.
The backyard swimming pool has come in handy as an area to test his products and practice different ways to twitch and reel them in. “You just have to figure out what the fish want,” Heath says as he offers examples: a tougher rubbery bait for “toothier” salt water fish and then a slightly soft, chewier one that works well for fresh water. Casting into the pool like a pro, he says, “The way you work the lure is important. When you pull it hard, it makes a splash to attract the fish. A bass feels vibrations from a line on its side.” To test the lure on fish, he’ll go to a neighboring pond stocked with bass or he’ll bring a variety of bait to their camp at Toledo Bend, where he’s pulled in a 5 lb. 2 oz. bass.
Customers can purchase 2 Deep Lures on Facebook and Instagram, with prices ranging from $3 to $5 for packs of eight or 12. These days, Heath’s bass fishing lure Basin Bug is the bestseller and his “coolest looking lure – so far.”
Fulfilling and staying ahead of the orders is a responsibility he takes seriously. Working around homework, chores and football practice, Heath makes lures just about every day, for several hours – usually 200 a week, depending on the demand for orders. This fall, Heath entered 6th grade and plans on playing football, baseball and basketball. It will be a full schedule for him, understanding that school is the priority.
Since late December 2020, nearly 2,000 packs of lures have been sold to customers statewide, as well as in Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi. One customer commented that he caught tuna and mahi-mahi in Africa using the 2 Deep Lures. Business has grown, allowing this up-and-coming businessman (who has his own Venmo and bank accounts) to purchase a few more molds and supplies.
The young angler has been recognized in public, wearing his 2 Deep cap and shirt, as “the kid who makes lures.” Already the savy marketer, he plans to add branded shirts, neck gaiters and stickers to his merchandise line in the future. And his knowledge of fishing, particularly at such a young age, has made him a fresh and entertaining choice of guest speaker to small groups, like the Lafayette Chapter of the Bass Fishing Club and the St. Thomas More fishing team.
Operating a business has taught Heath valuable lessons that some business owners have yet to discover. He shares, “I’ve learned the responsibility of cleaning up your work area and making sure everything is perfect, like closing the plastisol container tightly so moisture doesn’t get in. You have to have what the customer wants – you can’t slack – and you have to love what you do.”
Asked if he foresees 2 Deep Lures becoming a full-time business, he gives the kind of slow motion, chin-to-chest nod that indicates an A-B-S-O- L-U-T-E-L-Y. And then the boy with the heart and soul of an 80-year-old fisherman blurts, “I’m gonna try to be a Bassmaster one day, too.” There is little doubt we will see Heath Hernandez not only in the Bassmaster Classic one day, but likely becoming its youngest champion. In the meantime, he will help others get there, one colorful lure at a time.