Anglers are always looking for ways to gain an edge, but that doesn’t mean always having to buy the latest big-name brand.
There are many ways to improve your favourite lures, often with items you might have around the house. Here are some tricks for making baits better.
Eyes on the prize
Adding 3D eyes, particularly to swimbaits and drop-shot baits, is an emerging trend for soft-plastic baits. While a few companies do this with their more expensive soft-bait offerings, there are many baits that would benefit from 3D eyes. Imagine your favourite fluke or creature bait with some extra flare. All you need is a few sizes of 3D eyes and a dab of superglue.
3D eyes can be relatively expensive. If you plan to throw a lot of these baits, you may want to buy them in bulk from overseas manufacturers via AliExpress.
Alternatively, you can trick out 2D eyes for a fraction of the cost. To do this, add a small drop of epoxy to each eye while still on their sticker sheets. Mix the epoxy properly, so it remains clear, and you won’t be able to tell the difference between commercial 3D eyes and your substitutes.
High-end jigs often have hand-tied skirts, because no one likes it when the rubber band on their favourite lure comes off. If you are paying extra for hand-tied jigs, consider buying a less expensive jig and rewrapping the skirt yourself. It’s easy, especially if you have a vise. Insert the jig in the vise, secure the skirt out of the way, and tightly wrap your thread ahead of the band. Be generous and tight with your overlapping wraps, then whip-finish your thread and remove the old band. A bit of superglue on top never hurts.
While you’re wrapping, consider adding in some flashabou or marabou strands to give your jig some extra flash and action.
Eyes wide open
Most jig heads on the market are powder-painted with paint on the hook eye. While you can still tie a knot through them, this paint usually chips, creating a rough edge right where you don’t want one.
Many retailers sell unpainted jig heads with high-quality hooks. With a pack of these and a container of powder paint, you can one-up many products on the market. When powder painting your own jigs, set a small piece of shrink tubing over the hook eye before heating and dipping it. Once dipped, remove the tubing before curing your jig in the oven.
I’ve always saved my broken plastics until the end of the year to recycle them into new baits. I sort them by colour, melt them in a microwave until they reach a liquidy 350°F, and inject them into a new mold.
Recently, I’ve experimented not only with melting baits, but melting used pieces together in different ways. Melting an extra set of flapping claws or twisting appendages from one torn bait onto another will get extra life out of old plastics. By getting creative, you may even stumble on a winning combination.
Though requiring some initial investment, a lead melting pot and jig mold or two can save a ton of money in the long run and open a world of customization opportunities.
High-end jigs are expensive. Save by buying the hooks separately for use in your own molds. You can also alter molds to fit unique hook sizes and produce jigs that aren’t commercially available. Consider, for example, putting a 1/0 jig hook in a 5 ⁄8-ounce tube jig mold to create just the jig you need to drag a mini-tube in 40 feet of water.
Originally published in Ontario OUT of DOORS’ 2023 Fishing Annual