Got fishing fever? Here’s a fun project that will help get you through the last weeks of winter, and increase your on-the-water success in 2016.
Late winter is an ideal time for a little tackle maintenance, in preparation for spring. Now is also a great time to build some killer new bass jigs for the upcoming season. Why make your own jigs? There are several reasons, but one of the best is creating lures that your local bass have never seen. Whether it be the materials used or an all-too-common lure profile, bass can get conditioned to the “off-the-shelf” products that most anglers throw. But still another reason to “get creative” and make your own is my favorite: The process is simply a lot of fun. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Start With The Right Jighead
A custom-designed jig starts with the jighead. There are a wide variety of choices, but the jighead you use will be determined by the type of fishing you do. Do you fish for smallies when the water is still a bit chilly? If so, you might choose a ball-style jighead that works great when fishing vertically for suspended fish, or with a “float-n-fly” presentation that is so effective for cold-water smallmouth. You might want a football head for rocky points, or an “arkie-style” head for heavy cover. Remember the choices are all yours, and there are no “hard-and-fast” rules.
Skirts: Natural Or Synthetic?
Jig skirts come in so many different colors you could never use all the combinations available. Deer hair (bucktail), squirrel tail, and calf tail are all great skirt materials and they always will be, but these hair jigs are mostly used when the water is cold, or you find yourself fishing pressured waters. Silicone is the standard skirt material used in most modern jigs. Another popular material is living rubber. This unique skirt material adds more bulk and action than silicone. The downside to rubber skirts is they break down when stored in a plastic box very long, so I build rubber jigs as needed. The options are almost endless.
Heavy thread, available in most tackle or fly-tying shops, makes a good “finish wrap” for your custom jigs. The under-wrap here is wire, and is used as the primary skirt attachment for ultimate durability.
Many skirts come with bands for easy installation and these work great, but you can also purchase skirt material in bulk and make your own. Another option is to mix the strands/materials and tie them onto the jighead very similar to fly tying. This is more time consuming, but allows for a more-durable skirt. Using thread and glue, or even light wire, to attach the skirt to the jighead will enable your creation to handle all the abuse of serious fishing without coming apart, or sliding down the hook shank. Your skirt attachment method depends on how much you use your jigs, or how rough you fish them. Standard skirt bands are fine for the casual angler, but for a serious/tournament angler—someone who might make three or four times more flips in a day—thread and/or wire attachment is the way to go for your custom jigs, and is the only option when utilizing natural hair.
Add Some Sound Or Go Silent?
There are plenty of “after-market” rattles to choose from if you’d like your creation to have some built-in sound. Personally, I don’t throw a jig without a rattle, but it is definitely a personal preference. If you fish very clear water you might want to throw a silent jig. Most of the waters I fish are at least considered “murky,” and if the lake I’m fishing is clear, I look for areas of dirty water because that suits my style of fishing. As stated, in those cases I want a rattle, and if I don’t find dirty water anywhere on the lake then I will be throwing something more natural, such as a swimbait.
Rattles come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, but there a few “standard” methods to attach them to jigs. One such rattle has a band very similar to a skirt band—it slides over a jig’s flare collar and the rattle is retained by the band. This is a great way to attach a rattle to your jig, but again, this method tends to allow some “sliding” after a few hours of hard fishing. Another type of rattle has a recess in its end, allowing it to fit into a smaller band on the skirt band specifically made to hold these rattles. There are usually two of these rattle bands, allowing for the addition of one or two rattles to the jig. Personally, I like to tie my skirts on so I avoid rattle bands. I have found that the bands will just not hold up to my fishing style, causing me to lose many rattles. Here again, some anglers could use this rattle system without a problem, but I found I lost the rattles regularly even after gluing them in place. Typically, I realized I had lost the rattles when I stopped getting bites.
Here you can see how the rattle is tied into the jig with wire; this rattle won’t be coming off anytime soon. Building your own bass jigs is a great way to show your local bass something they have never seen.
My favorite rattle is a design made by Northland Fishing Tackle called the Buck-Shot Rattle. The strap has a knob on the end and allows you to tie the rattle in to your jig. You can either tie it in as you tie in your skirt, or wait until the skirt is secure and then go over the thread wraps to secure the rattle. This not only ensures your rattle will last the life of the jig; the wire wrap also adds to the durability of the skirt tie.
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Build A Better Mousetrap!
As you can see there are many options—and products—to help you build your own custom bass jigs, and you don’t need any special skills to pull it off. The aforementioned are just a few examples of your options; hopefully this article will get you thinking, and get your creative juices flowing. In no time, you’ll be “building a better mousetrap” for your local waters, or the waters you fish most frequently.
In the end, there are relatively few tools required to build custom jigs, and all are relatively inexpensive. But the payoff can be huge. At the very least, you’ve found a fun and relaxing pastime; even better is turning out a new “custom” design that seriously outfishes “store-bought” models, or turns an otherwise fishless day into one of the year’s best memories.