This guest post is by M. Roberts and entry in our non-fiction writing contest .
Jigs are a type of fishing lure which can be described as a large single hook having a painted lead head near the eye along with several strands of silicone attached to the head to form a skirt. They are intended to be used with soft plastic baits (aka “trailers”) which resemble crawfish, frogs, or other small critters; but trailers are sold separately as each angler prefers certain brands, colors, styles, and sizes. Professional anglers often use jigs because they have a solid reputation as a lure which attracts trophy-winning bass, but jigs can also catch other kinds of fish such as salmon and catfish.
After joining a local bass club I fished a lot more often and depleted my supply of fishing jigs rather quickly. During my first year in the club I spent over $200 replacing jigs I had lost or damaged. At $3-4 each my fishing hobby was becoming a very expensive one. After doing some research I discovered I could make my own jigs at home for a fraction of the price. I even sold a good number of them for a tidy profit. The equipment I purchased to begin this hobby paid for itself many times over and I’ll explain how I did it in this article.
First, a lead-melting pot will be needed. One can melt lead in an iron pot over a campfire and dispense it with an iron ladle if they desired, but I wanted something that was cleaner and safer to use. I chose the electric Lee Production Pot IV which costs about $50 and runs on standard household current. It has a stable base so it won’t tip over easily and the hot pot will melt up to 10 pounds of lead in about 20 minutes. Ten pounds sounds like a lot but it easily fits into the hot pot which is about the size of a quart-sized paint can. The hot lead flows like water and is dispensed from the bottom of the hot pot similar to the way ice cream is dispensed from a soft serve machine. The Lee Production Pot IV provides ample room to accommodate a mold into which the hot lead can be poured directly without spillage. A word of warning must be said here as liquid lead is very hot (621F) and breathing lead fumes can be hazardous to health so the hot pot should be used in a well-ventilated area along with safety goggles and gloves.
Second, one must have a mold which will be used to cast hot lead into the desired shape on a fishing hook. I tried making my own molds with mixed results, but the Do-It Mold company offers a large variety of high-quality aluminum molds which can be used to make jigs in a number of different sizes and styles. Prices vary but most of their molds sell for about $35-40 each. The mold is designed to be opened and closed like a book so the user can quickly and easily insert a hook and a weed guard pin into the mold cavity at the precise angle and position necessary to cast a quality jig. Once closed the hot liquid lead cannot escape the pre-cut mold cavity and it hardens quickly enough that it can be removed from the mold within seconds.
Lastly, a toaster oven will be needed to apply powder paint to the lead jig head. I bought mine from a thrift shop for $5 which features a temperature control and automatic shut off timer. I constructed a hanging rack using sheet metal and a metal clothes hanger which fits inside the toaster oven so I could hang and paint several jigs at once. It is important to suspend the jig by the hook inside the oven so the painted surfaces will be evenly coated.
The casting process is very simple. Place a fishing hook and weed guard pin in the mold and fold it closed, position the mold under the hot pot dispenser, pull the lever to dispense the appropriate quantity of lead into the mold, wait a few seconds for the lead to harden, open the mold and remove the formed jig by grasping the cool end of the hook. Remove the weed guard pin from the cast jig and repeat the entire casting process again.
Once you have cast a quantity of jigs it is time to move on to the painting process. Powder paint resembles flour and is available in a variety of different colors. First, insert a Teflon pin into the hole which was formed in the lead head by the weed guard pin during the casting process. After hanging a jig in the toaster oven for about 5 minutes at 300F it is removed with pliers and dipped into the jar of powder paint for 1-2 seconds. Return it to the hot toaster oven to allow the paint to “flow out” and coat the jig head more evenly. The dipping process should be repeated if a second coat is needed. The thoroughly coated jig should be allowed to cure in the hot oven for at least 5 minutes to increase the hardness of the painted finish. Allow the jigs to cool outside of the oven by hanging them on a wire for about 3 minutes before handling them with bare hands. The Teflon pin can be removed at this time.
Next, attach a skirt which is made of a few dozen 5” strands of silicone bound in the center by a rubber collar. Hold the skirt in a vertical position, grasp the collar, and allow the silicon strands above the collar to flare out evenly. Insert the sharp pointed end of the hook into center of the collar and slide the skirt down the entire shaft of the hook. Slide the collar over the neck of the lead head to secure it to the jig.
Lastly, a weed guard is inserted into the painted lead head along with a drop of instant glue to secure it into place. The flexible weed guard helps prevent the hook from becoming snagged on vegetation, yet it doesn’t interfere with the act of hooking a fish.
That’s all there is to it! It’s actually quite fun to experiment with different color combinations and there is something to be said about catching a fish on a jig you have made yourself.
Let’s examine the cost savings:
The total cost of equipment needed comes to about $100. Most hobbies require a similar investment in equipment regardless if it be bicycling, photography, hiking, etc.
Lead can be purchased for less than $2.00 per pound from a variety of online and local sources. One pound of lead will produce 32 half-ounce jigs so the cost per jig is around 6 cents. Better quality hooks such as Mustad and Gamakatsu cost about 15 cents each. Power paint costs about $6.00 and each two-ounce jar will paint around 200 jigs so that comes to about 3 cents per jig. Weed guards costs about 8 cents each. Lastly, silicone skirts will be attached to our painted jigs to finish them off. I often take advantage of clearance sales to purchase them for as little as 8 cents each, but the average price from numerous online sources is about 25 cents each.
The total cost of our supplies comes to 57 cents per jig, which is about $3 less than the cost of jigs found in retail stores. On average I can produce about 30 jigs per hour so every hour I spend making my own saves me $90. My expensive fishing hobby just got a lot more affordable. The cost of the equipment will nearly be recovered in full during the first hour of jig-making.
Every jig I produce also has great profit potential. Jigs normally sell for $3-4, but selling homemade jigs for a lower price will ensure a higher volume of private sales. At a discounted price of $2.50 each, for example, one batch of 100 jigs which cost $49 to make in about 3 hours can be sold for $250. What other hobby has the potential to earn you $83 per hour with a profit margin that is five times higher than the cost of materials? There is no guarantee the jigs will sell as the market determines what it hot in terms of quality, price, style, color, etc. However, the potential for great profits is certainly good given the fact anglers will continue to replace their lost and damaged fishing lures. Should a day come when fishing tackle is extremely hard to acquire then I’ll be able to help fill that need for myself and others.
I used my profits to buy a professional wire former which I can use to make my own spinning lures as well as a mold which allows me to cast my own lead sinkers (fishing weights). I still buy fishing rods, reels, and line; but I no longer pay high retail prices for tackle. Making my own fishing lures is a good way to keep busy during the cold winter months and I always begin the fishing season with an overstuffed tackle bag. It’s a good feeling, but also fun and profitable.
This contest will end on December 16 2012 – prizes include:
- First Place winner will receive a Go Berkey Kit valued at $150.
- Second Place: $100 Cash.
- Third Place: $50 Cash.