Have you ever had that one special jig that seems to catch fish, no matter the conditions? Maybe it was the reliable go-to, red and white bucktail jig for walleyes. Or possibly the pink and white marabou jig that crappies couldn’t resist. We’ve all found that one special color combination that seems to perform when everything else fails. But what do you do when your local bait shop doesn’t have it in stock or the manufacturer quits making that jig?
For me, the answer was easy: "I’ll make my own."
I was in fourth grade when I tied my first bucktail jig. All I had was a hand-me-down “starter kit” that belonged to my great-uncle. He passed away before he was able to fully dive into building his own tackle, but I was happy to pick up where he left off. The kit itself consisted of a few basic jig-heads in yellow, white, and black, some marabou feathers in the same colors, a few basic tools, such as a bobbin and a whip finisher, and a beginner’s “how-to” pamphlet on jig tying. I was eager to open everything up and get to work at my mom’s kitchen table, and it wasn’t long before
I had my first, hand-tied marabou jig completed and ready for the water.
You don’t need a lot to start making your own fishing jigs. A pack of plain jig-heads, a spool of thread, some feathers from a pheasant or duck that you or your buddy shot, and a bottle of head cement, and you have everything you need to get started. Obviously, if you walk over to our White River Fly Shop, you will see that the options are virtually endless when it comes to colors and materials, but don’t let the vast assortment intimidate you. Keep things simple.
If you like to fish for panfish, pick out your favorite color and size of jig-head, some material in colors of your choosing (options range from feathers of all types to deer, elk and rabbit hair), a spool of thread (I like red), and a bottle of head cement (fancy name for glue). You will also need some basic tools like a vice, bobbin, and bobbin threader. Luckily, there are kits available that have all of the tools you need to get started, as well as how-to guides that will guide you step-by-step through the process. There are also hundreds of books out there that you can buy that will teach you jig-tying, fly-tying or rod-building (more on that later), just to name a few aspects of tackle-craft. In today’s society of “at your fingertips” technology, you can also get on YouTube and find countless videos from beginners and experts alike that will make it easy for you to get started making your own jigs.
Besides the fun and relaxation making your own fishing tackle can provide, it also brings with it a sense of accomplishment, and, for me, a sense of pride, knowing that I have made something that the fish deem worthy to bite. Whether it’s because it actually looks like something the fish would eat, or because it looked bad enough to make the fish mad and want to attack, is another discussion for another day. Either way, catching fish on one-of-a-kind tackle that you built with your own hands is much more satisfying, to me anyway, than using something that everyone has in their tackle box at home.
I still have the first jig I tied, and it’s interesting to look back and see where I started and compare it to some of the jigs that I’ve tied more recently. The wraps are neater now, and more consistent. The material length is clean cut and the overall finish is something that looks more appealing, at least to a fisherman’s eye. I’ve used some of my original jigs and some of my most recent jigs, and they have all caught fish at some point - even the odd color combinations, like baby blue and fluorescent orange with silver flashabou.
So, don’t worry about whether or not it will look good; let the fish decide that for you. Stop out to Bass Pro and pick up everything you need to get started making your own one-of-a-kind fishing jigs.
Good luck with your own tackle craft and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
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