Getting Started


Apr 26, 2013
SW Ohio
The following is a little something I put together a while back for another forum and felt is worth sharing for a lot of folks just starting out.

The last few years, economics have dictated that I learn to make my own lures. Primarily, jigs, blade baits, spoons and now crank baits. Just thought I would share my experiences and hopefully push a few others over the edge into the abyss known as make your own tackle. It is an addictive and enjoyable hobby/past time. Someday, after I find my digital camera, I will try to post photos.

Disclaimer: This is what I do and some operations can be hazardous. Exercise caution when working with lead, paints and powder coat as well as sharp hooks and various tools. They can and will hurt you.

Lure Making 101
This discussion will be broken down by topic as follows:
1. Work Space set up
2. Lead casting
3. Powder Coating
4. Airbrush painting
5. Foil work
6. Clear Coating
7. Lure Assembly

1. Work Space Set up
Nice workbench, mine is 30” by 96” bigger than I need but allows having separate stations set up without the need to put things away and set up for a next step.

Lighting, more is better I have 4 fluorescent 2 bulb fixtures directly overhead.
Comfortable chair or stool. I find that I really need to rest my arms on edge of bench for assembly and occasionally for some fine detail painting.

Dust collector I made mine from a plywood box, a high efficiency furnace filter and a bathroom exhaust fan. Previous version was same box and shop vac (just too much noise). I use this for painting, powder coating and lead casting. It is 20” wide 24” tall and 18” deep. I can set it behind my work area and when running really pulls in the dust, smoke and over spray.

Parts Organizers I have several and Approximately 300 drawers of various sizes. It may sound like a lot but after a while every drawer gets used. Items stored are jig hooks, 8 sizes 3-4 colors, 3-4 different brands, treble hooks 4 sizes, 3-4 colors, 4 brands, wire forms only have 6 different ones at this time, split rings 4 sizes, butt rings 3 sizes, Blade blanks 2 sizes, 2 finishes, misc lure parts, etc.. etc..

Storage Shelves. I have one wall mounted 4 shelf unit 3-1/2” deep by 48” long and another 5-1/2” deep by 60” long. Shelves are full and I have several totes of supplies that I wish were on the shelves.

Tools. Another endless list several sets of forceps, needle nose pliers, side cutting pliers, jewelers pliers, various probes, couple small files, scissors.. etc.. etc.. I made a simple stand from a 1x12 and 2x4 into which I drilled holes for each item handy work surface for assembling as well as cleaning jigs

2. Lead Casting
Melting pot, I strongly recommend a Lee Production pot at a minimum this is a little 10# capacity bottom pour furnace. I have had mine since the late 70's and other than changing the pot (only because I listened to someone on the internet and drilled the spout oversize) it has been 100% reliable and has cast thousands of bullets, round balls, jigs, blades and spoons. There are little electric ladles available but for the price difference get the bottom pour furnace.
Lead, find a reliable source for pure lead. Tire weights are an alloy that is OK for larger jigs 3/8 ounce and up but does not flow properly for smaller jigs and any lure with detail. I buy mine from the Alaska Lead Company and including shipping is under $1.00 per pound (last bought in April bought 50# for $43.00). I have had several gifts of supposedly pure lead that after melting down would not cast the smaller jigs. I cast jigs from 1/64 ounce to 3/4 ounces. Those 1/64 ounce jigs are a challenge.
Mold, There are several manufacturers with Do-It being the premier mold maker, I have a couple Lil Mac 3 cavity molds that I really like and currently you can pick up on ebay for ~6.00 including shipping. Hilts, Herters and Ament are other brands that you can occasionally find. When buying used molds if they look beat up, they probably are. Modified molds can be a real bargain but be careful of what the modification was. Molds that flash or do not hold the hook, insert, wire form properly are virtually useless. One thing I would mention is molds that have multiple sizes are a pain. When you start casting it is best to cast, reload and cast again, desprue after you are tired of casting. Problem is first, each cavity probably has a different hook size that in and of itself gets confusing then you gotta sort all those jig sizes. I know you can cast one size at a time but with a bottom pour furnace and a 5-8 cavity mold it seems senseless. It is not as bad with blade baits and spoons but jigs can be a nightmare.
Mold prep. First oil the hinge pin of the mold do this religiously it will save untold grief down the road. Second I dust you mold with baby powder and shake off excess. Alternatley, Smoke the mold cavities using a candle and allow the soot to blacken the mold cavities. It makes casting much easier.
Melting Fill your melter with lead chunks and turn on I usually start at 7 on the temp dial. After ~20 minutes lead should be fully melted and ready to clean. Clean by pushing a BB sized chunk of beeswax to the bottom of the pot with a dry wooden rod. Stir and after it quits smoking/bubbling skim off the dross (stuff floating) on top of the pool of molten lead. I use tongue depressors and an old iced tea spoon. I also keep a small metal bowl about ½ full of dry sand to have a place to dump the dross. If metal is really dirty you may want to repeat the process.
Casting, Almost ready. DO a half dozen or so casts without hooks, inserts, etc. to warm/preheat the mold. (Align sprue/pour hole of cavity to be filled with nozzle at bottom of furnace. Lift handle and stop when cavity is full – this is fairly quick). After a few cast, you will see the casting become smooth and lustrous. After that look stabilizes and repeats for a couple casts, you can install hook(s) in the mold.
Installing hooks can be cumbersome but it is critical that the hook(s) properly seat in the mold. Carefully close the mold and check for a gap between the mold surfaces. If mold does not close completely, it means a hook is not seated open mold and re seat DO NOT FORCE MOLD CLOSED. Repeat as necessary until mold closes completely. Align sprue/pour hole of cavity to be filled with nozzle at bottom of furnace. Lift handle and stop when cavity is full – this is fairly quick. Repeat for remaining cavities. Open mold and remove casting, sprue and all and set aside. Repeat until you run out of hooks, lead etc.
Clean jigs, remove sprue, for smaller jigs I find it easiest to twist off using a pair of pliers put sprue back in melting furnace and repeat for remaining jigs. Larger jigs, blades and spoons often require the sprue to be cut off. I use a pair of scissors type dog toe nail clippers, nice clean cut and very little left to file. After all castings are cleaned turn off and unplug your melting furnace. I rarely empty my furnace and then only to do a thorough cleaning.
Inspect castings, carefully inspect castings for loose hooks, incomplete castings and flash, flash can usually be removed with a Exacto knife or a small fine file. After you are happy with the casting, set aside and repeat for balance of run. I have several wire racks where I hang cleaned and inspected castings in preparation for finishing. I feel it is better than making a pile of jigs or castings only to have them become a tangled mess. Also makes sorting by size much easier.

3. Powder Coating
For powder coating you will need at a minimum a heat source (heat gun from Harbor Freight is what I use) Forceps, Powder, optional and recommended items are a fluid bed and toaster oven. I use afluid bed and cure all of my powder coated items. The following is for jigs, larger baits such as blades and spoons need a different approach.

Fluff the powder by stirring with a toothpick or Popsicle stick.
Grab hook eye with forceps and lock over opening in hook eye. Jig head should be at end of forceps.
Turn on heat gun and gently heat jig. For 1/32 ounce jigs, I count to 4 then.
Quickly dip heated jig in powder. In and out, tap excess powder off and back into jar.
If jig is really shiny, it was too hot. Jig should look frosted.
Move jig back over the heat source for a few seconds to develop gloss. Or move to rack for curing in oven.
If using a fluid bed, process is the same. Your coating will be more uniform.
To add a second or more color. Reheat jig and dip or dust additional color(s). Heat again to develop gloss.
It really is just that simple. Oven curing is determined based on powder manufacturers guidelines. Most of the powders I use cure at 340 degrees for 15 minutes. I used an oven thermometer and found 340 degrees and put my jigs in close the door and set the timer for 20 minutes and walk away. My oven is up to temp in 3-4 minutes and a couple extra minutes will do no harm unless you have uncontrolled temperature.

Powder Coating via air brush
Yes, it can be done.

First - There is a special gun (actually a sand blast air brush 3-5psi) can be used to apply powder to a heated surface. It works very well but IMO wastes a lot of powder and I hate cleaning up after. I did make some very sharp blue and gold spoons and Blue and Silver Spoons.

Second – There is a product called powder water that is mixed with powder coat to form a liquid. The liquid is then applied via air brush. After air drying (I dry at least a day) oven cure and results are awesome. I have played with this for several weeks and have done fire tiger and perch blades, Scale patterns, dots and a few lets see if this works patterns. In some cases powder needs curing between coats or colors blend together. Not altogether a bad thing. Lots of trial and error to be done.

4. Air Brush Painting
Air Brush Painting is an artist's dream but great results can be had by clumsy fools such as myself. First I recommend priming anything to be painted. White is a reliable standby and is the base color for which most air brush paints are designed. White gives the truest color representation. However, I have used Blue, Black, Gold, Purple, Red as base coat for some interesting effects. Most air brush colors are translucent so they do not hide what is underneath. Basics to air brush painting can be found on several you tube videos but Thinning paint, Gun Cleaning and test spraying are critical elements to understand.
I have a $150 Badger Airbrush, $14.99 ebay special, $6.99 Harbor Freight Single action which is my primer gun. I did finally break down and buy a airbrush compressor simply because the noise from an old pancake (Which Finally quit working) was too much. Although I have a work area in the basement, my wifes keen hearing was frequently offended. A good pressure regulator is a must as pressure increases or decreases paint flow and if you just want the color for effect, a very fine thin coat is a must. Stencils are very handy and a few minutes spent making them can save lots of aggravation.

The following is a set of directions for painting a Shad Bait that I scrounged from somewhere and modified based on my tastes. I do recommend that when you start playing with an air brush that you keep a log similar to the following pattern so you can duplicate it again.

Natural Shad
a. Color: Createx Opaque White - Base coat the entire bait. - 30psi
b. ---Cover bait in netting---
c. Color: Gray (1 parts black/green, 3 parts white) - Spray the entire bait except the belly. - 25psi
d. Color: Createx Yellow Ochre - Spray a dot of it on the nose, then spray a lateral line up to the gill plate. (I free hand, this doesn't have to be perfect since it'll be layered) - 20psi
e. Color: Stone (3 parts gray from above 1 part yellow ochre also, you can use bone or ivory for a similar effect) - Spray right above the lateral line making some contact with it, cover the area between the lateral line and back. Then the gill plate. - 20psi
f. Color: Createx Opaque Black - Spray the entire back, including the very most upper sides of the bait. - 20psi
g. ---Remove netting---
h. Color: Createx Pearl White - Spray the entire bait well. - 30psi
i. Color: Createx Opaque Blue - Dust the entire back. - 30psi
j. Color: Createx Opaque Black - Apply a kill dot to the side behind the gill plate. - 20psi

5. Foil Work
Gold Leaf or Foil appliques can create some interesting colors as well as a real shiny gold or silver. Foils are also available in Holographic, Iridescent and Prismatic designs.

The process itself is simple. I bought a kit at Michael's Arts and Crafts store that has a glue pen and some sheets of foil.
Apply adhesive to area where you want to apply the effect.
Press Foil desired side out over adhesive
Rub with chamois to stick to surface
Allow to dry (set up)
Peel off unwanted foil.
Foil only sticks where the adhesive was applied.

For effect such as a scale pattern you can place foil on a piece of window screen and press down gently (foil is easily torn) with rubber eraser to get the desired effect. Then apply as desired. I salvaged an old AC Shiner that was chewed and beat by Gar to the point where it was unrecognizable.

6. Self Adhesive Eyes or Sequins
Although stick on eyes claim to be permanent, my experience is they need help and lots of it. I have found superglue gel to be the best and easiest method for preliminary affixing to my lures. I apply a small dot to a dozen to sure lures, then using a small exacto knife, pick the eye off the sheet and place on lure repeat for balance that have been set up. I have several hollow wooden dowels that I taper with a pencil sharpener to use as a seating tool and press each eye down to make sure they are fully seated in place. Let dry a few minutes flip and repeat for other side.

At a minimum use Sally Hansens Hard as Nails nail polish to coat the eyes and more permanently affix to the lure, I now dip or epoxy coat all lures with eyes. It makes them permanent and the added clarity of the clear coat adds to the overall appearance.

7. Clear Coating
Clear Coating with epoxy or a single stage urethane will really bring out the effects from your air brush work. Single stage urethane I use " Richard " Knights as well as Devcon 2 ton epoxy and Klass Koat epoxy. The Epoxy coatings must be dried using a rotating dryer such as a rod dryer but they are crystal clear and very durable a bit tricky to work with but outstanding products. The " Richard " Nite product is really good and although benefits from a rotating dryer does a very good job by just hanging.

8. Lure Assembly
Assembly is simply simply attaching hooks. Blades, swivels etc with split rings or in some cases Mustad 7790 or VMC9608 split shank treble hooks. These hooks are great on blades and some spoons and plugs as well. They are expensive but make hook attachment a breeze. Also good to keep in tackle box for emergency repair of a broken or damaged treble hook.

Snap ring pliers are a necessity and I keep finding better ones. My current favorite is from hobby lobby. Some jewelry stores carry some that are as good and if you are using 00 or 0 split rings, they may be your best choice. Also they occasionally go on sale at the crafts stores.

If anyone wants to try making their own jigs, lures etc, I will be glad to help you get started. I am not an expert but IMO am getting very good at some things. Send me a PM


Active member
May 16, 2010
Piedmont, S.C.
Very nice :) I know you put a lot of thought and work into writing this and it will surely help some. I just ordered a new compressor also because of the noise the pancake makes and it comes with the filter and regulator along with a spray booth. I like working in my tying room and hope the noise will be a lot less.

Thanks for posting this article.