Make your own tackle

Being somewhat disheartened by the cold weather we’ve experienced of late, I have not spent a lot of time on the ice.
Bitter temperatures and tough travel conditions on area lakes have kept me indoors more than I’d like to admit, but I have been using my time wisely and have been cooking up my own tackle for the upcoming open water season.
Over the years, I’ve included a number of homemade baits in my tackle box. Hand-tied bucktail, marabou, and feather jigs and tails all have put fish in my boat during tournament and guiding situations.
Hand-carved topwater baits have produced big catches of smallmouth bass while countless other modified baits find their way onto the end of my line.
The first lesson I received in the effectiveness of bucktail jigs came from Gord Pyzer. We used to catch big smallmouths by the boatload in late-season tournaments with his hand-tied bucktails. I’ve since found success using them for walleyes early in the season when they are in the weeds.
Rip-jigging a quarter-oz. bucktail jig through cabbage weeds is a lethal and under-utilized technique that catches big fish.
Bucktails are easy to make. White is my favourite colour and I just cut the tail off deer that are harvested in the fall.
You can tie a lot of jigs from one tail. Use scissors to cut the hair at its base and then tie small clumps on just behind the head of the jig with sewing thread.
Include an even amount of hair all the way around the collar, and coat the thread with clear nail polish when you are finished to seal the thread and prevent it from unwinding.
Marabou jigs also are a steady producer for area smallmouth anglers and are used in most of the big bass tournaments in our region. Marabou is a feather, so it’s a slightly different material than the coarser hair from a white-tailed deer.
Using a lighter jig, follow the same format for tying a bucktail and you can make a hot, finesse smallmouth bait.
Hackle feathers are available from most craft stores or fly-fishing sections of fishing shops. I like to use hackle feathers to make trailers for my topwater and jerkbaits.
I can make really nice feather tails for these baits that look much better than the ones that manufacturers include with the lures. I usually use three feathers on a tail—two white ones and a red one.
I also like to tie these with red thread.
Modifications anglers can make to their tackle are endless. For instance, I like to make my own skirts for my largemouth jigs and spinnerbaits.
There is a company called SkirtsPlus that makes the skirting material for nearly every manufacturer, and they sell kits anglers can use to make their own skirts.
I have a few favourite colour combinations that cannot be found in a store—and they are super easy to make.
Finally, I like to take a red permanent marker and touch up many of my hardbaits by adding gills to the head of the baits.
My buddy, Dave Bennett, adds black bars to nearly all of his jerkbaits and crankbaits to imitate the bars on perch, which are a predominate forage in many of our fisheries.

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