ShareThis Page

Homemade jigs, lures a growing hobby

| Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013, 8:57 p.m.
Denny Tubbs works on making jigheads in his garage workship, with a few of his creations on display in the foreground.
Denny Tubbs works on making jigheads in his garage workship, with a few of his creations on display in the foreground. submitted

If fly tying is like oil painting, this is like metal sculpture.

Art, but of a different kind.

Where fly tiers create with delicate hackle, thread and hooks smaller than your fingernail, Denny Tubbs works with old window weights, wire, rubber, glitter, scents, hooks as long as your thumb and molds big and heavy enough to drive nails. But he's not making flies for the likes of trout and steelhead. He's into creating jig heads, rubber worms and crayfish, spinnerbaits and other hardware-heavy baits for bass, walleyes and panfish.

The reward, though, is the same.

“It's pretty neat to catch fish on something you've made yourself as opposed to something you bought in the store,” said Tubbs, a Fish and Boat Commission outreach specialist and longtime tournament bass fisherman from Hempfield who's been making lures for more than 30 years.

“And what I really love is that you can do whatever you want. What you make is wide-open to your imagination. You can try things. Some lures might not always work, but you never know.”

The garage and basement workshop makers of such lures represent a “very small part of the fishing tackle industry,” said Bill Barlow of Barlow's Tackle in Richardson, Texas.

But they are widespread. Barlow was a chemist in 1968 when he started making plastic worms in his garage because he couldn't find anything he really liked in stores. Today, his company sells lure-making supplies to anglers across the United States and as far away as South Africa, South America, China and Australia.

The attraction, then as now, is the same, he said.

“Every fisherman, myself included, is always looking for that magic lure. I'm not sure any more there is any such thing,” Barlow said with a laugh.

“But the reason I got into it — and the reason why I think most guys get into it — is that I could never find the lures I wanted in the sizes and colors I wanted. The only solution to that was to make it yourself.”

That's what drives Tubbs.

He's got totes full of molds. Into some he pours lead he's found at scrap sites like eBay and in stores to make jigheads in all shapes and sizes. Some get coated with powder paint, some with vinyl. Others are airbrushed. He mixes hook sizes and colors, adds rubber skirts and fiberguards in various color combinations and lengths and puts some on spinnerbait wires.

Other molds are for making soft plastic lures. He makes worms, crayfish, salamanders and creature baits, varying the hardness of the worms as he chooses, adding colors, flakes and scents, from earthworm to garlic, as he pleases.

“When my girls were little they ‘helped' me make some of my lures, and we ended up with some pretty wild colors,” Tubbs said with a chuckle. “But believe it or not, some of them actually worked.”

Locally, there's some evidence that interest in the hobby is growing.

“For the longest time, it was pretty slow,” said Dan Janitor of Tackle Unlimited in Jefferson Hills. “We had some molds that had been hanging on the back wall for years. But just about in the last year and a half, interest started picking up again.”

Tubbs believes more anglers should give it a try. It's a great wintertime hobby, he said. He recommends starting with just a mold or two, such as one capable of turning out jigs in various sizes, until you find what you like. From there things will grow, as evidenced by the many totes, shoeboxes and drawers full of lure-making supplies in his basement.

“I probably make 80 to 90 percent of my own stuff anymore,” Tubbs said. “That's a pretty neat feeling.”

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.