One of the few benefits of living in Wisconsin and having long, miserably cold winters is I have a lot of time to mess with my tackle. One of my favorite things to do is to custom-build baits and rods. I’ve done it all – pouring my own lead, building spinnerbaits and buzzbaits, pouring plastics, hand-tying skirts and hair jigs, powder-coating, airbrushing, and most recently building my own rods. Now, I know this isn’t for everyone, but I do want to stress that there are a lot of benefits to building your own tackle.
First and foremost it provides me with the ability to customize tackle to my exact specifications. In some cases I create tackle that the fish haven’t seen before, which gives me an advantage over other anglers. I also carry a lot of lure-making materials with me to each event, which allows me to build skirts that match the hatch or make a bait that I couldn’t find or purchase in time for a tournament.
Tinkering with tackle also provides a better understanding of why baits function the way they do. This knowledge helps me choose the right bait for a specific situation. I like knowing how the action on my swim jig changes when it’s made with 28 strands of skirt material versus 48 strands. Or how I can change the functionality of a topwater or crankbait by sanding down portions of the lure. There is no right or wrong way to use a lure, but I encourage all of you to think outside the box the next time you buy a new bait. It doesn’t have to be used the way it was put in the package, and quite often it takes minimal effort to completely change the action of a lure.
There is a lot of satisfaction in knowing that you’ve built something that works, but more importantly I can’t stress how much your confidence increases when you use tackle you have built. This year I have completely switched over to custom rods, and can’t believe how much I’ve been missing over the years. By building a rod specifically for a bait I’m able to increase the action of the bait and the flow of sensitivity from the lure through the rod to my hands. When a rod and lure are matched up perfectly they feel as if they are one complete system, and until recently I had only experienced this with a handful of my rods. By building my own equipment I have become a much more detailed angler, and I believe this increases my success on the water.
I encourage all of you to start tinkering with your tackle. You don’t have to go out and buy all the equipment necessary to start building everything from scratch. Start by taking some old lures you don’t use and modifying them. That way if you ruin the lure, which will happen from time to time, you haven’t destroyed one of your go-to baits. Other good resources include tackle-building websites such as Mud Hole, Jann’s Netcraft and Barlow’s Tackle. Every time I go to these websites I get a lot of ideas just by looking at the products they offer. Fishing is often about creativity, and there is no better way to express your creativity than by building your own tackle.