I use a variety of materials but mostly have a 10 or 12 jig rotation that I tie repeatedly throughout the season. I’ll tie some oddballs to see if they’ll work and that always keeps me in new patterns that turn out to be killers every season. I tie some duds also.
The great thing about tying your own jigs is it’s cheap, you don’t need a lot of tying tools or materials, it keeps you busy on a day your stuck inside the house, the patterns you come up with are yours and are endless, and using jigs and catching fish on ones you tie is a huge producer of Erie Steelhead and highly rewarding.
I’ll go through the steps and tools you need to tie a jig. One thing I do not do is palmer the hook. This is when you wrap thread or hackle around the hook and down the shank and then tie your jig on it. It keeps the neck from sliding on the hook. The reason I skip this is half the time a jig might only last me a day or two on the streams anyway if it’s drawing strikes. Even the best machine tied and glued jig can’t take that abuse. I actually want the neck of the jig to slide down when a fish strikes. This can save the body and material from the mouth of the fish and the neck retains it’s tightness. Material is less likely to be pulled out causing the neck to tear. Once you dehook a fish just slide the neck back up and cast. It will not ride down on the hook unless a fish strikes. It’s just my theory and others may do it differently.
Tools you will need: Buy a basic vice and tying kit. This should include all you will need for jig tying. In the first photo is what I use- small scissors, fly head cement (to seal the tie), size 70 red tying thread (you can use white or black, red is best), a whip finish, and a bobbin to hold the spool of thread. Note on bobbin: I do not use this conventionally. I do not thread the line through the shaft of the bobbin and wrap thread using it. I simply use the bobbin to hold the spool. I then use my hand to strip enough thread off the spool, and wrap the thread around the hook and material with my hand. This gets me the tightest wrap. You can still do this with the thread through the hole in the bobbin shaft, I just don’t personally like to hold the bobbin in my hand when wrapping.
Jigs- You’ll need collarless jighooks. Don’t use jigs with a collar that are made to hold a soft plastic lure on them. I get them at Cabelas and Bass Pro Shops. You can use plain lead jigheads, white, black, chrome, gold, or any color you like. I go with plain, white, black, and chrome.
Sizes- For jigheads I tie 1/64, 1/32, and 1/16 ounce jigs. I’ve used smaller but 1/64 suits me just fine in ultra low and clear water. 1/16 is a favorite of mine and many think this is too heavy for Erie streams. With this weight I have great depth control for deeper holes when blind jigging, and I can swing these in good current and get them down in front of fish against banks or in good drifts. I generally tie longer jigs on 1/16 and shorter jigs on 1/32 and 1/64 but it’s not a rule. I have some long ties on light jigs and short ties on heavy jigs.
Lengths- Shorter jigs from 1-1.5 inches of material are best to be used for more vertical presentations. If I’m standing in front of a pack of fish or there are a ton of fish in a slow pool and I only need to work right in the space in front of me I’m using a short jig. I’m barely tossing it out and working it in front of every fish I can see. Longer jigs from 2-3 inches are best for casting and swinging in current. These act as more of a streamer and have a more pronounced action. Shorter jigs I usually tie with marabou or some type of synthetic flash material and longer jigs I tie with bucktail combined with flash.
Materials- You can tie almost any material by itself and it can work on fish. Bucktail, marabou, synthetic hair (there are a ton out there), Flash materials like Flashabou and Krystal Flash, and on and on. I tie a few jigs with just flash that do well but I do a lot of combining. White marabou or bucktail combined with one or two colors of flash material is a top pattern. Experiment with different combinations and you’ll figure out what colors work best. You’ll find that marabou is very soft and has a great action but does not have any bouyancy in the water like bucktail. On heavier jigs you have to jig faster. With bucktail it’s a slower fall and different action. I tie mostly with bucktail because I like heavier jigs. I leave the marabou for the ultralight jigs, and the bucktail for the heavier ones. When using Flashabou and Krystal Flash you’ll find they also are completely different. Flashabou is ultra limp and Krystal Flash is a little stiffer. The latter is also has a more subtle flash, the former is almost mirror like. You’ll find there are times you need more or less or no flash at all.
Colors/Patterns: To get you started I’ll give you a few of my favorites, and they are simple to tie. Like the Flatfish lure there is a rhyme and reason I’m using a certain pattern. White patterns with a little flash tied in are best after sunrise and throughout the day. Darks work best under low light and even at night. A black jig at night is easily seen by fish looking up at the night sky. Brighter colors work well in the early morning or evening and with a dark sky overhead. Very flashy jigs work best with full sun. Krystal Flash being more subtle will work in sun or grey skies. Purple Flashabou seems to work tremendously on dark days and in sunlight. I shouldn’t neglect to mention bright orange marabou or bucktail and glow in the dark materials. They can both work at the right times.
Tie combinations of white marabou or bucktail with 1 color of flash material to start. Then tie some jigs with just 1 color of flash material. Tie short and long jigs in 1/32 and just long ones on 1/16. Tie a few long ones on 1/64 for that low water in September and October for spots where the water is low and barely moving. A lightly jigged 1/64 ounce jig tied with just Flashabou on a sunny day can make a Steelhead already angry about the water situation even angrier. I should mention other colors of marabou and bucktail other than white. Black and brown are great ones to start with. They die these hairs in all the colors of the rainbow so use them also.
I won’t give out all my secrets or top guns but blue Krystal Flash tied short on a 1/32 wouldn’t do any good at all. Neither would white bucktail with white Krystal Flash, or brown bucktail with purple Flashabou (the peanut butter and jelly), and yellow Krystal Flash is no good either. Definitely do not tie white and chartreuse marabou on a yellow jig head, or black and chartreuse marabou. They don’t work either. Also white bucktail with green or light blue Flashabou never works, and if you tie big gangly 1/16 jigs with brown bucktail then either chartreuse or yellow marabou and a couple of strands of pearl Krystal Flash and swing them in current, you’d completely waste your time. I’d give you more, but some jigs just have to remain in my vest only.
On to tying. I’ll tie a simple jig, and exagerate for detail in the pics. Using white bucktail and rainbow Flashabou. Clamp a 1/32 ounce jig in the vice, locking it until the jig doesn’t move when you flick it with a finger. Using scissors cut off a 1.5-2″ portion of bucktail and flash. I moisten them both with my saliva or water from a glass to make tying easier. Pinch materials together and hold materials on the neck of the jig. Position your fingers so you have room to wrap thread around neck of jig and material without hitting your fingers. Keep in mind whichever material is on top will be the bottom of the jig because of how the jig is placed in the vice. It’s best upside down. I usually make sure the flashy part is on the bottom, but you can experiment. Make sure you have thread pulled out of the spool, enough to tie the jig with. Using your hand or using the bobbin tool, wrap line tightly around the neck of the jig and the top of the material. You don’t want the neck to be very long, it should be as short as you can make it. Once you’ve wrapped enough line tightly, grab the whip finish tool. Cut the thread with scissors leaving about 18″ to use on the whip finish.
This is where it gets tricky. Follow with me on the pictures. Watching a whip finish video on Youtube wouldn’t hurt either. Hold the thread in your left hand while grabbing the whip finish with your right hand. Put the hook of the whip around the thread and to the right. While holding that thread with the hook take the s curve portion on the bottom of the whip and turn it to the right, wrapping thread around that. Still holding the thread with your left hand pull the whip finish up and over the vice. Both the hook and the s curve should be holding the line firmly. While holding the thread with your left hand and to the left, begin wrapping the whip finish around the head of the jig. The hook of the whip will be on the left of the jighead, the s curve on the right of the jig head. Continue wrapping around the jig holding the whip horizontally. Wrap around the jig 6 or 7 times, then pull it tight and off of the whip finish with your left hand. This will creat a seal around the neck. Repeat this 2 to 3 times, using the same length of thread.
The jigs should look pretty snug by now. Snip the rest of the thread off with scissors as close as you can to the neck. Next, dab a drop or two of head cement on the neck (do not get this on material) and you’re done. Confused? So was I when I started. I even had people show me and it took some time for me to get it right. I’ll try to put a video up when my wife is home and can film it for me. The finished jig in the photos isn’t a top notch tie because I was trying to take pictures at the same time, but it will catch plenty of fish. That’s the beauty of jig tying. If I can tie up a bunch of jigs that are effective on Erie Steelhead, anyone can.
In the next post I’ll detail how to use these effectively, which might or might not be as confusing as this post. Good luck, and send me some pics this season of fish caught on your jigs!
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