Creating a Bass Jig
Creating a new bass jig is not an easy process. Creating a bass jig from an established design is not that hard. You can get a small mold from a company like Do-It molds, get the proper hook, and pour one up. After powder coating, you add a weed guard and a skirt. Done. Tie it on and go fish. To make a totally new design that is sold on a mass scale is more complicated.
In 2012, I started Missile Baits soft plastics. In 2014, I started Missile Jigs and my longtime friend and now fellow Elite pro again, Mike Iaconelli, is the face of the brand and co-jig designer. He basically tells me what he wants, and I get it designed and pitch it to him. He tells me what tweaks to make, and we do it. It has worked well for both parties and we have brought 6 different jigs to market so far.
Before I tell you about how we do get our new designs to market, I must reflect on the history of the bass jig. Lonnie Stanley is the father of the modern bass jig. Lonnie has passed but one of his longtime friends, John Hale, now owns Stanley Jigs. John has told me about many of the stories about how Lonnie had to get the skirts made, perfected the head design, and much more. It is so cool and needed to be mentioned before we talk about our design process. Ours is not easy but nothing like the road building that Lonnie did back in the day.
It starts with an idea.
Like Missile Baits, if a something out there on the market exists, we will just buy and use that. If we see a niche or need that is not out there, that is what we are after. When we first started Missile Jigs, we were working on 2 baits at the same time. Mike wanted a smaller, more compact flipping jig and a football jig that would come through any type of cover. We had the Head Banger Jig that was an altered football style design and the Mini Flip Jig that was that compact flipping jig he was after. He initially agreed to come out with the Head Banger first since molds and production were further along. Well, that was until the Delaware River BASS Elite tournament.
Mike won the Delaware River BASS Elite Series on his home waters in 2014 as we were launching this collaboration project. Of course, he won it on the Mini Flip. He used the prototypes up. I did not even have any of the prototypes for that event. We halted the Head Banger and changed to launch the Mini Flip first to take advantage of his big win. The Mini Flip is our #1 selling jig in the entire lineup. Other companies now offer a similar jig but ours was the first.
Getting back to the process.
There are two different ways to produce a lead jig head. The most common way is to use a silicone mold in a spin cast machine. Most spin cast machines are used to make jewelry so that is where the machines are developed. The other way to make them is in aluminum molds. The company we use at Missile Jigs to do some of our jigs has built all of their own proprietary molds, production machines, and painting systems. It is a fascinating process. Missile Jigs currently uses 2 different companies to produce all of the jigs we sell. Both of these companies are in the USA and we are proud of that.
Designing the jigs is another whole deal. The company that uses the aluminum molds also makes their own molds in their own CNC machine. They work with their customers to create what they want via CAD software. The drawback with aluminum molds is they are not forgiving and have some limitations in design. Spincasting is sometimes less efficient but more forgiving and can produce more detail in the product. In order to make the silicone molds, you need to have a set of masters. Those are a set of jigs used to press into the silicone molds to make the production molds. When making molds, the silicone will shrink about 5-10% so you have to factor that into making your masters.
Getting masters designed for silicone molds can be done a few different ways. Some of our master designs were actually hand carved. Several companies still hand carve them. Missile Jigs now uses a separate design company to make our masters. That is how we designed the new Mini Swim Jig. There is a lot of detail in those heads and the “eye socket” is counter sunk so the 3D eyes do not pop off while fishing. It is more expensive to make them this way but you can get exactly what you want and they are perfect.
Many homemade jig builders love to tinker with their skirts. They adjust colors, strand counts, and length to get the action and profile they want. We do the exact same thing at Missile Jigs but on a larger scale. One of the factors that makes the Mini Flip Jig unique is the fine cut skirt and the exact strand count. Iaconelli and I worked on that quite a bit to get just right. He is very picky on his jig colors too.
Today, many companies are dealing with supply chain issues. The fishing industry is no different. Hooks are hit and miss on getting enough to make thee jigs you want to make. Skirts are really tough right now because about 60-70% of the bass fishing skirts production was shut down for 3 months in 2021. Packaging is another issue for many. Labor and shipping shortages have caused lead times in lure packaging to be doubled and even tripled for some.
When you tie on a bass jig, cast out there, and catch a bass on it, I hope you keep all of this in mind. I think about all the steps it took to make the jig I am fishing. Many times, I am thinking of what jig to design next with Ike. When you see empty pegs in the jig aisle at your local tackle shop, know that it is more than likely a supply chain issue. When you catch one on a jig, be sure to thank Lonnie Stanley.