How to make your own jellyworms, twin-tails and shads
Everything is easy when you know how, and making superb custom finished plastic jellyworms and twin-tail lures are no exceptions. Here Chris Tonberg identifies the materials required and shows you how it's done.
As a boat angler, what do you turn your hand to when the weather stops you getting out among the fish? If you’re not spending time with the family or cluttering the pub, you might well use the time to make leads weights or other everyday items of fishing tackle, but have you ever considered producing your own custom-made jellyworms, twin-tails and shads? I am guessing that the answer is probably ‘No.’ Perhaps then, you should give it a little thought because it isn’t difficult or particularly time consuming, and great satisfaction can be derived from the unique fished products. In writing this feature it is my intention to set out how exactly how to go about the task.
I got to wondering if I could make some myself which would allow me to have a regular supply and to choose my own colours. A speculative Google search showed that pouring your own ‘plastics’ is very popular in the States, and I was quickly able to source and purchase the equipment and material needed to get me started. Twin-tails are probably the easiest style of lure to start with when making your own, as they have a flat base and don’t require a two part mould.
Equipment and Materials
The basic equipment required to ‘cook’ your plastic is very simple: a milk pan with a pouring spout, a measuring jug and a metal spoon or rod for mixing. Plastic tools which can melt should not be used for fairly obvious reasons and wood should also be avoided. You’ll also need a heat source such a cooker or gas burner.
You will also need a mould or two. In this case I have commercial twin tail mould and a plaster mould that I’ve made myself. As far as materials go you need the base liquid plastic, hardener and a range of colour additives. As an option you can add various glitters and glow powder during the mixing and cooking process. Alternatively, the plastic can be heated in a microwave using a Pyrex jug and this will be covered in a future tutorial together with how to make your own moulds.
I strongly advise wearing a long-sleeved shirt together with gloves, a face mask and eye protection when heating the plastic. It can reach extremely high temperatures and there is a risk of injury.
First of all, vigorously shake the bottle of liquid plastic for a while to ensure that the material is fully mixed - some separation/settling can occur during storage. If you’re using bulk plastic then you should thoroughly stir the plastic in its container. You’ll then need to measure off enough plastic for your moulds… two twin-tails require about 50ml. I find that the base plastic is too soft for the rigors of sea angling and I add hardener in the mixing jug to get the desired flexibility - about a ¼ of a teaspoon of hardener to 50ml of plastic works for me. This is then decanted into the cooking pan where the colour is added. Again make sure that the bottle of colour is well shaken before use.
In this case I’ve used orange, as I find this bright colour very effective for cod and pollack in particular. In order to obtain the vibrant effect that I like 30 or more drops of the colour are added. Fluorescent colours are generally better added when the plastic is cool but the manufacturer will supply guidance.
You’ll need to experiment a bit to find out the most effective setting on your hob or gas. Setting number 4 works on my electric cooker. It needs to be hot enough to raise the temperature of the plastic to around 175 C (350 F), but you must ensure that the plastic is not scorched. As the plastic heats it will start to change colour. It is important at this stage to start stirring slowly in order to avoid burning it. However, stirring too vigorously will introduce air bubbles into the mix which will have an adverse effect on the finish of the lure, so do it gently.
As the plastic continues to heat it will not only change colour, but it will also alter consistency and turn into a jelly. But finally it will reach the stage where it changes back into an easily pourable consistency. At this stage the plastic will really start to give off fumes and it is therefore very important that you keep the kitchen or workroom well ventilated. It’s at this stage that you’ll appreciate the face mask.
When pouring you should be as close to the mould as possible to reduce the possibility of air bubbles being introduced. A steady hand with a smooth pour is essential, and you should pour from the shallow part of the mould to the deeper section.
If you want a two-tone lure it will be necessary to have the two colours heating separately at the same time. The two-tone effect is produced by pouring the first colour and immediately following it by pouring the second to ensure that the two will bond together. Glitter can be added immediately after this is done. Generally glitter should be added in the mix to begin with, but by doing it this other way I achieve the finished result that I want for my type of fishing. Because the glitter is only on one side of the double tails, it will flash as it spins round. It’s worth noting that you can’t get away with using the normal craft shop glitter for this as the colour bleeds into the plastic ruining the finish.
Don't forget to Wipe
Ensure that you wipe off any plastic from the lip of the pan with paper towel as this will burn when you cook your next batch. You now need to wait a few minutes until the plastic has cooled off before removing it from the mould. The lures can then be dropped into water for a couple of minutes to finish the cooling process.
For long term storage it’s recommended that a small amount of oil be added to the poly-grip bags to prevent the lures sticking together. Cooking oil can be used but specialised worm oil is also available. I would always store colours separately to prevent leeching. Pouring your own lures produces no waste as the solidified plastic can be re-melted and poured again. As you can see, if you leave your spoon in the pan, the remaining plastic will stick to it but it is easily peeled away and added back into the pot for next time.
The finished lures can be customised and there are several types of plastic dip coatings available from the States. An easier option though is to get a Sharpes permanent marker and get creative. Googly eyes can also be glued on, and even the likes of a glow stick can be added if that sort of thing tickles your fancy. There is no better feeling than catching a good fish on a lure you have made yourself, while the pleasure of creating them can stand as some consolation for those trips that fall victim to the weather.
Fortunately it's now possible to source the plastic materials required in the UK direct from Alan Banks at Lure Factors.