BoatUS ANGLER: Do It Yourself Department
Create Your Own Soft Plastics
by Capt. Steve Chaconas, BoatUS ANGLER Pro Staff
A couple of decades ago, I was pre-fishing for a regional tournament. I wanted to save the soft plastic baits I was using, as they were working very well. I grabbed a rather plain bait made by the Zoom Bait Company called a centipede. No legs, arms or tail and this lure started fooling fish, bigger fish. I was excited and ran to the store to get more. No luck. The bait hadn't hit the shelves of my local stores yet! My artsy-crafty wife told me to make a mold and melt some plastics to make my own.
She returned from her craft store, the one that smells like lavender, with some plaster casting materials. She made a mold from one of the centipedes and microwaved some of my old soft plastics to pour into "her" mold. It worked! These baits were just like the factory baits, with a twist since I wasn't able to control the colors of the re-melted plastic, colors were inconsistent that was the bad news. The good news was that each one was a bit different and they caught fish! I kept those molds for a long time until I found Lure Craft (lurecraft.com). This company took the guesswork out of my worn out plaster molds and I found they supplied everything to make exactly what I wanted. This was at a time when hand poured baits were losing ground to the injected soft plastics. However, in the past 5 years or so, the hand poured industry has seen a revival!
In the early 1970's bass fishing was becoming a sport: tournaments, magazines and B.A.S.S. decals everywhere. Soft plastics weren't all that soft and didn't have appendages. Hand poured soft plastics - literally hand pouring melted plastic into flat molds - were effective and dominated as expectations were low. Creative coloring was developed for Western clear-water techniques like Don Lovino's doodling. The early finesse fishing era was short-lived and hand pours were cast aside as power fishing and injection molding surfaced. Ignoring soft plastics altogether, spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and jigs dominated on the water and in tackle stores. Anglers using soft plastics were impressed by injection ingenuity...arms, legs, and tails that hand pourers could only dream about, but never having the steady hand to pour. The king is dead long live the king! Injected plastics were crowned.
Hand pours took a back seat until the mid 90's when western anglers, taking cues from the east - the FAR EAST - perfected clear-water techniques like drop shot, spawning the finesse fiesta. Split shot and seldom-glorified shaky head (AKA: decades-old "jig and worm"), techniques that didn't demand dangling parts, meant straight tail worms were back; opening doors for hand pour resurgence. Demand was in dormancy, but hobbyists and astute anglers had never put away pouring pots. Serious anglers were making secret baits, out-fishing anything shot through injection cylinders.
Today's finesse techniques don't require legs, arms, or tails. They do require finesse colors. Being able to pour one layer, then another color on top for a laminated appearance, created a two-tone appearance found in nature - everything has a dark and a light top/bottom. These baits were more natural and for techniques requiring baits sitting in one spot for a while, like drop shot and shakyhead, hand pours were back!
Here's how to do it. If you don't want to go to the store that smells like lavender and make your own plaster molds, there are commercially made molds, in fact there are hundreds of them. You name it; it's out there with very few exceptions. If it isn't exactly what you wanted, there's one that's very close, or you can buy the molding materials and make your own copy but beware of legal patent restrictions! The molds are made of a soft material that won't melt at the temperature of the melted soft plastic. You can buy a milky color liquid plastic that turns clear when heated, or re-melt used plastics or a combination of both. Get some small metal pouring pots and find someplace to cook. I suggest you do this outside or your significant other will have some issues, not to mention breathing fumes. Find a well-ventilated area and make sure you take fire precautions as well! The melted plastic is very hot! If you get it on you it keeps on burning until you get it off.
There are tons of colors, which you can combine to make a new color - loads of colored flakes in a few sizes - and even additives to make the plastic hard, soft or float. The owners of Lure Craft used to be customers of the supply company and have achieved success with their own soft plastic line, Poor Boy's Baits. Lure Craft/Poor Boy's "how-to" DVD shares success secrets.
Now that you have your molds and are ready to pour, it's pretty simple. Heat the plastic according to the instructions on the bottle. Do not over-cook the plastic. Stir constantly to keep the glitter suspended and to keep the plastic from burning. Start with the thinnest part of the mold first and let it run into the body of the mold to make tails or flippers thinner for more action. If pouring 2 or more colors, pour as soon as possible after the first pour to get the different layers to bond. Let them cool, and pull them out of the mold. The plastic baits need to be laid out straight until they are finished cooling or they will have a permanent bend in them. I usually lay mine out on foil. Put in a plastic bag. I soak my baits in an attractant, called Jack's Juice. This soaks into the plastic and also keeps the baits from sticking to each other, which also keeps them relaxed and wrinkle free.
Let the hand pouring begin, and not just for the frugal! Hand pouring can be a lot of fun, tinkering until you find something that works and it will be something no one else will be using! Today, several injection companies now include hand pours in their line-ups! Whether for personal use, starting a business or just fishing to win, hand pours are back and here to stay!
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