Surf lures provide anglers with lots of service over their lifetimes but they also absorb a lot of wear-and-tear from corrosive salt, abrasive rocks and sand, and predators’ teeth. One way to keep your expenses down is to recondition banged-up lures that you put aside every season because of their weathered and battered appearances.
Such reclamation projects not only save you money but also give new life to lures that have already proven themselves in action. And it is a very straightforward task. You already have the lures; the materials needed are inexpensive and low-tech; you provide the labor; and the rewards are remarkable.
Here are some ways that you can refurbish and even enhance the look of your lures in time for the spring run.
Plugs take a beating when used regularly. One of the easiest and quickest overhauls of a plug is to simply repaint it. After removing all of its hooks and hardware, smooth its body with low-grit sandpaper and then spray paint it, first with primer, then a coat or two of high-gloss enamel. Spray paint enamel is available in an amazing rainbow of colors. Feel free to use whatever color or color combinations that have worked best for you: all solid colors like yellow or black, or combos like red/white, blue/white, or whatever. A final coat of clear enamel seals the color and adds an additional layer of protection from future dings and bangs. While the clear-coat enamel is still wet, I like to add a splash of silver stationary glitter to plug bodies in order to kick up their curb appeal. Lure glitter on a plug as it is being worked resembles the twinkle of light glancing off the scales of a baitfish.
Once the enamel is dry and hardened, attach new stainless steel split rings and high-quality hooks to the plugs. As part of the concerted effort to conserve our treasured fishing stocks, circle hooks are now mandated for use on bait rigs targeting striped bass. One way you can fish more responsibly in that regard is to replace your plug treble hooks with inline single hooks. No, this is not required for artificial lures, but the inline single hooks do less damage to the fish that you hook, make for an easier and safer unhooking, and give fish a better chance of survival if you are practicing catch-and-release.
The Eyes Have It
No plug restoration or enhancement is complete without adding new eyes. Not just any eyes, but 3D molded eyes that look far more lifelike than most original equipment eyes. Of the many replacement types of eyes, my preference by far are those from WTP (www.wtp-inc.com) of Coloma, MI. They and competitor models can be found in the fly-fishing sections of catalogs and major fishing tackle retailers; they can also be purchased online directly from WTP.
Battered metal jigs can also be brought back to life with a fresh coat of spray enamel, whether they were originally painted or just plain metal. To begin the renewal process, remove all hardware and hooks, get as much paint off them as possible if they were painted previously, and make sure their finish is clean. A coat of spray primer is a great base for paint to adhere to; this will pay dividends over the long haul. Spray paint colors and finishes today are a marvel of modern technology. The color selection is endless, and you can even find silver, nickel, and other metallic choices that closely mimic metal finishes.
You can paint an entire jig one color or have a color hybrid. For example, simply paint the entire lure silver first, then cover the bottom of the lure with something as you spray paint the top of the body with your contrast color. Do one side at a time, and give each side two coats; complete the job with two coats of clear gloss spray enamel. Consider sprinkling a dash of silver glitter onto jig bodies before the last coast of paint has dried to add extra allure to the renewed jig.
Attach new hooks and stainless steel split rings to finish the presentation package. Forget about treble hooks; be a convert to single hooks, like the single inline version. Do this in order to inflict minimum damage to hooked fish, and do it for yourself in making releases safer and faster. Replacement 3D eyes are the finishing touches to creating a lifelike baitfish image.
Every year I wind up with some metal jigs that are so banged-up and seemingly beyond repair that most anglers would just throw them away. I refurbish them and add them to my “kamikaze collection.” Such lures are great to have in your surf bag when you encounter an all-out bluefish blitz because they are expendable. These expendables enable you to keep your more expensive and newer lures out of harm’s way.
The regeneration process involves removing all the expendables’ hardware and cleaning them as thoroughly as possible. I then brush on a liberal coat of clear nail polish to one side of the lure and quickly sprinkle a generous layer of silver – or red, gold, or blue – stationary glitter to the entire side except for the eye socket. I repeat the process once the polish dries, after which I apply a finish coat of clear polish to the lure. The process is then repeated on the other side of the lure. Nail polish comes with its own applicator, dries quickly, and provides an extremely hard finish. Replacement eyes, split rings, and single straight hooks are the finishing touches. After being rehabbed, renewed metals will catch anything they did when they were new.
Brand new plugs and metal jigs whose painted finishes, metallic plating, or eye sockets fail long before they should can be protected either with a clear coat of spray enamel (plugs) or with several coats of clear nail polish (metal jigs). Apply the protective shield on those lures before you use them for the first time. The coating will not protect finishes indefinitely but it will make them look good for a significantly extended period of time even under heavy use.
Reconditioned lures often match, and sometimes surpass, brand-new lures in both appearance and performance. None of the items needed to refurbish them are expensive; all of the alterations are low-tech. Similar modifications to out-of-the-box new lures can help them look and perform better than their designers imagined.
The only disclaimer associated with these tasks is to work in ventilated areas when using spray paint or nail polish to protect your lungs from their noxious fumes.