If fishing season began with you peeking in your tackle box and staring at a bunch of lures with dents and scratches from last year, don't start worrying about buying replacements just yet. Here are some quick fixes that can get your plugs, jigs and spinners back in shape.
Setting the Hook
Replace rusted and corroded hooks. It's often a good idea to remove all hooks entirely until the repairs are complete. Use special split-ring pliers to add and remove split rings.
If a lure does not have a split ring to hold the hook, add one, and use a short-shank treble on plugs so as not to change the overall hook length and balance of the lure (photo 1).You can also use split-ring pliers to remove and replace damaged spinner blades on spinners and spinnerbaits (photo 2).
** Bringing Back the Shine**
Spots where paint has flaked off spoons or spinner blades can be touched up with oil-based paint and a small brush. Model-airplane brushes and paints, such as Testors, work well. Always wash and dry any lure before you do any polishing or painting to remove dirt and grease.
Painted lures, especially spoons, that have lost nearly all their paint can be refurbished by dipping them in paint or brushing a coat over the entire lure. For a quick fix, paint a coat of clear glitter fingernail polish over the entire lure for flash and sparkle.
Unpainted metal lures that have become tarnished or rusted can be renewed by polishing them with steel wool, wiping them clean with a cloth and then painting (brushing or dipping) as described above. Alternatively, polish tarnished metal to a high sheen with a metal cleaner such as Brasso and then coat the blade or body with clear fingernail polish to reduce subsequent tarnishing or rusting.
Body (Re)building Wood plugs or stickbaits that have significant pockmarks and scratches should be sanded, filled with wood putty, sanded again and then painted. Paint the lure first with a base coat of white, and then with several finish coats. Finish the lure with a clear sealant for protection and a gloss finish. Sand the lure lightly and wipe clean between each coat of paint for good adhesion. When the sealant dries, reattach all the hardware.
Plastic plugs and crankbaits with rips in their outer body pattern can be remedied by coating them with clear glitter (available at any crafts store) to fill in their shiny, scaly look. You won't always be able to match the factory finish or iridescence that many of these lures have now, but a patch job using translucent glitter coats will work well to disguise any damage.
Spray paints may be the best bet with plugs and crankbaits, as you can get a more even finish with a number of coats. You can also dip these lures in paint a number of times to create protective layers or sections of color.
To get a fish-scale finish on a plug or crankbait, spray one color on the body. When that coating is dry, insert the lure (without its hooks, of course) into a section of nylon netting, which is available in fabric stores. Hold the netting in place securely and spray on a second color (photo 3). Remember that this second coating will create the main color of the body; the first coating serves as the outline for the scales. For a quick fix, paint a clear glitter coat over slightly damaged lures (photo 4). Clear or glitter fingernail polish is fine for this, but when painting lots of lures, test one first to make sure you don't get a chemical reaction between the paints and the plastic that causes striations in the finish or cracks in the surface of the lure.
Put on a New Skirt
Battered and chipped jigheads should be sanded or lightly treated with steel wool, after removing any hair tail or plastic skirt. Dip the lure in paint, or use some of the new powder paints that require only a hot torch to get instant finisheed results. If dipping, do this several times with thin paint and allow it to dry between coats to get a hard, even and durable finish. Then use a pin head or finishing-nail head to paint small eyes and a smaller pupil on the side of the jighead. Glitter can also be added by sprinkling the fine powder variety on the final wet coat of paint, or by using a clear glitter finish as a final coat on the jighead. When you're finished, slide on a new plastic or silicone skirt.
To repair hair-skirt bucktails (as well as dressed tails on plugs and spinners and spinnerbait skirts), cut away the old skirt and thread wrapping. Then prepare new skirt material by clipping bucktail or calf tail and combing it out to remove underfur, or by cutting synthetics into bundles of the right length. Tie the skirt on by wrapping thread (size A rod-wrapping thread) around the jig collar first, creating a single layer of wraps, and then add the first bundle of skirt material atop this (photo 5). Surround the collar area with the skirt material, secure the material with a few thread wraps and clip the excess material forward of the collar area. Then wrap it all in place. Tie off using a whip finish, cut the thread and seal the wraps with several coats of clear or colored nail polish.
Remember: Do all repairs in a well-ventilated area. Paint and polish fumes aren't good to inhale. Your repairs don't have to perfectly mimic the original lure. If a glittery white crankbait becomes a yellow crankbait and you catch the same amount of fish with it, you haven't made any mistakes. And if you get a striated or cracked finish, remember that this was a big hit early on with Heddon, and popular a few years back with all makers of lures.