A custom-painted ice fishing lure or jig head might be just what you need to finally catch that trophy-length pike or the lunker walleye you have been chasing.
Lure and jig painting is a super rewarding hobby that will let you exercise some creativity and attention to detail as part of the greater hobby of ice fishing. It’s also a great thing to do on days when weather or other factors prohibit you from actually getting out on the lake to fish.
And when you fish with your buddies, they will think you’re some kind of expert fish-whisperer if you tie a hand-painted original lure on your line.
This guide is going to cover the most popular types of paint (powder paints and vinyl paints), some basic techniques for each type of paint, and some frequently asked questions about what works when it comes to lure painting.
Keep reading to discover everything you need to know to get started on this great part of ice fishing.
- Can You Paint Your Own Fishing Lures?
- What is the Best Type of Paint for Ice Fishing Lures and Jig Heads?
- What You’ll Need to Paint Your Own Fishing Lures?
- How to Paint Lures for Ice Fishing?
Can You Paint Your Own Fishing Lures?
It’s definitely possible to paint your own ice fishing lures and jig heads.
This can be a very satisfying hobby because it offers you the chance to experiment and really find what fish like to bite.
If you have a favorite lure design already, you can use painting to mass produce them, or you can create a variety of patterns and colors.
Painting lures is easy enough to start with a relatively small investment (as little as $20 in paint), but you can go crazy buying many colors and types of paint. Painting lures should only require a small area in a garage or even your kitchen.
It’s not especially dangerous to paint your own ice fishing lures, but you should have some good ventilation in your workspace and wear gloves whenever you are working with lead or paint thinner. There is also high heat involved if you are using powder paints, so be prepared to follow safety guidelines for a heat gun, torch, or oven.
What is the Best Type of Paint for Ice Fishing Lures and Jig Heads?
When it comes to lure painting, there are two main types of paint: vinyl paint and powder paint. There are fishermen who swear by each of these methods, so use the information below to decide for yourself:
Vinyl paint is a concentrated liquid that needs to be thinned down with vinyl paint thinner before you use it on your lures. You can dip or use a paint sprayer (airbrush) to apply vinyl paint. It needs a sealing coat at the end of the process.
Vinyl paint is known for being very durable, but it can be a little more difficult to get a good finished product with vinyl than with powder paint.
Powder paint is what it sounds like – a powder. It’s actually a type of epoxy that bonds with the metal jig head or lure (which must first be heated until it is quite hot) when the two come in contact. This is similar to the powder coating process used for machine parts, fencing material, and other items. Usually, you dip the heated lure into the paint.
Powder paints are a little easier to use than vinyl as long as you are comfortable with heating the lures both in an oven (to cure the coating) and with a flame or heat gun (to prepare the metal for coating).
What You’ll Need to Paint Your Own Fishing Lures?
Based on the comparison section above, you should have chosen which type of paint you want to start out with. Vinyl painting and powder painting require different items:
1/ What You’ll Need to Paint Lures with Vinyl Paint?
- Vinyl paint specifically for fishing lures
- Vinyl paint thinner
- Small cups for thinning paint
- A drying rack (you can make one yourself from a dowel and two supports)
- Sealing layer such as clear epoxy
- Airbrush (paint sprayer)
2/ What You Need To Paint Lures with Powder Paint?
- Powder coating paint specifically for fishing lures
- An oven and a baking sheet
- A consistent, direct heat source– preferably a heat gun for the best results, but you can also use a candle flame for small batches
- Pliers to hold the hot lures
- A drying or cooling rack
How to Paint Lures for Ice Fishing?
How to Paint Fishing Lures With Vinyl Paint?
Using vinyl fishing lure paint starts with thinning the paint. The paint you buy is concentrated and intended to be thinned before use for a smoother coat and better coverage.
Use a small plastic cup (such as the dosage cup that comes with cough medicine) to mix some paint and paint thinner. Follow the directions on the bottle for the right proportions.
The simplest method to paint your lures is dipping. Hold the lure or jig head by the hook and dip it completely in the thinned paint. I like to use pliers for this step.
Wipe the excess paint off on the side of the paint cup until the dripping slows.
Hang the lure or jig head on your drying rack. You will probably notice some paint running down and creating a drippy bubble on the underside of the lure. You should use a scrap of cardboard to wipe this away before it dries.
Vinyl paint is a polymer that takes 2-4 days to dry. It depends on the humidity, thickness of the paint, and other factors. Leave the freshly painted jig heads or lures alone for at least 2 days to cure and dry.
Most colors should be applied with a white base coat underneath them — this is especially important for glow-in-the-dark colors because they need to reflect the light of the white paint underneath.
Vinyl paint is known for sealing shut the eyelets on lures and jigs. You can either poke them out when the paint is fresh and wet using a toothpick, or you can use a metal tool for piercing the dried paint after it is cured.
How to Paint Ice Fishing Lures and Jigs Using Powder Paint?
The first step for powder painting your fishing lures is to heat the lure up. You will need to follow the guidelines on your brand of paint, but generally you should heat lures for 5-10 seconds, depending on size.
The best way to heat the lure is with a heat gun. There are many brands available for as little as $30. These are quick and give you a concentrated blast of moderate heat. A blow torch is too intense and can turn a lead jig head into molten metal!
If you are only doing a small batch of lures, you can use a candle flame (make sure the wick is trimmed to ¼-inch to prevent smoke, which will leave a residue that ruins the powder coating).
When the lures are heated, you are ready to dip them in the powder paint. You can dip directly into the jar or use a device called a fluid bed. A fluid bed blows air through the bottom of the jar of powder, making it light and fluffy for better and easier coverage.
If you are not using the fluid bed (it’s really only necessary if you are painting dozens of jig heads or lures at a time), then make sure to shake the powder jar gently in between every lure you dip. This is very important to break up any clumps that form when you swish the hot jig heads in the powder.
Aim for a swishing motion, quickly side to side, submerging the whole lure or jig head below the surface of the powder. Don’t rub it around in the powder too much; only a quick dip and swish side to side is necessary. If you are getting bad coverage, you can heat and dip the same lure again. Try heating the next one for 3 more seconds to get better coverage.
When you’re done, tap the lure to remove excess powder. If you have the right heat, you should see the powder melt and become smooth. Don’t let the lure touch anything for 20-30 seconds while the powder cures.
For maximum durability, place the completed lures on a baking sheet or hang them from an oven rack and bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes to cure them permanently.
1/ How Do I Paint Details on My Fishing Lures?
To paint eyes on a jig head, use vinyl paint and a small straw or piece of small (1/16th or 1/8th-inch) rubber tubing. Dip the very end of the straw in paint so it forms a rounded bubble of paint on the end. Touch this bubble lightly to the jig head to make a circular eye. Experiment with white, black, and glowing paint.
To paint a scale pattern on your lures, find a piece of very fine netting at a fabric store and stretch it over your lure (already painted with the base coat). Apply an accent color of paint or powder over the netting and let it cure for a minute before removing the netting. This will leave a nice scale pattern.
2/ Can You Use Acrylic Paint for Ice Fishing Lures?
While we didn’t really cover acrylic paint in this article, you can buy acrylic paint specifically for fishing lures and follow many of the tips from this article.
Acrylic paint is not as durable, but it is very easy to use and safe. If you want to make lures with your kids, acrylic might be the best choice because it is low-odor and does not require heat. It’s also water based, so you can clean up any messes before they dry.
Apply a glossy top coat after you paint your lures to protect the finish.
3/ Can You Use Nail Polish on Ice Fishing Lures?
The simple answer is yes, but it’s not the perfect paint for the job.
The biggest problem with fingernail polish is the odor of the polish. It takes days for the smell to go away, and the odor may repel fish.
It is pretty durable for fishing, but it tends to come off in a tackle box when exposed to high heat from the sun or chemicals from soft plastics and other fishing items. Nail polish just isn’t meant to last more than a few weeks.
If you just want to try a new color quickly or repair a damaged lure, nail polish is cheap and easy to brush on. But it is not recommended for a whole batch of jig heads or lures.