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Making and Fishing a Hair Jig

hair jig

George Fiorille

Hair jigs may be one of the oldest bass fishing lures ever made. It’s a lure that has stood the test of time and continues to be one of the most productive, despite being somewhat shrouded in controversary.

Using hair jigs for bass over the years has a special place in my heart. I once had the opportunity to guide the late ESPN “Fishin’ Hole” television host Jerry McKinnis to a 6-pound smallie for one of his shows. He caught the fish on a 1/8-ounce hair jig with 4-pound test line. Another time, while fishing as a co-angler in a Bassmaster Top 100, I caught a 6-pound largemouth on a hair jig that took lunker. After filling my limit, I then gave my pro partner one to help him limit out and he won $10,000 with it.

Hair jigs are what some top anglers consider as a “mop up lure.” After catching fish on something else, they follow up with a white hair jig to trigger additional last strikes. These last fish just may be the largest of the day.

Usually available in three different types, the most popular hair jigs are made of either deer, marabou or synthetic hair.

Tie Your Own

hair jig

Bill Alexander of Sylvan Beach, NY, owns and operates M.T.O. Lures ( For over 30 years Alexander has been making hair jigs. These jigs will not only catch smallmouth and largemouth bass, but many other species as well.

Alexander not only markets one of the best hair jigs on the market but is also one of the best at using them. He has won thousands of dollars over the years with his own creations. Over the years he has won 2 boats in bass tournaments and qualified for the NY BASS Federation team 15 times using many of his lures.

Many bass anglers who also hunt deer fail to realize that they can make some of the deadliest bass lures from their deer hide taken the fall before. Not only is the tail a great source for materials needed, but other parts of the hide as well.

Alexander’s Buck n’ rubber jig is a unique creation. It’s not only tied with deer hair but sports living rubber legs as well. These jigs were the ones mentioned above that have won thousands of dollars in tournament winnings.

Deer Hair

The first step in making a quality hair jig begins with skinning your deer. It’s important to note that the hides harvested later in the season work best as the hair turns hollow. It’s best to put a preservative on the skin such as plain table salt. The skin on inside the tail needs to be salted as well. Split the tail down the middle and remove the bone before salting.

Alexander will use the longer hair on the tail best for larger jigs such as those for largemouths and stripers. The shorter hair on the neck and other parts of the body work great for smaller jigs for smallmouths and panfish.

The natural color of the brown hide is great for imitating bait such as crawfish, gobies, and sculpins. The white hair is perfect for mimicking minnows such as shad and alewives.

One of the most popular and deadly colors is a black hair jig. Black deer hair jigs in 1/8- and ¼-ounce sizes are Alexanders favorites. He also advises bass anglers to try other jig colors such as avocado for smallies along with custom colors that “match the hatch.”

Alexander will cut blocks off the hide in strips and turn the hair black with acid dyes. Before tying the jig by hand, he will wash the hair with shampoo and use cream rinse. This makes the hair smoother and flow better on the retrieve.


The type of head you tie your hair on is very important. Alexander uses a handful of different types of heads. His favorite style for bass is an egg style head that drops well and slides along the bottom. If you are fishing among snags such as rocks, you should consider an Arkie or football style head with a turned eye hook that are more snag resistant. Some anglers like to use a minnow shaped swimbait style head that is tied with long hair that resembles larger minnows.

Unlike many commercially tied hair jigs, Alexander highly recommends using quality black nickel needle point ultra sharp hooks. Some fish such as smallies and others when inactive will just nudge your bait. I have caught a few 4-pound smallies on needle point hooks that were just hooked through the lip skin and landed. A needle point will just punch through and not make a larger hole. If you use a knife point inexpensive hook, it would have cut through and the fish would have been lost.

Before tying your hair on, Alexander recommends using powder paint on the head. While some manufacturers advise to cure the heads at 350 degrees, Alexander says it works better to cure at 250-300 degrees to prevent paint sagging. Also be sure to clear paint out of the hook eye before the final curing.

Once you select the correct painted head and deer hair, make sure to use quality nylon thread to wrap the hair on. Many jig makers will use a fly vise to hold the head while trying. Alexander has tied so many jigs over the years he just uses his hand to hold the jig head. Secure the thread to the jig with a couple of half hitch ties. Make several wraps close to the head and then finish with a couple of more half hitch ties.

The final step is to make your jig last longer is to secure the thread with a sealer. You can use clear or colored nail polish to finish.


smallie on a hair jig

Many avid jig fishermen advise using light lines such as 4-, 6-, or 8-pound test for better results. Try using medium-medium/light spinning rods in the 7’-7’6” range. Good jig anglers will use a line mix of braided line with a fluorocarbon leader. Some use just straight fluorocarbon line. A larger spinning reel such as a size 4 will give you less line twist and longer casts. To get added distance and scent to a lightweight jig, thread a short piece of a plastic worm on the shaft under the hair.


You can sum up the different types of hair jig retrieves in three ways. They will either hit it on the drop, the hop, or crawl the bottom with a very slow stop. The last just may be the best. Sometimes you even must “dead stick” it to draw a strike. This is true especially in cold water and inactive situations. Hair jigs also work excellently in current situations in rivers and streams.

So, if you’re an avid hunter and fisherman, with last fall’s deer hide hanging around, you’re in luck. The skin and tail will give you the ideal materials to make several of the deadliest lures you can use on bass and other fish.

Fish On!

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