Clean up your Plugs…and add a Twist

Winter is a perfect time to work on your plugs that have been beaten up by rocks, reefs, and, with luck, lots of fish.  It’s a time to rough up their surfaces and to pull out some waterproof markers or paint and restore ‘em to new.  It’s a lot of fun to match colors, or to strip them down and start from scratch.

I play around with colors a lot.  One of my favorite stick baits is a blue-over-silver Rebel.  It’s killer in a hard current when the herring and alewives are around, but I found that it stinks in skinny water on a bright sunny day.  A buddy of mine said he was killin’ em on that same plug, but he added a twist.  He took a green marker and colored over the back so that would match the water color. I tried that a few years and it’s now my go-to lure.

Another fun thing to do is to dress up your treble hooks.  Fly tiers aren’t the only ones who use vices, bobbins, thread, and feathers to create lures.  Savvy plug fishermen use the same tools and materials to dress up their plugs to make them, how shall I say, alluring?  The same materials can be used for repairing treble hooks or for creating new masterpieces. Twist up some attractor colors or match the color of the bait in the water, your choice.  It’s a lot of fun, and here’s how to do it.  And if your trebles are rusted or sharpened beyond recognition, start with a new replacement treble.

  1. Place the treble in the vise.
  2. Select a color of bucktail to match your plug. While white is standard, you may want to use black or a black and purple blend for dark plugs for night fishing.  A blend of chartreuse and yellow work great for similarly colored plugs for flats fishing, and olive-brown colors are ideal for greenish-brown backed plugs when fishing over kelp.  Think of your bait and the plug you select and match your colors accordingly.
  3. Cut the hair from the bucktail, pull out the small guard hairs near the base, and spread evenly in the treble.
  4. Wrap with thread, tie off with three half hitches or a whip finish, and coat with head cement.
  5. When you’ve mastered working with bucktail, think about adding some saddle hackles or some flash to make them irresistible. Long, thin hackles work the best because they move easily in the water and they don’t impede your casting.

You Might Also Like

Tom Keer

Tom Keer

Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at or at