Many anglers today are starting to make their own soft plastic lures, and it makes sense. After the initial cost of getting the materials and mold cavities, you can make soft plastics that are just as good as those made by large lure companies for a fraction of the cost.
Step-by-step guide to making your own soft plastic baits
Step 1: Select your mold
There are two approaches to getting molds to make soft plastic lures, you can either make them, or buy them premade.
Making molds can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make them, but the simple methods of using a pre-existing soft plastic lure, or making a lure blank yourself will typically result in lures with a lower quality appearance.
In most cases, the fish won’t care about the defects, but this can vary depending on the complexity of the lure, as a Senko worm is much easier in terms of making a mold than a swimbait or craw lure.
If you don’t want to learn and go through the costs and time to make your own molds, luckily for you, there is a huge variety of pre-made molds for soft plastic baits on the market today.
Pre-made molds can range from aluminum to high-temp PVC designs, and the number of chambers can also vary.
Even aluminum molds are fairly affordable, and in my opinion your best option, and if you fish enough they will pay themselves off in no time.
Step 2: Prepare the Plastisol
While making soft plastic lures and using plastisol may seem straightforward, the material, cooking, and pouring, all take a while to get used to and learn.
Plastisol temps are crucial, and cooking the plastisol correctly so that it activates and sets is imperative. If you fail to heat your plastisol correctly, you will get either a burnt and smoking mess or an uncured pile of goo.
You can cook the plastisol several different ways, with the most common method involving cooking in a microwave, but do not use the same microwave for cook food, use an old microwave that you will never use for food again.
Shake up your plastisol in the jug to start, as the ingredients separate after sitting. I like to use some old nuts or sinkers and drop them in the jug to help stir things up.
Using a microwave safe measuring cup like a Pyrex brand cup, cook your plastisol for around 1 minute, stir it, and continue cooking and stirring in 30 second to 1 minute increments depending on your microwave oven settings.
Pay close attention to make sure your plastisol isn’t scorching or turning brown or having any obvious burning on the surface.
Your plastisol will turn from a milky liquid to a goopy gel, this is the activation taking place, you must continue to heat it at this point until it turns less viscous and clear, then you will know that the activation is complete.
Step 3: Mix in colors and glitter
Once your plastisol has activated you can add any color of dye and glitter that you choose. There are many lure-making companies out there that make dyes for soft plastic lures, like Lurecraft, Alumilite, and Dead-On plastics to name a few.
After mixing in your color and glitter, it might be a good idea to do another reheat for 30 seconds.
It will be a good idea to use high-temp glitter, but craft store glitter will work, though the very small-sized glitter from craft stores might melt into nothing when added, and some craft store glitter colors will bleed out.
Step 4: Prepare the mold
You should have your molds prepared before cooking up a batch of plastisol.
Molds typically don’t require much in terms of preparation, but you can add a thin film of work oil to them if you would like, but for pouring plastisol, you shouldn’t need to apply any form of mold release.
Large molds might benefit from being pre-heated before pouring to aid in preventing plastisol shrinkage as it cools, but in my experience, this is only needed for very large molds, like those used for musky-sized lures.
Step 5: Pour in the Plastisol
When hand pouring the plastisol lures you will want to go slow with a thin stream of plastisol entering the mold, this helps eliminate air pockets or defects.
A great option for consistent soft plastic lures is to use an injector. Injectors ensure that you can for all the air out of a mold via the air vents, but for single-piece open molds like for swimbaits, this isn’t an option or issue.
Molds for large lures or open molds might need to be topped off a couple of times, as the plastisol can shrink considerably as it cools. Topping of sprues or open pour openings ensures your bait doesn’t have large dents or deformations.
Step 6: Remove the baits
After pouring, your next step is to wait. You just poured 400-degree plastic into that mold, and it’s going to take some time to cool, and the time required depends on the size and thickness of the lure.
for typical bass fishing soft plastic lures, this can be as little as 10-15 minutes, but for larger 8 plus inch swimbaits, you will want to wait a minimum of 15 minutes.
Opening the mold too soon will result in a ruined lure that will need to be recycled, and it could also ooze onto your hands and fingers causing serious burns.
Making Soft Baits: FAQs
How difficult is this process to do properly?
You might struggle a little in the beginning depending on the lure you are making, but for bass plastics and machined molds the process is pretty straightforward and it will not take you long to make great-looking lures.
One of the biggest learning curves is making complex color schemes with swirls, or layers, these all have different methods in terms of pouring, and there are certain tools out there to make the process easy.
Overcoming shrinkage dents can be a challenge, and this is usually the result of injecting or pouring plastisol that is too hot.
When it comes to laminating two different colors to make the desired color scheme, you might run into issues where the layers delaminate, and this is typically the result of pouring soft plastic that is too cold.
Does it save you money?
While it might not seem like it right off the bat if you buy all the materials and equipment needed if you are an avid angler that goes through a ton of soft plastic baits it will certainly save you money.
You can pour a ton of bass lures with a gallon of plastisol, which will typically run about 50 dollars, while a 10 pack of store-bought trailers might run you 6-10 dollars.
What safety gear should you use?
Heavy duty gloves are a must when working with scorching hot plastisol. Hot plastisol is like napalm without the flames, it’s jellified and sticks to anything, and getting it on your skin is exruciating, and I know this from experience.
I once had a trapped gas pocket erupt plastisol from the Pyrex cup and onto my hand, and the top of my hand was covered in giant blisters the size of grapes, and it fused my shirt sleeve cuff to my wrist. My hand and wrist still bear very large scars five years later.
Using the same rubberized type of gloves that you would use for deep frying a turkey is what I use now, and you should too.
Can you make your own molds?
You can make your own molds, but this is a learning process that can take a significant amount of time and money depending on what you are trying to make.
The process can also be simple, but if things like sprue holes and vents are the proper size or in the location, you might be stuck with a mold that doesn’t create quality lures.
Single-piece open molds are simple, but two-piece molds are where things can get a little tricky.
There is definitely a benefit for the avid angler who wants to create their own soft plastic lures, not only to save money, but in areas like custom colors, and if you go all in on lure building, by creating designs that are unique, or when you want a presentation that isn’t offered by lure companies.