Introduction: DIY Copper-Pipe Ocean Fishing Lure! Easy and Deadly - the Best Jig for Lingcod, Halibut, Groundfish

About: I used to be that curious kid that broke stuff by taking it apart to figure out how it worked. But I got smarter, and now I can sometimes put it all back together! My work and hobbies overlap through an intere…

Jigging for bottom fish is a very productive way of fishing, but can have high gear losses if you are fishing around rocks and reefs where there is a chance of snagging the bottom. And lost fishing tackle can be very expensive, so cheap and easy DIY lures are an awesome thing to have. 

We are going to show you how to make your new favorite lure. Not only is it very cheap, but it is also one of the deadliest lures around for ocean fishing. Lingcod, Cabazon, Halibut, Rockfish, Seabass all love it. Part of that is from the shape and action it has, but there's also some science involved with “galvanic reaction” caused by the materials. With both of those at play, these lures regularly out fish all the others on the boat on most trips. (We will explain it all in a few steps, so keep reading and then you can make your own to try it.)

The process to make these is very easy. There are not a lot of tools required, and it is an excellent DIY project you can do while you gear up for your next trip. Including taking pictures, the one we made for this instructable took about 1/2 hour with my son.



·       Short pieces of copper pipe (Diameters of ¾” or 1” are best for big fish. Corroded old pipe is fine as well.)

·       1/16 stainless steel welding filler rod or wire

·       Scrap lead. (Easy places to get lead from are wheel weights, rooftop plumbing flashings, old fishing weights, curtain weights, concrete anchors, battery terminals, etc)

·       Zinc. (This is more of a bonus than a necessity. It does boost the output voltage from the galvanic reaction, and the lures do work a little better if there is some inside there. The easiest place to find this is old electrical cable connectors, most of which are made of zinc if for armored cable.)

·       Ocean fishing tackle. (I use a 7/0 Hook, size 7 split ring, and a size 4/0 barrel swivel.)


·       Hammer

·       Vise

·       Blowtorch (I prefer using one with MAP gas as it is hotter and faster)

·       Conduit bender if available

·       Old tin can

·       Drill with a 1/16 drill bit

·       Needle-nose pliers

Step 1: Why This Lure Works So Well

First about the shape. Curvature in a fishing lure creates a fluttering action while it is being rapidly pulled up or let down through the water. This mimics a struggling or injured baitfish, and increases interest from larger predatory fish. Because this lure is also lead filled, it maintains a mostly vertical profile while wobbling towards the bottom, and when it hits the bottom, it lays over onto its back which keeps the hook off the bottom. This prevents snags.

The galvanic reaction is the secret sauce to this lure. Dissimilar types of metals (Copper and lead/zinc in this lure) in contact with each other and an electrolyte (in this case saltwater) will cause electrons to be released from the zinc and moved to the copper. When this happens, a very small voltage is created as it is the simplest of batteries. And although this might seem like a bad thing to have in water, it is actually really helpful as actual fish continuously give off minute amounts of a voltage. All fish have a voltage sensitive lateral line that runs along the side of their body. This is used as a sensing for proximity to other fish, and Predatory fish use this lateral line to search for baitish to eat. The galvanic reaction voltage created by this lure mimics that created by other living things and helps to convince them it is alive and worth biting. On a lot of my lures I have opened up multiple cuts exposing the copper core to increase this voltage reaction. ( For the same reason, commercial fishing downriggers will often also use a specialized system that purposely creates small voltages all the way along their cable mainlines to increase their success. And you can also look up shark attacks on underwater cables for lots of other info on lateral line sensing of electrical fields in fish. )

Step 2: Bend and Flatten the Conduit

We used an electrical hand Bender to put a small bend into the copper tubing. It also causes the copper pipe to flatten down a bit, which is actually a good thing. If you don't have a Bender, you can try using a hammer and Vise or hammering it over a rounded rock. You want the pipe to be a little bit oval in cross section, as this helps the action to be a bit more prevalent.

Step 3: Measure and Drill the Conduit

 Although you can use the dimensions I posted in step 2, I would hesitate to do so unless you are using the exact same size of hook, split ring, and barrel swivel. If your gear is any different length than mine when assembled, it will come out different if using my dimensions. It's better if you size it directly for your onw terminal gear.

Put together your hook, split ring, and swivel. Now that you have that length, lay it along the side of your pipe lure. You want the belly of the hook to be within about an inch of the bottom, but not lower than the bottom of the pipe. Once you've figured out where that is, drill two holes on the inside curved edge of the conduit about 3/8” (10mm) apart.

Step 4: Bend the Wire Through

This is probably the trickiest section, particularly as stainless steel wire is really stiff to bend. The pictures are in order though, and you can follow them or the description below.

Start by feeding up some wire through the top hole so that you have about two inches sticking out through the top hole. Then trim the wire about two inches back from where you are pushing it into the pipe. Take that piece and bend it in a "J" hook. 

Now thread your swivel onto that "J", and then force that free end of the "J" into the lower drilled hole. Pull on the wire that is at the top to snug up this loop. Then take your pliers and bend a loop in the top and force the free end back down inside the pipe.

Don't worry too much about having tons of wire inside the pipe. I usually want about 1/2" (12mm). Remember that you are going to be pouring lead around it which will cemented in place. I have fished these heavily and never had a wire pull out on me.

Step 5: Crimp the Pipe End

Now you need to close off the bottom end of the pipe so the melted lead doesn't run out. Stick the bottom 1/4" (6mm) of your pipe in a vise, and crush it together. Make sure it is flattened all the way together. Leave this in the vise for the next step when you pour your lead alloy.

Step 6: Melt the Lead and Zinc

Make sure you do this in a well-ventilated area. We did this outdoors and picked an afternoon with a good breeze and stayed upwind, as melting lead and zinc give off toxic fumes.

I used an old tin can as the Crucible. Give it a little pinch so that it has a spout for the pour later. You can also trim in a little flap like mine so it is easier to pick up with your pliers.

Load the lead and zinc into the can. It should be mostly lead with only a little bit of zinc to increase the galvanic potential. Then apply heat directly to that with your blowtorch. They will melt really rapidly. (As an added bonus, you get to see specific gravity at work as any iron bits from wheel weights or battery terminals will float on the surface of the much denser lead. You can pick those out easily with a set of needle nose pliers. )

Step 7: Pour and Let Cool

Once the lead and zinc alloy is melted, you will probably have a small amount of dross on the surface. This is dirt and oils and oxidized surface contaminant. You can skim that off with a scrap piece of wood or old spoon.

If your melted alloy is clean and hot, then quickly run your torch up and down the copper to heat it as well so it bonds good. Then smoothly pour the molten into the pipe. Make sure you fill it right to the top in one go, as the heat sink of the vice at the bottom will be rapidly setting the lower section. And it is best if it is all one piece so that the stainless steel eyelets are embedded most strongly. 

Do this carefully and with proper protection (gloves, long sleeves, safety glasses, faceshield), as molten metal can sometimes splatter and will burn instantly if it hits you.

Step 8: Hammer and Trim the Edges

Because of the mass of metal, this lure will take a long time to cool. But once it has, remove it from the base and trim down the bottom end so that it is a bit more streamlined. This is just to prevent the edges from hanging up on a fish as it comes into bite.

Then hammer the top eyelet end a bit flatter, and if you want, hammer over the entire body to flatten it out more if you think that might help as well. You can also cut a few slits along the side to expose the lead alloy to increase the galvanic potential.

Step 9:

Although it is rather plain to look at, this is the finished lure. If you do want to paint it, don't paint all of it and never varnish the whole thing. You need saltwater contact with both the lead at the ends as well as the copper of the body to create the galvanic reaction.

When it comes to fishing lures, there are a lot of chartreuse and bright colours on the racks at commercial stores. Often cases those colours are more to attract the eyes of the customers than the fish. A lot of deep sea bottom fish are already brownish, so this is a very natural colour for fishing there. Instead of second guessing it, take it out and try it as is.

Once you've made one, try making a few others in different sizes of pipe, length, and hook placements. I'm always experimenting on these.

This jig is best fished aggressively. Let it fall all the way until it hits the bottom, and then immediately jig it full rod lengths rather violently up and down, allowing the jig to smash into the bottom every time. This creates noise and disturbance to bring fish in. Most hits are on the retrieve back up. It works really well for Lingcod and Cabazon, although rockfish, sea bass, and halibut will also hit these.

Good luckmaking, good luck fishing, and if you do make and fish one, post a picture of your fish with it in the “I made it” section.

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