After Katrina Reef, just south of Deer Island in Biloxi, ate one too many of Keith Jackson's jig heads he decided to take matters into his own hands.
"We had a few weeks of crappy weather in a row and I started thinking about how many jig heads I had lost," Jackson said. "Me and my grandpa used to make sinkers all the time so I thought I could make jig heads."
Jackson talked to some fellow fishermen who experienced the same frustrations with losing jig heads and decided to take the jump and start making jig heads for himself and his buddies.
"I figured at least I'm not doing it for myself," said Jackson. "At least I can give them some jig heads. It's pretty fun and something to pass the time. It's cool catching fish on something you made yourself, even if it is just the head. It was pretty cool when Chris (Bush) caught a 7-pounder on one."
Jackson did his homework and discovered there are two types of pots to melt and pour lead. He went with a pot that pours lead from the bottom instead of the ladle type that pours from the top.
"I went with a Lee Production Pot that pours from the bottom so all of the impurities rise to the top," Jackson explained. "You can take a common household spoon and scrape the impurities off once it melts. When you pour out of one of these pots it comes out all silvery from the bottom so your jigs come out looking really clean.
"For safety, the most important thing is having good air flow. Make sure you have some air flow so you're not breathing those fumes for a long time. I also wear rubber gloves so I'm not contacting as much lead and I wear safety glasses."
Jackson uses two molds by Do-It; one for standard aspirin head jigs and the other for jig heads with a line tie that is perpendicular to the hook point. He can pour jig heads in weights from 1/8 to 3/8-ounce.
"So you see a little bit of carbon in some of these (mold slots)," Jackson explained, "that's actually on purpose. What they tell you to do when you first get them is to light a candle and hold it above the candle so soot collects in there. It keeps the lead from sticking so when it pours in the top the lead will flow better into the mold.
"One thing I figured out, and a lot of the websites will tell you, is to heat up your mold first. You can set the mold on top of the pot, put it over a candle or put it on a stove. I found the best way to heat the mold up is to just pour hot lead in it a couple of times with no hooks in there and just throw the lead back in the pot because after you pour it a couple of times that sucker gets pretty hot. The hotter the mold gets the more perfect the roundness gets. You don't get those little dimples in it."
The mold has the hook size stamped by each slot which takes the guesswork out of the process. Once the hooks are placed in the slots, Jackson holds the mold under the melting pot and fills each slot of the mold to the top by pulling a small lever on the pot.
A freshly poured jig head takes about a second to cool but will still be warm to the touch.
"When you're cutting the ends off (the excess lead from the pour slot) use a pair of small gate cutters," said Jackson. "If you just snip it, you end up with a line where the lead bevels up where the gate cutters pinch it. So I just grab it and gently squeeze and turn the jig head at the same time so you get a nice kind of smooth cut.
"I put the eyes on with an X-Acto Knife; you got a smaller point so if they're not exactly centered you can move them around, get them to where you want them, and just press them on."
The weather forecast for the next several days is fairly dismal for the coast. Take some time this weekend and check out the Do-It website (http://www.do-itmolds.com/) and you might just be on your way to a new money-saving hobby.