A Baitmaker's Life

Posted by Jim Covington on May 24th 2021

A Baitmaker's Life

I've been a fisherman my whole life. I can remember going out with my father and he would put bits of wieners on a hook. I would spend hours catching perch! Fishing has always been my drug. Fishing is very addictive.

Now as I have well-aged, I turned to tournament fishing and making soft-plastic baits. In order to learn how to make the baits, I turned to the internet. I watched how-to videos over and over again. I took a lot of notes as well. Along the way, I started up a spreadsheet to keep track of the tools, plastic, glitter, etc. providers and their costs. Once I had decided to make the jump, I had to make a choice - is this to build a business or just an expensive hobby. I decided on the business.

So off I went, spending more money on this business than on my bass boat. And, I'm not even close to being done with the spending spree! In order to make a profit in this business, you must sell in large quantities. So that means you are not only a bait maker, but a business owner who must develop his/her sales skills. Selling to tackle shops is not an easy task. It takes a lot of phone calls to many stores and most time multiple calls. This takes time away from making baits.

Now that I have the equipment, plastic, glitter, custom bags, etc. I need to closely watch my costs, while trying to take the business to next level.

There are no shortcuts to pouring baits. You must mix the raw plastic, heat it to over 350 degrees, add color and glitter. Then pour and pour and pour. Once the bait has set up for a few minutes, then you can take the new baits out of the molds and do it all over again. Pouring baits can be a very time consuming process. 

One of the things I see on the internet with some bait makers is while they may make some nice looking baits, they end up giving it away! They don't consider one of the most important aspects of bait making - labor! As a bait maker, you must factor in your time and labor. I see so many who are selling their baits for $3-4 per bag! That is grossly under-priced! Also, most of those online are not really businesses, but someone who thinks they can sell their baits in an auction online in order to make a buck. The IRS will find out and come for those who are not legit businesses. As a bait maker, you must pay a 10% excise tax every quarter. And believe me, the IRS wants their cut. So beware, you've been warned.

While making baits is a very rewarding aspect of the business, the creation of a new color is what keeps me interested in this whole process. All of my colors are unique. I don't try to color match anyone else's work and I would expect the same from others, even though I know that won't happen. I try to make colors that I would and do use while fishing. In tournament fishing, you need every advantage over other anglers and showing the fish a color or bait they've never seen before, may be that difference between first and second place.

So, while I as of the date of writing this blog, still have a regular daytime job in addition to my bait making business, making baits is a second full-time job! Once I've finished my day job, I go into the shop and start making baits for orders, build up inventory or create new colors. All of this is sometimes done while streaming online at the same time. In today's environment of online purchasing, COVID-19, etc., the internet has become the most addictive drug of all and if you want to run a business in today's market, you must have a strong online presence.

So for those of you out there who want to become a bait maker as a hobby, enjoy it, but know your limitations that you defined for yourself when you started. This "hobby" can become very quickly out of control as it can be very addictive and expensive. If you are doing this as a hobby, then make only a couple of your most used baits, leave the rest for those baits you can purchase online or in a store.

I get asked all the time where do I get my molds, etc. Well, I'm not going to tell you. You need to do your own research. There are a lot of mold makers out there; just like there are several large and small plastic makers, glitter suppliers, bag suppliers, etc. One of the most important pieces of information I can share with you is ventilation! The plastic once hot, the fumes are toxic! You must have proper ventilation! If you can't have that, then you should wear a very good mask! But if you are in an enclosed room with little to no air circulation, that don't even start down the road to becoming a bait maker. I remember the first week, I started pouring baits, that I felt ill even though I wore a mask, the smell of plastic does have a particular odor that some people can't stand. I am used to it, but my wife and son can't stand to go into my workshop because of the smell.

Gloves and other proper protective clothing such as long pants and shoes, NOT sandals. I can't emphasize this enough. Hot plastic will splatter sometimes and when it hits your skin, it will leave a good reminder!

So while making baits can be very rewarding and possibly save you some money on baits that you use most often, don't forget that it always comes a price. For those looking to build a business, remember that you will never be more than a very expensive hobby until you are selling hundreds of bags per day. This again as I mentioned earlier, will depend on your selling price. Please sit down and figure out your true costs if you plan to see your baits.

Some of things to figure into your business calculations are:

  • State and Federal costs (these are the costs of starting your business)
  • State and Federal taxes. (The IRS will expect 10% and no less)
  • Accountant
  • Website
  • Other online presence
  • Accounting software
  • Camera
  • Graphic Designer
  • Gloves & Masks
  • Injection Machine and/or hand injectors
  • Pyrex cup(s) (you will need more than one)
  • Stirring utensils
  • Rags
  • Bait bags
  • Plastic
  • Glitter
  • Colorant
  • Scent
  • Molds
  • Clamps
  • Shipping supplies

This is but a small list that can cost a small fortune! So do your homework! Good luck bait maker..