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Jigs by Jay

A Calhoun City man takes pride in the colorful, handmade, hand-tied jigs he makes and sells to fishing lovers.

Written by Leslie Criss | Photographed by Joe Worthem

When Jason Waldo is not making office chairs at his job at Haworth in Bruce, he’s likely in the workshop he and his wife Nichole share behind their Calhoun City home. A crafter herself, Nichole also helps her husband of 10 years with his side gig — Jigs by Jay.

For those unfamiliar with angling terms, Waldo has an explanation at the ready.

“A jig is artificial bait. And it’s made to catch people,” he said, chuckling. “It’s the people doing the fishing who want to see the pretty colors. If the fish are hungry, they will eat.”

Waldo’s foray into the world of tying jigs began two years ago when he started making them just for himself.

“I watched a TikTok video of a man making jigs, and I thought it looked pretty easy. Boy, was I wrong,” he said. “I’m not ashamed to say, those first ones were ugly. They were functional but just not pretty.”

Still, like most good fishermen, Waldo practiced patience, learning more with each jig he created.

Waldo’s persistence has paid off. Jigs by Jay, which are also packaged by Waldo, are carried at Hometown Market in Calhoun City and at Lakeway Sporting Goods near Grenada Lake, Waldo’s favorite place to fish. Also, in early February, his friend John Harrison, a member of the Pro Staff Team and a guide at Grenada Lake, gave out Waldo’s business cards and his colorful jigs to attendees at the 2024 Jig Spring Tackle Show in Caruthersville, Missouri.

“That was a proud moment,” Waldo said. “It’s the biggest fishing outlet show in the United States, attended by five to six thousand people.”

A fisherman from Indiana who learned about Jigs by Jay at the show has already placed an order. Locally, Aaron Barton, owner of Barton Outfitters in Oxford, has used Waldo’s jigs from the very beginning.

“Jason reached out through social media and said he was a jig tier trying to get his name out and wondered if I would give him my address so he could send me some jigs,” Barton said. “My wife called a few hours later to say a man had already dropped off a package. I was impressed with the hustle, but even more so with his jigs. They catch fish, they look good and they last. One thing I love about Jason is that if I’m fishing something that works, he has an uncanny ability to replicate or reinvent on the fly. His turnaround time is lightning fast, and he is constantly taking suggestions.”

Another thing Barton admires? Waldo is a good fishing partner. “We’ve fished a handful of times, and while I’m more high strung than a baby grand, Jay is as cool as the other side of the pillow, always grateful to have a day off and be outside fishing with a buddy,” Barton said.

The Art of Jigs

It’s clear watching Waldo work, seated and surrounded on three sides by all the accoutrements of his hobby, that making and tying jigs is certainly art. And Waldo is the artist whose interest and passion have fueled his creations.

Waldo’s wife pours pure soft lead into a multitude of molds that make the bait into such jigs as shad darts, tube jigs, football jigs, ball head jigs, minnow head jigs, pony heads, hatchet heads and so many more.

Jigs can be plain, with no paint. But they can also be any number of bright and beautiful colors provided by powder paint applied after the jig is formed. Once the jig comes out of the mold and is heated, it is dipped into the chosen color — Waldo’s personal favorites are chartreuse and orange. A shrink tube is used to protect the jig eye from being covered with paint.

The jigs may be decorated with bucktail, a fake version of deer hair, or with something shiny like crystal flash that will attract fish. Jigs can catch fish without live bait, but some fishermen add it, as well.

After they are painted, tying the jigs takes Waldo about two minutes. When he first started, each one took him five or six minutes. It’s not easy handing the thread and tiny hook, especially when one doesn’t have small, delicate hands. To help, he uses a vise to hold the hook while he ties the jigs with a very thin type of thread.

“You can make jigs as fancy as you want,” he said. “You can give them all kinds of eyes — cat eyes, lizard eyes. It’s so much fun.”

As soon as Waldo gets home each evening from work, he heads directly to his workshop and starts making and tying jigs. It beats watching TV, he said.

When he is able to go fishing, Waldo uses his own jigs and takes along extras to pass along, especially to kids learning to fish.

“I like to give kids a few jigs to try,” he said. “It gives me a sense of pride knowing my jigs caught fish for people enjoying the day, especially kids.”

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