Fisherman turns passion for hobby into a business

Alabama Living Magazine
To make a jig, Ryan Gunn first applies powder paint. The paint contains an ultraviolet brightener that makes the finish shine. He bakes in the powder paint to make the finish nearly indestructible. Photo courtesy of Ryan Gunn

Rather than buy lures, Ryan Gunn, an enthusiastic young fisherman growing up in Thomasville, preferred to make his own.

“I got into tying flies when I was a teenager,” he recalls. “When I was growing up, we were members of a golf course. A golf course pond was right behind our house. I would go to the pond and terrorize the fish with my flies.”

Young Ryan grew up and married a girl named Janet. Life took over and he stopped making lures for a long time, but the passion still burned within him. Then one day about two years ago, “I saw a photo of a crappie with a jig in its mouth and I thought, ‘I could make one better than that,’” Ryan remembers.

“I ordered another fly-tying vice and materials and made a few jigs. I sent some to a well-known sportsman. Not long afterward, he sent me some pictures with a bunch of crappie he caught on one of my jigs. He named the jig Fish Master Blue. I’ve been making them ever since.”

Common enticements for crappie and other species, a jig consists of a weighted hook and adornments to make it look like a minnow or other prey for hungry fish. Most come with feathers, fur or other materials. On a bare hook, anglers can add soft-plastic trailers.

Now 51 years old, the lure maker and Janet live in Flomaton. Ryan works as a nurse, but his passion remains making jigs and catching fish with them. He calls his company Team Fishmaster Custom Jigs.

“People call me the ‘Fishmaster,’” Ryan says. “It’s the best feeling in the world to catch a fish with a lure I made myself. I currently make jigs specifically for crappie, but I can make any style of jig to catch almost any fish. I also tie deer-hair flies that can catch anything.”

To make a jig, Ryan first powder-coats the lead heads to give them a tough baked-on finish. Then, he adds an ultraviolet coating to make them more visible to fish. He makes plain jigs and weedless ones equipped with a monofilament weed guard.

“After I get the head baked, I decide on the materials,” Ryan says. “I use either marabou, which is a soft type of feather that undulates well in the water, synthetic fibers or chicken hackle.”

He makes every jig essentially the same way. To add the materials that make the jig look like something a fish would eat, he puts the head in a vice. Then, he starts wrapping thread around the hook shank. Only the tail material differentiates the various models.

“I wrap thread around the hook shank,” Ryan explains. “Once I have it the way I like it, I’ll apply chenille, which is a kind of yarn that comes in every color of the rainbow. I wrap that from the tail up to the head, tie it off and cut the thread. Then, the jig is ready to fish. It takes me less than five minutes to make a jig.”

Ryan Gunn dips a plain lead jighead into powder paint. The paint contains an ultraviolet brightener that makes the finish shine. He bakes in the powder paint to make the finish nearly indestructible.
Photo courtesy of Ryan Gunn

Because he makes each lure by hand, no two jigs look exactly alike. Even when he uses identical materials, each jig looks slightly different. He sells them to local bait shops and individuals.

“I do this absolutely for the fun of it,” he says. “It’s a very addicting hobby, but it’s a great hobby! If someone has a creative talent, there’s no end to the designs that person can make. Because I’m a fisherman myself, I gain tremendous joy by looking at the different colors, different materials and figuring out what looks good and what I think will work on the fish.”

Currently, he only makes jigs for tempting crappie and some smaller ones to entice small-mouthed bluegills and other bream species. However, he can make bigger lures for largemouth bass. He even used some of his jigs in salt water and caught fish, so he might expand his product line for coastal fishing with bigger hooks.

“I’ve had good success and learned from watching the jigs in the water,” Ryan says. “Fishing is a great hobby and a great sport. I encourage everybody to go fishing, especially if they have children. Take them fishing. It doesn’t matter if they catch anything or what they catch. It’s just about spending quality time together and enjoying the outdoors.”

For more information, look up Team Fishmaster Custom Jigs on Facebook.

John N. Felsher is a professional freelance writer who lives in Semmes, Ala. He also hosts an outdoors tips show for WAVH FM Talk 106.5 radio station in Mobile, Ala. Contact him at or through Facebook.


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