DIY Sea Witches

There are so many types of trolling lures and bait enhancements to choose from in these modern times, but the good old-fashioned sea witch is still a go to in my book. A simple lead head design with various synthetic hairs lashed to it will catch as many fish as a high dollar, high-tech epoxy, abalone “mother of pearl infused, big-rattle eyed, high-dollar lure. I’m not saying I don’t want one of those modern lures, but it may not be required to catch a fish.

Sea Witches are traditionally used to enhance, protect or add weight to natural trolling baits like ballyhoo, or my favorite the strip bait.

A light sea witch with mylar added in front of a shiny, tough bonita belly strip will catch anything that swims.

I was taught to make sea witches by a friend who had been trained in North Carolina, where trolling natural bait is king. He taught me this simple way to make your own sea witch in 1990, and I have made who knows how many since. They work great, are pretty cheap to make and let you play the “colors game”, though I’m pretty sure it doesn’t matter to the fish.

Here is how you do it:

Find a supplier of synthetic hair and pick your colors. I prefer straight hair to the “crinkle” hair, but that’s just me. The hair I get comes loose in a tight plastic wrap. If you cut the wrap, the hair will go everywhere, so first step is to take a blowtorch to one end to melt the ends of the hair into a molten cap. This ties them into a bundle at one end. Then you can remove the plastic wrap and snip off the desired amount of hair. If they carry the hair, then they probably have the lead heads too. The size or weight of the head varies with the intended application, but I normally use 1/8 ounce to create a very light sea witch with scant hair, so that it does not hinder the ability of the fish to eat the bait. I also have ¼, ½, and 1 ounce for various applications.

Hair, waxed dental floss or light waxed rigging floss, and lead heads are all you need. The waxed floss is important because it helps hold the tension when you are wrapping the hair onto the head. As with anything, a little practice is all it takes to be making your own awesome sea witches.

Cut a 3-foot piece of waxed floss and stretch it out. Next cut small amounts of hair of the desired colors and place down on top of the floss at one end. Leave an inch hanging over, as it can be trimmed later. Now place the head in the hair as shown. Note that the hair will fold back over the head when trolled.

Now gently, without disturbing the hair, pick up the ends of the floss and make an overhand knot with three passes. Carefully tighten it until it is just above the hair and head.

Then with a gentle, swift pull of the ends the knot should tighten down around the recess in the head and the hair will begin to spread around the head. Pull tight to keep the hair from falling out.

Now pick it up and physically move the hair around the head so that it is even in thickness. Now take a few tight wraps with one leg of the floss. Do some half hitches around it to lock down the tension. Hold the spare leg of the floss in your hand to keep it out of the way to be used next. Continue wrapping a series of half hitches tightly until you have about 8 inches of tag left in the first leg of floss.

Now tuck the short tag away and repeat doing half hitches with the other leg of floss until you get the same length left.

To finish the wrap, we lay the two tags together and do a “double secret knot”. Just like a surgeon knot, but only one wrap. Pull it down gently tight.

Now separate the two tag ends and pull opposing each other. The knot should slide down to the lead head and be tight. Now trim the tags close to the knot and you are done.

Now you can trim the hair in the back and front to get desired look or length. Remember to rig it where the hair pulls back in the water and makes it pulse.

Now you can slide the sea witch over many types of bait rigs to protect them from the water flow, add a little weight and a splash of color.

Once through the learning curve, you can whip these out pretty quickly and they really are a great bait enhancement for any species.

More on making strip baits: mullet strips, bonita belly

More on ballyhoo rigging. bait prep, parasites, eyballs

Capt. Scott Goodwin
Capt. Scott Goodwin started fishing in the lakes of Kentucky where he grew up. A move to Florida, however, brought him into a whole new realm of fishing. After receiving a bachelor's degree in biology from Eckerd College, he decided that he liked catching fish more than studying them and thus began ...