Not to hijack, but, is there a such thing as a lead free alternative that provides decent weight for jig heads? I have yet to find anything that has enough weight that isn't enormous.
That's a great question. I happen to spend a great deal of time researching and experimenting with that very question. My company is founded on the idea of trying to find "yes" answers to those types of questions.
We can actually supply lead free steelhead jigs if somebody can tie 'em up. I know there are different methods to making these things so it will probably depend on who we end up working with. We have a few sources and can manufacture them ourselves too if need be. We believe there are viable lead free alternatives--we just need to bring the right elements together.
My inclination is that yes, there is a heavy enough alloy for steelhead jigs. Bismuth/tin alloys work great. The bismuth is dense (not as much as lead but pretty darn dense). It is also somewhat brittle which is where the tin comes in. Most of these bismuth jig heads we encounter (and we have made many ourselves too) run about 75% to 95% of the weight of a comparable lead jig depending on how much tin is used and the type of hook is used. We find many commercial lead jig heads vary from their nominal weight ratings so its hard to say what the norm is. Factoring in the hook, the bismuth/tin jig heads and the lead jigs heads are pretty close. Too close for most people to notice the difference.
If you're pairing a 1/4oz lead jig with a bismuth/tin jig head made in the same mold (thus the same size as the lead jig head) then it will be slightly lighter. This is not a problem for most guys flipping jigs (.23 oz vs .25 oz is hard to notice). If you have a mold that is designed for the bismuth/tin then you will get a slightly larger diameter. This would be VERY hard to distinguish unless you get into pretty large sizes.
If somebody has the cash, a tungsten jig head would actually be smaller in size than a lead jig head. But tunsten is far from cheap. Brass and steel, which I see jigs made out of, are the ones that are going to have a significantly larger profile. In some cases this may be ideal.