|Tim Mead's Favorite Stickbaits|
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Mark Montsebroten wandered down the pier toward the float plane that jitneyed me into the Saskatchewan bush. Due to harsh weather, arrival scheduled early in the day had become mid-afternoon. Mark, my guide for the week, assured me we could still get in a full day fishing because of the late sunset. “Grab your gear,” he said, “and we’ll get going.”
Once geared -up, I made my way to Mark’s boat and got in. “What should I throw?” I asked.
Mark answered, “Good bet would be some sort of jerkbait. You got any?”
“Lots,” I assured him. I could tell Mark and I were going to get along well. We think alike when it comes to pike fishing.
A jerkbait is simply a variation on a crankbait that is long and minnow-shaped with a protruding bill. The longer and more protruding the bill, the deeper the lure will dive. The shorter and more perpendicular to the long axis of the lure, the shallower the lure will run on the retrieve. Ordinarily, I prefer jerkbaits which work the upper several feet of the water column, thus they have relatively short, perpendicular lips.
Jerkbaits have long been a favorite pike lure, at least for me. And I know how I got the fever -- from Dad. Among the jerkbaits I met via Dad was the Pikie Minnow. Back-in-the-day, we used the cedar versions and the Pikie Minnow is still available in a wooden version. My pike box has always had a couple of Pikie Minnows In it.
Various catalogs of muskie and pike gear carry pages and pages of jerkbaits suitable for pike fishing. I have not tried them all. Among my favorite jerkbaits are the Long A, Red Fin, Rebel Minnow, Rogue and Thunderstick. All these are plastic. Wooden jerkbaits are also on my list of favorites, including Rapala and Bang-O Lure. The wooden baits take a beating, but they deliver.
Larger jerkbaits also work for pike. Examples include the Long-A Magnum, Rapala # 18, Grandma, Jake, Shallow Raider and Jake.
Mark guided the boat into a large, circular, shallow bay. And I started to cast, hitting every spot that might hold a suitable quarry. In the first 10-minutes, I had a couple, the largest about 12-pounds. Things got better from there.
Jerkbaits work best when pike are foraging on small, elongated fish like smelt, suckers, shiners, perch. And the best colors mimic those baits. Mike Quinn and I fished together in northern Ontario. For a week we went from one incoming creek to another. The suckers were spawning in the creeks and the poor spawners had to make their way through a gauntlet of marauding pike , once to get into the creek and once to get out. Casting Suspending Long-A’s in the area around the creek mouths, Mike and I caught dozens of big pike. Usually we left when Henry, our guide, said, “You guys have pounded this water pretty hard. Let’s move.” Mike was on his first pike fishing trip and the experience made a believer in the efficacy of jerkbaits.
Jerkbaits work if cast and cranked steadily. More commonly, however, the maximum effectiveness comes when jerkbaits are twitched and wiggled – that is jerked. A few years ago Nancy, my sister, and I were fishing for pike on a small lake in northern Michigan. We were both casting small Long-A jerkbaits. I was catching fish though she was not. “Nancy,” I said, “watch what I do when my lure is in the water. I don’t just crank it back. I jerk it a foot or so, let it drift back toward the surface, give it another jerk.” Then she started to catch pike, too, including one she thought was the biggest she had caught since she took a trip with Dad through Ontario when she was in high school. She doesn’t want me to tell how long ago that was.
Round jerkbaits, like the Pikie Minnow, roll side-to-side when jerked. Flat-sided jerkbaits, like the Grandma, wobble when jerked. How far and how fast to jerk is always a question. Let the pike tell you. Vary the speed and severity of the jerks until you catch fish. Could be jerk, jerk, pause. Or jerk, pause. Each day may require a different pattern. Keep experimenting.
A long rod, 7-feet or more, works best for jerkbaits. With the rod tip close to the surface and pointed toward the lure, pull the rod tip toward the boat. How far and how sharply depends on what the pike tell you about their mood. If the fish are aggressive, longer and faster jerks are needed. At the end of each pull, drop the rod tip toward the lure, throwing a little slack in the line. Doing so allows the lure to rise or suspend with a defined pause.
With the rod tip close to the water, setting the hook by lifting the rod only lifts line off the water. What is needed when a pike grabs a jerkbait is a sideways sweep to move the lure in the pike’s
Jerkbaits work wherever pike lurk. Among the best spots are shallow bays as described above. Fallen logs often harbor pike. A jerkbait can be worked along the edges or over those logs. Fishing at Pipestone Lake in Ontario with Bill Shumaker, I cast a jointed Rapala close to the bank and parallel to a huge pine tree in the water. At each limb, I let the plug float over the limb, then twitched it down between the limbs. Suddenly, from under the tree trunk, a 37-inch pike smashed into the lure. Game on!
Pockets in weed beds are another great spot to work jerkbaits. Many years ago I learned fishing the lakes in northern Michigan to cast my River Runt over weeds, retrieve it slowly, then jerk or crank it under at each hole in the weeds. Fishing at Hayward Lake in Ontario with son Craig, we caught several trophy pike, and a number of lesser ones, on Grandmas, drifting over huge beds of pond weed and jerking the lures over the pockets.
Every serious pike angler needs a selection of jerkbaits and a commitment to use them. They are productive for numbers and, if trophies are around, the big mommas also come to anglers with jerkbaits.
Last updated on March 13, 2018