Essential Lures - 2

Jerkbaits and Soft Plastics

Having made a start on thinning out my lure collection in part one of this series, I am now getting to the nitty gritty of my lure collection - hard bodied wooden and plastic lures. Firstly I'll look at jerkbaits. Seeing as almost all jerkbaits can be divided into gliders (lures with side to side actions) and divers (up and down baits) it is easy to see that there is a lot of duplication of action with lures from different manufacturers. As a result I tend to think of these baits as essentials more in generic terms than in specific models, at least as far as the gliders are concerned. Even so there is variation in sink or rise rates, hang times and glide width to consider - which is why I have similar looking lures from different sources. I have more glidebaits, or near glidebaits, than any other jerkbait type. Strange really, because when I first used jerkbaits this style was pretty uncommon. Yet today a lot of lure anglers seem to think that all jerkbaits work from side to side to some degree.

I suspect that when I do thin the glidebaits out I will keep one or two from various manufacturers - I have a couple of Reef Hawgs that I have tuned to perfection as erratic gliders, a couple of Cobbs that have caught more than the others and so on. The ones with the most teeth marks, in other words! I imagine I'll also save a selection of Mantas, Jerkos, and some hand crafted lures to leave enough colours in lures ranging from floating through to medium sink rates and with glide lengths from inches to a foot or more.

When it comes to shad-shaped gliders (maybe glider is the wrong term as some have a very tight action, more akin to a walk-the-dog style) I'll probably hang on to a couple of Darters - one in perch one in stripey bream - as these have a slower sink rate than my other favourite tight gliders which, without a doubt, are the fibreglass Dolphins that Graham Withers made in standard and fast sink rates. All these fibreglass Dolphins will be retained. This will mean keeping more than I really need, but seeing as they can no longer be replaced I need all the back ups I can lay my hands on!

I might also have to sort out the better wooden Dolphin shaped Fat Shads that I got off Tom Jeffers. I've neglected these baits for a while now, but one of them took a twenty on about its sixth cast. They have great actions but are heavy being quite fat, can be poor hookers as a consequence. Being made of wood they are not without the attendant finish problems either. On the whole I prefer plastic lures over wooden ones, not so much because they are more consistent in action (which they don't always manage to be), but because of the relative ease of maintenance.

I guess I should really thin out the Bagley's B-Flats. This is a lure I haven't been throwing much recently, but which I used a lot in the earlier days. Not being a hand crafted wooden lure B-Flats vary quite a bit in action - so I bought quite a lot to get a handful of good ones. But if you do get a good one it can be superb for searching shallow water, or fishing in a more considered manner over the tops of submerged weeds. The unusual roll this lure has on the glide flashes it's flat sides to pike lying below. Chrome and foil finishes really highlight this trait in sunny conditions. The only drawbacks with this lure are it's action - which means pike have a habit of mistiming their strike, and the front line tie of brass wire set into lead - which is prone to bending after you have landed a fish on it and needs retuning. It hasn't happened to me yet, but I can see one of these brass eyes fracturing at some point after a lot of retuning.

When it comes to diving jerkbaits the Suicks and the Burts will all be hung on to, as these are the ones I have had the most consistent success on. Again this could simply be because I know they catch, so I persevere with them. I don't possess many Suicks but the ones I do have have been weighted to suit my needs and have a range of actions. All my Suicks are at their best in shallow situations as they are floaters - but weighted to have very slow rises. Even so, by careful manipulation you can work a weighted, but floating, Suick down in the water column, although it will take a few yards to do this.

It's funny, but most people who have latched on to jerkbait fishing in recent times don't seem to like floating lures. They are missing out on one of most important features all jerkbait anglers should have access to - the slowly rising lure. I'd much rather have a diving bait that rises ever so slowly than one that hangs in the water or sinks slowly. The slow rise seems to me to be a very important trigger.

Most of the early jerkbaits I used were floating models, either Reef Hawgs, Suicks or Dave Scarff's original Pigs. Many had to be worked very quickly just to keep them under the surface, but they were devastating for catching pike that had never seen anything like that before. Certainly as time has passed the efficacy of slow sinking jerkbaits has become apparent, and I am sure that pike do wise up to the necessarily faster worked floating lures, but that doesn't mean floating baits have no place. Diving them down to tickle the weed tops on warm summer evenings can be devastating. My Pigs will be kept as much to remember Dave Scarff and the early days of UK jerkbait fishing as anything - I rarely throw them anymore in case I lose one, but I am sure they will still catch pike in the right conditions of warm water and naïve pike. Or perhaps, just perhaps, there are no pike around that have seen this lure type these days?

The original floating Pigs have a diving element to their action, but also a sideways swing, and also (when you get it right) a bit of body roll too. Quite a unique action and nothing at all like the Odyssey Suspending Pigs which are essentially glidebaits.

As with the Suick, Burts might not look like they are 'doing' very much, but so long as they are moving and stopping pike will show an interest. Now owning thirty or so Burts might seem a prime case for a clear out, but every one of them will be staying safely under lock and key. The thing is, even thought they are a plastic lure, they all seem to vary a little in action, diving depth or hang time - even just among the weighted models. I need some straight ones and some with tails, a few of the often overlooked floaters and the rest that have been cunningly tuned. Then there are spares in case of accidents or leaks. I might even lay my hands on some more Burts! As they can be cast (jerked or cranked) and trolled they are really versatile lures - with a bit of thought, practice and confidence.

You might notice that some of the currently popular jerkbaits haven't been mentioned. The main reason for this is that they probably do exactly the same job as the baits I already have. Salmo Sliders are a favourite of many recent jerkbaiting converts, but my Darters will do pretty much the same job for me, and the Dolphins cover the rest of the shad shaped baits on the market. It makes me chuckle me when I see yet another flat sided glidebait being launched. It's a prime example of lures being made to catch lure anglers by appealing to their magpie tendencies for collecting shiny things! Fair enough if the new lures are made in different sizes I suppose, but I don't want smaller, and I don't want bigger. So why bother with them? I guess Salmo Warriors and Fatsos are a bit different, but as I have never really clicked with them I'll sling them out too.

Come to think of it, there is one small, plastic, jerkbait that I won't be parting with. I suppose there are two baits really, the Lureland Hammer and Spitfire. The Hammer is an erratic little lure, and the Spitfire, with its tail blade, is best just cranked straight in. Not lures I use a great deal, but I usually have one or the other in the box.

After all this my jerkbait selection might end up looking a bit unimaginative - mostly Burts and Dolphins plus a motley assortment of glidebaits, but I'll still have enough colours to fit my needs, and more importantly enough sink or floating rates and actions. I'll be well covered to deal with all depths from the surface to thirty odd feet, and at all speeds I would ever want to work a jerkbait. If there is one thing I have learned in my lure fishing it is that depth and speed control are far more important than fancy actions that look good to us. Given that pike have a habit of hitting lures when they are paused, all the lure does when it's moving is make the pike aware of its presence.

Selecting my essential larger soft plastic lures is a fairly straightforward affair. Bull Dawgs, in various sizes and sink rates, Super Sandras, and Castaic Swimbaits. And that's pretty much my lot! The only other large soft baits I'll be looking to use in the future will be my Fin-S Fish and Slug-Gos. Two underused and underrated baits that I have neglected for too long. They probably get forgotten about because they are at their best when fished slow and shallow in places you know a pike or two are laying up. They are not good for fishing deep, or for fishing fast and searching fish out. They are finesse baits. The fact that they need rigging by the angler is probably another reason they get ignored. Nonetheless they are the closest things you'll find in plastic to a wobbled deadbait. Plain and simple shads in six and nine inch sizes are worth using too.

Bull Dawgs need no description of their usefulness these days. They are at their best in nine feet or more of water, although the shallow versions can, obviously, be fished shallower. A simple straight retrieve has always been best or me - as it has with all soft plastics featuring a tail action of some kind, but others seem to do okay working them like a jerkbait.

Rigged without weight Super Sandras are fine lures for fishing ultra shallow, and slowly too. Put them on a heavy jig head (with or without a spinnerbait arm) and they fish down as deep as you want. Castaic Swimbaits are probably at their best for fishing below nine feet, and stay deeper more easily than Bull Dawgs. This is not to say they don't have a use for shallower water, but deep water is where they shine. As all these ready rigged soft baits are good for casting and cranking straight in it follows that they are good for trolling too. But remember they will ride up in the water column - the more so if you have a spinner blade attached to the rig somewhere.

Part 3 sees me trying to whittle down my crankbait collection and also giving you the definitive list of my essential lures.

(This article first appeared on in Pike and Predators - June 2005 on this site April 2006)