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Jerkbaits - an introduction


  The Jerkbait as it is commonly called originates from the USA. This name however is totally misleading and groups an absolute shoal of lures into a single category. The name comes from the method used to work these lures i.e. by Jerking the rod. Unlike conventional lures Jerkbaits have no lips to give them action so the Angler must jerk the rod in order to impart some life into the lure.

The use of Jerkbaits is widespread throughout America and the main focus for these lures seems to be the Musky. This fish is a relative of the pike but the species behave quite differently, the Musky being the more aggressive of the two, and growing to incredible sizes.  Being a more aggressive fish, the style used to work the lures tends to be equally aggressive, vigorous jerks and sweeps of the rod being the order of the day. Our Pike whilst aggressive in their own right  tend to prefer an easier meal, and such vigorous workouts are by and large not necessary. Pike will take lures fished fast , and in summer when the fish are very active it can be a killer method, but getting back to my original comment ,the term Jerkbait is misleading. 

My own preoccupation with lure making began after I started using lures, some of the manufactured models available at that time were super buoyant, and had to be fished at sub sonic speeds to get and keep them under the surface. The finishes were often appalling ,and some of the plastic models took on water and rapidly sank. The rest it seemed to me were badly designed or incorrectly weighted. Today by and large things have moved on and since their early beginnings, Jerkbaits and their use are recognised as an effective, exciting and active method of catching lots of pike. 

Several years down the lure-making road I hope to pass on something of what I have learned, and re-categorise the lures now available.



It is essential that you gear up and use the correct Tackle for these lures. Conventional lure rods are of no use whatsoever, the tap’s and twitches that are needed to work the lure are absorbed by long flexible rods and nylon line. A shorter stiffer rod and Braided line imparts every movement to the lure, and the take of a fish is immediately transmitted to the angler. The ideal set up to start with, is a Rod of around six to seven foot, being rated at around 2 to 3oz . A Multiplier reel such as the ABU 55O1C3 is also essential. Fixed spool reels and Jerkbaits do not make good bedfellows, be warned !Braided line in at least 35lb class should be wound on the spool, with a little nylon backing to stop it slipping. I would suggest that fifty pound line is a much better option. I know that this may seem heavy but tremendous forces are put on the line as a three ounce lure is launched to the horizon. And before I started using it myself crack off’s were a regular occurrence. You could be making upward of 400 casts per day, that’s one hell of a lot of lost lures. A good set of long nosed pliers, and some side cutters ,capable of cutting the hooks should be carried at all times. The side cutters are crucial, particularly if and when you become at one with your lure , or worse still attached to an angry pike. Believe me this happens more times than people think , it takes seconds to release yourself from the painful embrace. You will also have to cut the hooks from awkwardly  hooked fish , or if a fish, lure and net become entangled. Hooks are cheap and take seconds to replace. Do not waste time trying to free a badly placed hook, or worse still damaging the fish unnecessarily. The fishes welfare is much more important. So carry some spares hooks with you at all times. It is vitally important that you constantly check the sharpness of your hooks, points can be damaged at any time, and need to be re-honed. Its a good idea to carry a hook file with you . The hooks that are often supplied on new lures are dull, and should be re-sharpened immediately  . indeed some hooks are so bad that they should be binned and replaced. You will not catch pike with blunt hooks, they need to be sticky.  You will need a good trace that can handle the continual casting, and the attention from thrashing pike. Choose either a solid wire leader , or the standard twisted type. Whichever you choose 40lb test should be the minimum, once again better to scale it up for safety. A good snap and swivel of around 60lb test should be fitted, one to each end. As your confidence grows you may choose to hand land the smaller pike you catch , but always carry a net . preferably one with a mesh that resists hooks for obvious reasons. Polaroid sunglasses are essential for the lure angler, as you are now an active hunter of fish. Pike can often be seen in the margins, or laid up close to structures, and you will need to position yourself and your lures in such a way that the fish are not spooked. Following fish are also more easily spotted, and with a change of retrieve can often be turned into hooked fish



The fishing of lures is a colossal subject and it takes many years of practice and refinement to become confident and competent in their use. There are so many things to consider. Weather conditions, water clarity, and temperatures for instance, all have a dramatic effect as to the choice of colour, or the type of lure used. How do you begin your collection??  The best way is of course is word of mouth , or take a look at the most chewed lures in a lure anglers box . Lures in pristine condition are not catching fish ! remember that and you wont go far wrong. Never be afraid to experiment with colours and patterns. Everything in Firetiger is sad.

 All waters do not fish the same, and the Pike in some show a distinct preference for certain colours. I dont think the lure choice is as important as the colour , providing of course the lures you use catch fish. The number of Jerkbaits available is astonishing, and some categorisation is necessary.


Top-water or surface lures. 

As the name suggests work on the surface. There are various types about that are mostly variations on a theme. Classics such as the Lucky Thirteen and Creek Chub Darter have been around along time. There are some with propellers such as the Ozark-Woodchopper. Poe’s Awaker has a revolving blade on the tail end to churn up the water.  The Top Doctor and Giant Jackpot for instance are rear end weighted so the nose of the lure cannot be pulled under the water. This type of lure is particularly easy to make and I will tell  you how later. They come under many guises such as, cigars, or rats complete with tail. They are great fun to fish with and can result in explosive takes, that will scare the behjabers out of you, believe me !!  Because of their profile and weighting they cast to the horizon, but the retrieve used to work them takes a little time to master. It’s called “Walking the dog”

After casting take up the slack, and jerk the rod towards the water, the lure will slide over the surface to either the left or right. As soon as the rod is jerked wind in some line, around two turns of the handle, and immediately jerk the rod again . this causes the lure to slide in  the opposite direction. This retrieve is maintained as a rhythm , which causes the lure to slide left right, left right along the surface. The speed you retrieve at is up to you , but try to constantly change it, also stop the lure momentarily , if pike are following beneath the lure, the stop and re-start will often result in a take. I have always found that this type of lure is most effective with some ripple or disturbance of the water. I have been told many times that these lures are particularly effective on moonlit nights. But one thing for sure, you will find that Pike are lousy shots when it comes to hitting surface lures.


Floating divers.

The standard jerkbait , many hundreds of different models have been sent swimming in the pursuit of fish. The Suick has been around a long time, around fifty years. Dave Scarrf’s pig, now made by Oddesey Lures and the Reef Hawg are also two of the more well known consistent catchers. There are Burt’s, Smitty’s , Micky’s, Eddie’s and Strikers, to name a few.  Once again all variations on a theme. Depending on the buoyancy, they float to the surface at various speeds, and dive down on the retrieve. Again buoyancy and profile determine how deep these lures will fish. Broadly speaking they generally dive to around  six feet or so. These lures are the true Jerkbaits, and are fished as such with downward jerks of the rod. This downward jerk sends the lure deeper into the water, as the minimum amount of line is present on the surface. Sideways jerks of the rod not only cause more line to be airborne , but they also tend to pull the nose of the lure up slightly.

The erratic action of these lures puts the pike on red alert, and many of the profiles resemble fish , I dont fully understand why Pike target these lures so readily , maybe to the pike they resemble the actions of a lone panicking fish as it seeks to re-join its shoal. Although some of the colours and patterns resemble nothing on earth,  to the Pike they are as a red rag to a bull. The Pike is an opportunist and an easy meal gives the pike most return for it’s effort ,  this does not explain why pike will swim past a tethered bait and chase a lure in preference to it. But lures do this to pike and be it a territorial issue , aggression, or suck it and see, one thing for sure pike love jerkbaits.

There are no hard and fast rules to fishing jerkbaits, and each and every one has it’s own particular identity, and effectiveness in a given situation . maybe this is why you need so many of them. I myself prefer a Jerkbait that has an inherent action, such as a  wiggle, or one that rolls or flashes over on its side. I also prefer a jerkbait that is not too buoyant and will therefore rise to the surface more slowly, staying in the strike zone longer. The lure you are fishing will determine how it is retrieved, what I mean to say is, once you start to catch on it that retrieve will generally be the most effective. Most Jerkbaits can be fished the same way as I described in the top-water. The difference now being that these lures are forward weighted, or nose heavy. And as they are retrieved dive down with this side to side action. Other Jerkers will roll ,or sweep off with no particular pattern to their direction. One point I will keep coming back to is, do not blindly use the same retrieve for all your lures. Another point worth mentioning is that, after a while when the action stops or the fish are hard to locate. You will find yourself retrieving the lures faster and faster. When this happens it’s a good time to have a rethink, try a spinnerbait , or one of the soft plastic lures. A crankbait can sometimes turn things around. If all else fails, stop and have a brew, rest the swim for half an hour or so. If you have dabbled with jerkbaits without much success then the above will apply to you, I have found this change of approach, and different style has helped many of my customers bank fish. It will probably happen when you least expect it , and when it does think really hard ! What did you do different that made the fish hit the lure ?  Only more success will come to the lure angler who experiments with his approach,  not the guy who has the most lures. Confidence in one lure  will pay off  every time, providing you think like a predator and not the prey.  You have to constantly work at it ,trying new tricks , a little tap at the right time, or a sweep of the rod at a given moment will put fish in the bank, believe me. 



Twitch baits.

I wrote earlier that pike love Jerkbaits, but in the right hands Twitchbaits will out fish Jerkbaits almost every time. I classify a twitch- bait as a large lure that requires only a small twitch of the rod to send it into maybe a two foot glide. These magical lures are right at the top of the list. Time after time they have proved to be utterly devastating, and take pike in almost all waters in which they are present . My experiments with sinking Jerkbaits led to the birth of some of these lures. The first guy to try one out late in 1996  wrote that using them was almost cheating. One in particular is called the Darter.

 I make this lure and I am not touting for trade, but I know of no other lure that has it’s action. The Darter is a slow sinking lure around 2-3 seconds per foot. The action of the lure makes it really easy for the pike to target. It can be fished ultra slow and very small taps of the rod are all that is needed to make it turn. The large model even turns to face the opposite direction. It will only sink so far though, as the line will tend to hold it up in the water. The lure is retrieved with flicks of the wrist, the same manner as the surface lure, but it is fished with a little slack line, so it can be allowed to turn. You must allow the lure to stop, before giving it another tap. Used as slow as you can this is an out and out killer. This slower approach pays off at all times, but particularly when the temperatures drop, and both pike and their prey become less active.  The lure actually rises as it is retrieved so can be fished in shallow water also.  There are similar lures around, and some of these have been available in the states for years, albeit with different profiles and actions. One manufacturer has said that “I have to take five from the factory to find one that works properly” You see the problem here, if you are unlucky enough to purchase the other four, your chances of consistently catching on them will be zero.  I quickly discovered that the secret to perfecting the action of these lures was in the weighting of them. Most commercially built wooden lures have the same amount of lead fitted to them, this not only provides ballast to keel the lure in the water. It also determines the buoyancy of the lure. The only problem is that not all timber has the same gravity. Put another way, if you add say 1/4oz of lead to a cubic inch of Pine it will float. But add it to the same amount of Oak and it will sink. With the larger manufactures profit is probably the main concern, so a long time spent weighting a lure is not cost effective. It is a fact of life that to get these twitch- baits and gliders right, each and every one must be individually weighted,  Small adjustments can be made easily to all lures yourself by twisting a short piece of solder wire around the shank of either trebles. There are also adhesive lead discs that can be attached to the lure to correct the balance.



Most of these tend to be cigar shaped lures. Again many different models available. Jack Cobb’s makes a 6” and 8” model, Grim Reaper also do a 6” and 8” lure, the Shaft. The Cherry Bomb made by Hellraiser, comes in several sizes. Their action tends to be that of the surface lure first mentioned, the thing that sets them apart however is the extra weight which causes them to either sink or just about float. The bigger these lures are the further they glide. They are almost effortless to fish, but they weigh in heavy and need strong tackle to cope with the casting of them. My own version of this type of lure the Hedgehog, is continually jockeying for position as my all round favourite. I said earlier that pike are lousy shots, well this lure takes that side to side gliding action sub-surface, and makes it a lot easier for the pike to nail. I firmly believe Gliders are amongst the best lures available for the pike angler.



Much discussed and talked about but no hard and fast rules apply. In general if the water is clear pike will take most things thrown at them. if the water is coloured fluorescent patterns are more visible, but the pike will still take silver lures, and sometimes in preference to others. Fluorescents do score well in deeper water though, fishing sinking baits through fifteen feet, with a pink and yellow lure for instance, will probably yield more than natural patterns. Orange lures are very effective, particularly on trout waters it seems. My own preferences are that fluorescent colours be broken up with spots or stripes. I will usually pick a lure in a natural pattern to throw first, and will move over to hotter colours if I’m not getting takes I always use florescent orange on the belly of my lures and it really stands out on a silver lure. A good lure in a  variety of colours and patterns is infinitely preferable to dozens of different lures with the same colour and pattern. If you have a lure that is doing well for you, get as many colour variations as you can. I also believe Pike switch off to certain colours and not the lure. Pike will also wise up on pressured waters if everybody is throwing firetiger for instance.



Lets consider that you have the correct tackle, and your eager to put your new lures through their paces. The most important advice I can give you is Fish location. This is paramount if you are to have any success. Particularly on big waters. After all there is no point thrashing the swim to a lather if pike are not present. On smaller waters location will not be as difficult, indeed the fish may be present in the swim as you approach. Always bear this in mind as you thunder down the bank, rattling your lures. Its so easy to spook pike, and a fish aware of your presence is alert to danger. With lure fishing you are constantly moving and searching for fish , so you must cover the water effectively. You start by fan-casting the area in front of you from right to left or vice versa . you may have to pull a lure several times over a fish before and if it responds. If you have done your homework and know that pike are present in the swim, but refuse to take a lure this is when you will have to pull out all the stops. I know that there is almost always a lure that will provoke a pike into action. I have proved this theory, to myself many times whilst testing customers lures. On arrival at the water, I will always put two or three of my own lures through the swim first, to clear away if you will, any pike that are present. I do this to try and prevent the fish tearing up the new lures. About 75% of the time the pike appear disinterested so I start to test the new models. I never test them in any particular order as they are all hanging inside a couple of buckets. There may be on occasion up to forty lures, in a range of models, and dozens of different colours and patterns. It’s fair to say, who else would hit the water with such an onslaught. By the time most anglers had put a dozen lures through the swim they would move on. I can honestly say that at some point a fish will appear whilst testing, and usually with the lure that would not get in my lure box, in that colour and pattern. I caught a P.B 3lb 12oz Perch on a customers Jerkbait one such day. So like I say when the going gets tough keep an open mind, and try the ridiculous if all else fails.




To make the Top water lure is fairly straightforward, and requires a few basic tools. The lure we make is seven inches long, and anything around three quarters to one inch in diameter. The type of wood and the source is up to you. A brush handle, or some dowel will do, the only drawback is that both these tend to be Hickory or Ramin, which is very compact and hard to work. Alternatively you can start with a square piece of softwood in the above dimensions, add keep taking off the corners with a knife or plane. Next round off one end, and roughly taper the other to a blunt point. Two inches from the round end drill a 3/8” hole and insert about ½ oz of lead. Apply filler to seal the hole. You will need some method of attaching the hooks to the lure. The easiest are screw eyes, now obtainable from various companies, such as Harris Angling. You can wire the lure through, its simple enough. To use this method you put a saw-cut along the top of the lure, from the centre of each end. Then drill a ¼” hole through the lure from the top, where you intend the middle treble to be, [usually in the middle] Take a piece of S-Steel wire, and twist a loop on one end. Now bend an open loop ½” long where the belly treble will be. Measure off the wire on the lure body, and twist another loop. Insert the wire from the top, and fill to seal it.

Leave the lure to soak in some thin primer for half an hour, this will enable the wood to soak in the primer and prevent it splitting. When dry apply several more coats, and apply a final top coat of black gloss. Black is probably the best colour for top waters, as it gives the best silhouette against the sky. Finally fit hooks and go catch some fish.


Written by Loz Harrop