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Types of Wooden Fishing Lures #4
Wooden Jerk Baits And Stickbaits

Learning to use wooden jerk baits and stickbaits takes time, but the rewards make the effort worthwhile!
If you want to make wooden lures that can be cast and cranked or trolled behind a boat without much thought, then don't make wooden jerk baits or stickbaits!

However, if you want to make wooden lures that are incredibly effective and in skilled hands will catch an amazing number of fish under all kinds of fishing conditions, then you really should give this class of lures a go.

You see, wooden jerk baits and stickbaits are relatively easy to make. But to fish them really effectively, well that takes a bit of skill. They're not for the lazy angler, you'll need to take the time to work out how to get the best out of jerkbaits, but with good rod work you'll find you can pull more fish than you've ever imagined!
Strengths Of Jerk Baits
Wooden jerk baits tend to be reasonably streamlined and have undersized bibs when compared to most other bibbed lures. Wooden stickbaits also tend to be quite streamlined, but don't have a bib at all. Both can be fished in much the same way, although there are advantages and disadvantages to each.

Of course, all wooden lures can benefit from skilled rod work to increase their swimming action and make it more enticing to the fish, but none more so than jerk baits and stickbaits. Both of these types of lures will have minimal swimming action if you merely pull them through the water at constant speed. To make your them come to life you really need to impart some rod action.

In fact, if you're not prepared to work hard at bringing these lures to life, you're better off using some other style of wooden lure!

Probably the biggest advantage of these lure is their flexibility and adaptability to a whole range of conditions. They come in floating, sinking and suspending (my favourite) varieties, which means that you can get them to almost any depth you require. And because they don't have a bib, they are effective over a much wider range of cranking or trolling speeds than most other wooden lures, because they are less prone to 'blowing out' when the speed gets too fast and the lure has to bleed pressure from the bib.

Floating jerk baits and stickbaits can be fished relatively fast, much like a skipping popper, and so they can be effective when fast pelagics are smashing bait balls or the top. But their real strength is when you are slow twitching. They can be incredibly subtle lures that barely ripple the water surface and that stay in the strike zone for a very long time, literally daring the fish to strike until they can no longer resist. Or they can be given sharp stabs of the rod tip followed by a long pause to give the fish something to think about. Or a combination, which is just electric when you are sight fishing for trophy fish!

Suspending wooden jerk baits also work wonderfully well when they are fished slow. They can be cranked back with short, gentle pulses, keeping the rod pointing to one side, or they can be ripped back in violent stabs with vigorous side to side rod action and either long or short pauses between stabs.

Like I said, amazingly flexible lures!

Add to the above list the casting qualities of most wooden jerk baits. Because the bib is small by comparison (or non-existent), jerk baits tend to have less wind resistance than bibbed lures, so they cast better.

Oh, and they don't create a lot of drag on the line and work really well in strong currents.....need I keep going?
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Using Wooden Jerk Baits and Stickbaits
Oh, man! I could dedicate a whole website just to this section. Because jerk baits and stickbaits rely heavily on action imparted by the angler, the range of applications and fishing styles is literally only limited by your imagination! And knowing which fishing technique is most likely to be effective will only come with practice and experience.

To get you started, here are some suggestions, but note that this is just the tip of the iceberg!

1. Remember that jerk baits don't have such a strong action on a constant speed retrieve as many other wooden lures, so if you are fishing in dirty water or in low light, give them extra action with the rod tip. If you make wooden lures you might also want to consider adding rattles to some of your jerk baits to give them extra noise and vibration for dirty water or low light.

2. A 'walk-the-dog' style retrieve is often sucessful with these lures, particularly for topwater stickbaits, but it works great with suspending lures too, both jerk baits and stickbaits. The key is to get more side to side zig zagging motion than you do forward motion, by twitching the lure 6 inches left and then six right, back and forth. After each twitch there is a short, subtle pause as the lure glides a short way and the line goes slack as the rod moves to the opposite side. Deadly!

3. Wooden jerk baits and stickbaits are a great choice when there is a strong current flowing because they don't create a lot of drag on the rod and line like lures with bigger bibs

4. 'Ripping' is another great technique for jerk bait fishing. The idea is to not fish the lure on a tight line - it's important to have some slack. The retrieve happens in short, sharp jerks, but the rod tip is dropped towards the lure prior to each jerk, creating a little slack line and allowing the rod tip to reach full speed before the line comes tight. The result is a very erratic, explosive action. Fish love it.

5. Different things will work on different days, so you need to be constantly trying different retrieve speeds, more/less erratic actions, longer twitches, shorter pauses and so on. In other words, mix it up until you find what is working on the day. You'll need to be concentrating though - when you strike gold and work out what the fish are hitting you need to remember what it was that you were doing so you can repeat it on the next cast!

6. Wooden jerk baits can be great for trolling, but if you are the kind of fisherman who likes to put the rod in a holder and sit back and sink a beer while you wait for a fish to jump on, forget it. If you're serious about nailing some fish, then hang onto the rod and use every trick in the book to impart some erratic action. Drop the rod tip back to create slack line, then stab it forward or from side to side to make the lure dart and change speed. Make that piece of wood swim like and injured, panicked baitfish.

7. Floating (buoyant) jerk baits are great for fishing around snags and weed. If you feel the lure strike something solid (not a fish!), simply stop retrieving for a second or two and the lure will float up, so the next jerk in the retrieve will drag the lure over the structure without hanging up.

8. Save sinking jerk baits for really deep water, or water where there are reasonably strong currents. They have less action than the floating and suspending kinds, and require a faster retrieve, which makes them ideal for rivers and fast tidal flows.
Designing Wooden Jerkbaits and Stickbaits
Just as the definition of what makes these lures is a little fuzzy, there are no hard and fast design rules for making wooden jerk baits or stickbaits. Whenever I make wooden lures, I try to keep the end use in mind. Often my home made lures are intended for a specific fishing scenario, which helsp define the features and qualities of the lures.

For example, to make a jerkbait for situations where the fish are timid and I want a subtle action, I'll keep the lure size relatively small, avoid using rattles and probably add enough internal weight that the lure suspends. I find that a fish that follows a lure but doesn't strike, or takes short will often engulf the lure if it suddenly stops moving and the closely following fish has to eat it or crash into it.

I'll make more robust and buoyant jerk baits  and stickbaits for fishing in heavy structure, partly because I want the extra buoyancy so that I can float the lure overr submerged branches, and partly because I'll often opt for heavier line and terminals to give me more of a shot at wrestling fish out of the cover. A more buoyant lure will handle bigger, heavier gauge hooks.

If I want to get a suspending jerk bait down deeper, I'll fit it with a larger bib to make it dive deeper. I'll also tend to set the bib close to horizontal so that the lure quickly gets to the required depth. Internal weight will be kept low and I'll often fit slightly larger and heavier hooks before balancing the weight. This keeps the weight low and reduces the chance of the lure rolling onto it's side during cranking.

Lures designed for ripping will have a smaller bib and/or a little extra internal weight, both of which reduce the chance of the lure rolling onto its side and swiming unnaturally.


If you make wooden lures regularly most of this will be common sense, it's normal to match your lure design to your fishing needs. If you don't make your own lures or are looking to get started in wooden lure making, keep surfing this page, or check out my lure making ebook for more great information.
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