Stickbait Making: How To Create Powerful Fish Magnets

Stickbait Making: How To Create Powerful Fish Magnets

Stickbait Body Shape And WeightingIn recent years the humble stickbait has made somewhat of a resurgence as a premier topwater lure. I’m not sure what’s brought this style of lure back into the limelight, but I’m sure glad it’s there! They’re awesome to fish with – visual, surface lures that get splashy strikes even from the most conservative fish.

Stickbaits are topwater lures that range from micro- freshwater versions to macro, oversize GT and tuna lures. They take a little skill to use, but they’re definitely worth the effort. Rod tip action, pauses, variable retrieve speeds are essential for getting these lures working properly. And once you perfect it, you’ll be able to make them dance on the spot!

As for making your first stickbait, there’s a little more to it than meets the eye. They’re simple lures in many ways, yet subtle variations in the way they’re built can really change things around.

3 Stickbait Body Shapes

The aim of a stickbait maker is to design and build a lure that glides across the water surface, darting from side to side. There are a few factors required to achieve this – and one of those is body shape.

There are 3 basic stickbait body styles:

  • Cylindrical bodies. These are usually lathe turned, cigar shaped baits with the tow point on the nose or just under it. As you’d imagine, this style of stickbait takes a fair bit of rod tip action to get it working really well because their streamlined shape would otherwise lend them to coming back in a straight line.
  • Minnow shaped. These look more like a crankbait than the cylindrical version, except there is no diving lip and they work on the surface. This style can’t be lathe turned, so they’re usually hand carved or shaped with the help of jigs.
  • Keel bellies. These are kind of banana shaped stickbaits. The curve of the belly helps impart a fair bit more action than the other styles.

Which body style you decide to make depends on how you intend to fish your stickbait. Lathe turned bodies might require a bit more skill and effort from the angler, but they’re also the most versatile shape. They can be worked fast or slow, with plenty of rod tip action, pauses and speed changes.

On the other hand, minnow shaped stickbaits tend to naturally have a more random action, especially those with flat sides. They’re a little easier to use and have the advantage that they can be fished very slowly and kept “in the zone” for quite a long time. In fact, by imparting short, sharp twitches of the rod you can work a well balanced minnow stickbait almost on the spot!

The keel belly type tend to glide further in any one direction than the other styles. They’re not quite so random as the minnow style, but the side to side action is wider, covering more water. Once again, they can be worked very slowly, even being allowed to come to a complete rest at times. Or they can be worked more briskly, depending on the target species and conditions.

Weight: The Secret Stickbait Sauce!

One of the more common mistakes of novice stickbait makers is incorrect weighting – or even failure to weight at all.

Although stickbaits are topwater lures, they usually require a little lead in the belly to get them working properly. Not enough to sink them. But enough weight in just the right place to create the desired action.

There are two ways I like to weight my stickbaits: The first way is so they sit flat on the water surface. Lures that stay horizontal can be worked super, extra slow, keeping them in front of the fish for longer. They’re especially good on flat, calm water and many of my small freshwater stickbaits fall into this category. Exactly how much weight to add and where in the lure to add it is a matter of trial and error.

The other way I like to weight a stickbait is tail-heavy. Tail weighted stickbaits need a little extra speed and a bit more rod movement to impart  a good action, but they’re great when the water surface is rippled to choppy, cast beautifully and are perfect for oceanic speedsters.

Be conscious that the hooks and rings can modify the balance of your stickbait too. Putting heavy hooks and rings on a delicate lure may make it sit too low in the water, sit tail-down or even sink. All of these may modify the action either positively or negatively, so keep in mind the end use for your lure and design it to take the required hardware.

Towpoint location

Often the tow point (line tie) of a stickbait is right on the nose of the lure. But just as often it’s below the nose, especially on those keel-belly styles.

The idea of putting the towpoint a little under the nose of the lure is to increase the randomness of the gliding action. Generally speaking, the further under the nose the tow point is located the more action the lure will have and the slower it can be fished. A stickbait with the towpoint on the tip of the nose has a more predictable action and takes a little more rod work to bring it to life.

Quick Tips For Fishing With Stickbaits

Ok, so this article is supposed to be about making a stickbait, not fishing with one. But how will you know if your shiny new creation is a success unless you know how to fish with it? Here are a few quick tips to ensure your lures work well and (most importantly) attract strikes:

  • Use the lightest line and leader you can get away with. If you’re tossing stickbaits at tough customers you have little choice but to use heavy tackle. But the robust stickbaits used for this type of fishing can handle it. On the other hand, when you’re using the smaller stickbaits commonly fished in freshwater areas the weight of the line and leader can make a big difference.
  • Use a loop knot like Lefty’s Loop to attach a stickbait to your leader. Snugging a knot up to the tow point is a sure way to kill the ability of the lure to glide from side to side. It needs freedom of movement. Likewise, the use of heavy snaps or swivels can add weight where it’s not wanted, adversely affecting action.
  • Many stickbait styles can be worked relatively slowly – and this is one of their great strengths. Short, shrp twitches of the rod tip, followed by a pause and some slack line. This allows he lure to dart side to side and glide a little. Not too much slack though – fish will often strike during the glide and you don’t want so much belly in the line that you miss the hook set.
  • The typical “walk the dog” stickbait retrieve consists of short jabs of the rod tip with a pause and some slack line between jabs. This makes the lure dart side to side, switching direction with each successive jab. But don’t be afraid to mix it up with some longer pulls of the rod, short jabs, twitches and pauses. Scared or injured baitfish rarely move in rhythmic, predictable ways, and neither should your lure

If stickbaits are new and out of your comfort zone, I hope this article has inspired you to give them a go!

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