Stickbaits for Spring
Unlike any waters on earth, Lake Erie is a place where walleyes suspend and smack stickbaits when the water temperature is 45 degrees. Come April and May, I know of no better way to target them than with a sizable suspending jerkbait, say the Rapala Husky Jerk, casting and twitching and pausing the lure to make it work its magic. Or you can troll the lure to reach pods of fish chasing bait. But frankly, I know of no method thatís more exciting than casting, for time and again heavyweight walleyes will smack the bait at boatside on a short line of 10 inches or less.
The pitch-and-twitch technique shines wherever you find walleyes but particularly on Erie, where spring fish mow down baitfish around pierheads and river mouths and over reefs in 15 feet of water or less. Whatís more, the system works day or night, slow or fast, in roiled water or clear. You just need to know the little twists that do the job under each condition.
Shiny and Sharp
Indeed, my favorite suspending bait is the Rapala Husky Jerk. The size 10, at 4.5 inches, is the perfect size on Erie when small perch and baitfish measure two to three inches. That slight size difference helps the Husky stand out in a crowd.
So, too, do a few modifications to the color. With poor water clarity or in the dark, I like to trick out my lures with little strips of Witchcraft reflective tape. Try a thin cutout of orange or glow, but donít worry about charging up phosphorescent tape with a flashlight. Itís more trouble than itís worth, and I believe the more subtle coloration is sufficient. You should, however, notice a big difference in the results.
When it comes to color for the bait itself, itís hard to beat gold and black, which works under all water clarities and conditions. Blue and black are my choices for when the waterís calm or clear. When the windís blowing a little harder or the waterís roiled, I switch to firetiger or chartreuse/clown for added visibility. This year Rapala is rolling out three interesting new colors: shad, baby bass and minnow. That said, color is not the be-all and end-all of the Husky Jerk. A complementary quality of the lure is its rattles, which produce a subtle sound similar to a few grains of sand, not an overwhelming maraca clatter that can actually overwhelm the fish.
A couple of other tricks will boost your odds. It helps to take pliers and bend each of the hooks out slightly and sharpen them, the better to sink in when a fish swipes or lightly inhales the bait. I guarantee that the modifications will increase hookups by at least 45 percent. Another helpful hint is to tie your line to a Berkley Cross-Lok snap, which will help you change colors quickly and efficiently, especially in the dark.
Working the Jerk
One of the best things about a Husky Jerk is that even the worst retrieve, reeling it in slow and steady, will still catch fish. But you can do a lot better when you master the twitch and pause.
To do it right, cast out and let the lure settle for a moment, then begin the retrieve for a few cranks of the handle and stop. Next, I slightly pull the rod forward, without reeling, to feel the lure in the water (and to feel a walleyeís surprisingly light strike). From there, I fish the lure back to the boat with jerks about a foot and a half long, with pauses in between. Sometimes Iíll pause the lure......
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