I'm old enough to remember when there wasn't such a thing as a suspending jerkbait, at least not a commercially made one.
My first exposure to suspending jerkbaits came by way of In-Fisherman magazine, in a feature article in which editor Doug Stange explained how a cadre of innovative anglers — of which he was a part — doctored minnowbaits like the original floating Rapala Minnow and Cordell Red Fin Minnow so they would suspend in the water column. Split shot was inserted in strategically drilled holes in the balsa wood Rapalas; water was injected in the hollow bodies of the Red Fins. The baits were fished at night, from shore, for monster walleyes in Iowa's natural lakes.
Today there's a myriad of minnowbaits that suspend in the water column. But to the best of my knowledge the Rapala Husky Jerk Minnow was the first of the lot. Given the many jerkbait choices now available, it would be easy to overlook the honorable Husky Jerk, which would be a mistake.
I was reminded of this when my wife and I had returned from a long weekend at our camp, much of my time spent catching native brook trout. Arriving home during the early afternoon, and with a few hours of daylight remaining, a buddy of mine and I headed to the Allegheny River, since it had finally dropped enough to provide the potential for good fishing.
The Allegheny was still running hard, but had dropped two feet during the past few days. With the water temperature in the high 40s it seemed a perfect day to hit the rocky flats, particularly ones located below the current-breaking rock bars, with suspending jerkbaits in an attempt to trigger bites from the foraging smallmouth bass likely to be there.
Within the first two casts it was apparent we'd made a good decision. We both hooked up with river smallmouth in the 2- to 3-pound range. During the next three hours we boated about 40 more, most of them quality-sized bass in the 16- to 18-inch range.
While my partner did okay with his high-tech jerkbaits with $15 to $20 dollar price tags, I did as well if not better with the $6 to $7 Rapala Husky Jerk. And I didn't cringe when a bait hooked up in some submerged shoreline willows and snapped off before I could stop the boat's drift and chase it down.
There's no denying the balanced performance and extreme quality control of high end suspending jerkbaits; there are times when the fish demand such. But in many situations, such as river fishing where the fish aren't as selective, and a bait's life expectancy leans toward the short end, it makes good sense to put the Rapala Husky Jerk to work.