I was struck recently by news that Smithwick Lures has a “new and improved” Rogue on the market. The Perfect 10.
Not buying it. The Rogue was perfect already.
I haven’t bought one because I have dozens of them — not to mention Rapalas, Redfins and Long As — already in my tackle bag. These slender, vibrating swimming-minnow style lures with the lip are simple and ingenious.
Just last week, I was fishing a smallish lake on a friend’s ranch that was clear with nice vegetation and pretty nice bass. I could see a few cleaned out, sandy depressions on the bottom where largemouth bass had begun setting up beds.
The males fan out all the gunk there to create an attractive spot for a female bass to set up housekeeping. When water temperatures begin rising in the spring and bass move shallow, that’s when the swimming minnow lure is perfect.
I tied one on, made a short cast toward the bank of a small cove and immediately caught a 4-pound fish. It was followed by a second bass trying to snatch the lure out of its mouth. I caught 15 fish in a couple of hours, each of them on the same Baby Bass pattern Rogue.
I wasn’t surprised, either. I’ve been catching fish on those lures for close to 50 years, I guess. We get caught up in $20 crank baits and $3 plastic worms, and they work. But the standbys, the classics, still have their place, especially during spring bass fishing.
I don’t remember how old I was the time I first fished a Rogue but not much more than high school. I’d found a lake down a railroad track and had gotten permission to fish it.
It was maybe an old sawmill lake that had been standing for decades and stocked with bass and perch, and I could walk all the way around it, starting in one corner where the water came right to the tracks.
I once took my dad there and he walked around with me as I cast my regular topwater plugs and hoped for something happen. Finally, he reached into his pocket and hauled out a lure box. A Rogue, blue with a black back and silver belly.
I didn’t know it then but Jack Smithwick, who lived in nearby Shreveport, La., had started making Rogues and my dad heard about the baits and bought some. Of course, Smithwick started with the Devils Horse, the classic, two-spinner topwater plug that’s still a staple of bass anglers.
“Try this,” he said, as he explained how to fish it. Cast. Let it sit. Reel it down a foot or two. Let it float back toward the surface. A quick snatch of the rod tip to jerk it back down a foot or two. The bite will come as the lure is floating toward the surface.
Hence the name “jerkbait,” though I’ve always preferred swimming minnow lure.
I caught a nice fish on one of the first casts I made and have been catching them ever since. Big fish, too, not always with a Rogue but with one style or another.
Lauri Rapala — pronounced RAP-uh-luh but any good Texan says “ruh-PA-luh” — probably built the first one over in Finland in the late 1930s. They began to be marketed in the U.S. in the 1960s and the rest is history.
The Bomber bait company came up with the Long A, another swimmer with a lip. At one time they added a tail spinner that really worked.
Cotton Cordell crafted his lures from plastic and even had a jointed model that I loved. The Redfin, with a black back and gold sides became the standard springtime big bass lure on Sam Rayburn because those bedding fish just couldn’t stand that thing sitting right over their heads, wiggling, dipping and vibrating.
Of course, that’s one of the beauties of fishing swimming minnows. They’re versatile in a way no other lure is, with the possible exception of a plastic worm.
Perhaps the best feature of jerkbaits is that they can be fished almost any way you want to fish, as a topwater, jerked down and up, or just reeled straight back to the boat.