Rigging Rapala Husky Jerks for Spring Muskies
Spring can be a challenging time of year to catch muskies, especially here in Madison. Generally speaking, game fish are chasing smaller forage and are much more likely to eat a smaller profile lure with subtle action. The Rapala Husky Jerk in size 13 and 14 is an all-time favorite of mine and seems to produce about half of the muskies caught in my boat in the month of May. Right out of the box they are perfectly fishable, however there are a few little tweaks that make them way better and will result in hooking a lot more hungry muskies.
Trokar treble hooks do a great job penetrating the bony mouths of pike and muskies
The first part of these lures to address is the hooks. The standard hooks are simply too small and made of too light of wire to handle a large muskie, especially one thrashing in the net. For both the size 13 and 14 Husky Jerks I use a size 2 Trokar 4x Treble (TK315-2). The 4x wire is plenty strong to handle being wrapped up in a net, yet are still light enough to not impact the action of the lure too much.
When upsizing hooks a common issue is finding that your hooks hit one another, resulting in them tangling when you cast or jerk the lure. Both the 13 and 14 sized Husky Jerks have 3 hooks; one behind the head, one mid body, and one on the back. Since these hooks are considerably larger than the stock hooks the hook hanger spacing is off. To remedy this we only use 2 hooks on the baits; one behind the head and one of the back. If you are worried about the lack of hooks, take a look at a Squirko, Phantom, a Suik, or any number of other glide/jerkbaits. Most only have 2 hooks with very similar spacing, so trust me, 2 is plenty.
2 size 2, 4x strong Trokar trebles, 3 size 7 split rings, and some 1/4" shrink tubing is all you need to Muskie proof your HJ's
The other component of the lure that needs some upgrading is the split rings. The major concern with these lures isn't just the power of the fish pulling so hard that the rings straighten out, but rather what happens to the lure when the fish hits the net. Once the hooks get caught in the net, the fish has a lot of leverage on them which can easily straighten or even break the stock split rings and hooks. I upgrade these lures with size 7 split rings.
Cut the shrink tubing long enough to just barely cover the eye of the hook.
The last tweak I give these lures is adding shrink tubing to the rear hook to make it stick straight out of the back of the lure. This helps keep the back hook from snagging as much vegetation, as well as helping increase hook up percentages. If the fish T-bones the lure, upon setting the hook the bait will slide through the fish's mouth and the straightened tail hook will slip right into the corner of the mouth, rather than having a hanging hook potentially hook the lower lip of the fish.
Slide the shrink tubing up the tail end of the bait to ensure the hook won't move
The last thing I change out is the split ring at the head of the lure. The same light split rings are used throughout the stock components so I do my best to remove any weak links in the system. With that your Husky Jerk is ready to get chomped by some monster fish.
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