Li'l Jake lures fool finicky trout
By: Sam Grothe
I grew up predominantly a spincast fisherman, even though I've been known to dabble a bit with a fly rod from time to time.
My all-time fishing passion is hitting backcountry honey holes – it doesn't matter if it's a 7-acre beaver pond at 7,000 ft. or a 25-acre lake at 10,800 ft. There's no better feeling than taking a few trusted lures and setting the hook on a rowdy, wild trout that fights like a tiger and does aerodynamic freestyle flips for style points.
After 30-plus years of lure fishing, I'd even go so far as to fancy myself a lure connoisseur. I've experimented with everything from the classic black or red Dardevle® spoons to a standby Panther Martin® spotted swivel-spoon lure in a variety of colors, from Blue Fox minnows and Worden's® original Rooster Tail to killer Kastmasters. I can pretty much look at a lure and know if it's going to catch trout. I like to think I have an eye for solid-swimming fish food and the qualities that make it a perfect presentation, like shape, size, color and even patterns.
So, it was with eager anticipation the other day when I hit up one of our Cabela's Fishing purchasing specialists for any new spinners he might have to try out. I told him I'd be taking a couple of buddies to hit some beaver ponds at a place called Spring Creek Ranch up in the Snowy Range of Wyoming. He reached around his desk, pulled out a box, handed it to me and told me to take a handful of Jake's Lures to try out.
The first thing I noticed about the Jake's Lures was a classic design I'd seen before, but had never actually fished. In fact, the design looked so simple (a piece of bent over rectangular metal) that I figured it wouldn't catch anything. Well, as it so happens, Jake's Lures have been around since 1957, so they must be doing something right. What impressed me about these particular lures were their colors. I was sizing them up and my eyes instantly fell on an orange, tiger-striped Li'l Jake lure. The other lures looked pretty good too, especially this other Li'l Jake that was a fluorescent yellow color with red spots. I gave that one to my co-worker Wes to try out on our trip.
I have a standard when it comes to lures: If it has bright orange on it, there's probably a good chance a fish is going to look at it. But, this Li'l Jake lure didn't just have a bright orange hue, it had little black tiger stripes, which reminded me a bit of par markings that certain trout will have when they are small fry. This lure looked deadly and I couldn't wait to try it out.
We got to the Snowy Range just west of Laramie, Wyo., on a Friday night and pitched camp, so we could hit the ponds bright and early. I've fished these beaver ponds a few times, so I was familiar with their inhabitants. These fish laugh at just about any dry or wet fly you serve up to them. They've been rumored to hit worm patterns, which begs the question: Why even bother with your fly rod? I could hardly wait to try out the Jake's Lures on the big beaver pond, where I knew some lunkers lurk like Cold War submarines. I was too impatient, though, to wait for the beaver pond. I had to try the orange and black tiger-striped, 1-3/8", 1/6 oz. Li'l Jake on the first pond I came to. I tied a Palomar knot on the lure, so I'd lessen the risk of losing it, and tossed it to the darkest part of the far end of the pond. Ideally, you'd rig a swivel on it, but I was fresh out of those. I reeled it in fairly slow and felt the nibble, and then a hammering chomp, so I set the hook. The fish fought hard to stay in that ice-cold, mountain lagoon. But I fought harder to reel it up, because I just had to see what hit this new lure. It was a 16" or 17" German brown that had the sweetest green belly and brown back and the cutest orange and black spots. I caught two more smaller browns on that lure. The lure itself has great wobbling action that definitely looks like something alive. I instantly knew this was destined to become one of my new top-five lures.
Wes and I tried out several Li'l Jake's Lures and found our results would vary, depending on the color and patterns. Mainly, the Li'l Jake's are solid colors with spots. I know from now on, my arsenal of deadly lures won't be complete until I have at least a dozen Li'l Jake's in my tackle box.