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Stickbait is popular for use in the cold waters of springtime

The cigar-shaped lure darted through the water in an erratic manner, then paused.

It stayed almost motionless for about 10 seconds . . . until it disappeared into the mouth of a big bass.

Score another victory for the amazing stickbait, the lure of spring.

At this time of the year, few baits are more widely used - or deadlier. Fishermen chasing everything from bass to walleyes to big brown trout are casting them. And they're catching the kind of fish that you see in photos on marina brag boards.

The water is still cold, the fish are inactive and the baitfish are sluggish. Perfect conditions for the Rogue and other stickbaits.

"The chances of catching a big bass or walleye are better at this time of the year than any other," said Les Jarman, a longtime guide at Stockton Lake. "When the water just starts to warm up, the big fish will start moving shallow to feed.

"They won't be real active. You might have to put that bait right in front of them. But they'll hit.

"That's why these suspending stickbaits work so well. When you pull that bait down, twitch it a couple times, then pause it, it just hangs there. It looks just like a sluggish baitfish.

"And those big bass and walleyes just can't resist it."

Jarman has the proof. He caught a 10-pound, 4-ounce walleye on a suspending stickbait in the late 1990s. He also has taken a bass that weighed almost 10 pounds, and many other fish in the 6- to 8-pound range.

Stickbaits such as the Rogue might not look too impressive in the package - just a cigar-shaped bait that doesn't look as if it would have much action. But get it in the water and you can see why it produces so well.

Fishermen retrieve it in a series of short jerks so that it darts erratically through the water. But it's the pause that lures the strike.

When the bait stops, it suspends in the water column. And inevitably, that's when the strikes comes.

"It's like they're following it, they see it stop and they can't resist," Jarman said. "You don't want to work it real fast. You have to force yourself to slow down.

"But if you can do that, you can usually get some hits."

Once, the suspending stickbait was a secret in the Ozarks. Guides and veteran fishermen would buy the regular stickbaits and adjust them on their own in their bathtubs so that they would suspend. They would either wrap wire around the hooks or drill holes in the lures and add weight so that they wouldn't pop to the surface when they were paused.

Those fishermen caught huge fish on those "tuned" baits - and eventually the word got out.

Today, manufacturers of stickbaits such as the popular Rogue make the bait in suspending models. And the lures perform well out of the box.

Kevin VanDam, a legendary fisherman on the Bassmaster national tour, is among the many who always has a stickbait tied on his line at this time of the year.

"Back in Michigan, we have a lot of expansive flats in our lakes," said VanDam, who is from Kalamazoo. "When the fish move up in early spring, they do a lot of roaming.

"That's why these stickbaits are so effective. You can cover a lot of water and find where they're at."