How two novice muskie anglers from the Netherlands caught a boatload of fish—and brought a whole new perspective to muskie fishing
“There are plenty of crankbaits designed to catch pike and muskies,” says Dutch angler Arjan Biemond. “And they all work. But there are only a few in a class of their own. I use three trolling baits that out-fish everything else by a wide margin.” Two of those cranks are manufactured by Holland’s Sybe Baits, owned by Biemond’s fishing buddy Sybe Mellema. While the lures were designed for European pike fishing, the pair put them to good use while targeting muskies last summer on northwestern Ontario’s Eagle Lake.
First is the De Spok (above), which resembles Musky Mania’s Li’l Ernie, but which fishes very differently. “It is extremely buoyant, so when you’re trolling and make a turn, it rises quickly and triggers strikes,” he explains. “It will out-fish most other baits three to one. It is my favourite trolling lure, so I always have one tied on at least one rod.”
Next from Sybe Baits is the De Schurk (above), which is Dutch for “villain.” According to Biemond, Sybe Baits hand-makes and airbrushes each lure. “We gave one to our guide the first day because he liked the action, and he told us later that he raised four muskies with it one day.”
As for Biemond’s third go-to crank, it’s the Pikefighter from Spro (below). “Unfortunately, they stopped making it last year, so it is hard to find,” he says. “But it is fantastic trolling bait.”
When it comes to casting, again Biemond’s top choices come from Sybe Baits, in this case hybrid jerkbaits. A cross between a glide bait and a diving crankbait, they have a distinct wobble or uncontrolled movement on the retrieve. To trick muskies on Eagle Lake, Biemond says he relied on his three favourites: the Striker, Flat Sybride and Sybe Boy.
“Weight is incorporated into each lure to enhance its wobble,” he says. “I have Strikers (above) that are neutrally buoyant, and others that sink slowly. Normally, they go down four to six feet on a fast retrieve, but if I want to fish deeper, I just wait a few seconds longer before I start my retrieve. Regardless of the model, the important feature of these lures is that you can impart an erratic motion when you retrieve them at the high speeds we were fishing.”
What I found so intriguing listening to Biemond explain the attracting and triggering qualities of his hybrid jerkbaits is their apparent ability to hunt for centre. The steady, rhythmic throbbing of most muskie baits is the reason the fish put their noses behind the lures and follow them to the side of the boat. Muskie anglers like to believe the fish are so smart they’re looking for flaws. But what they’re really doing is looking for positive cues to suggest the lure is worth eating. That’s why anglers entice so many strikes on the subsequent figure eight, which makes the baits look more alive.
Lures that hunt for centre behave that way naturally—and uncontrollably—during the entire retrieve or troll. They move left, right, up and down in myriad ways, and it drives muskies berserk. That’s a characteristic muskie anglers are always looking for in their lures. It’s a totally random and uncontrolled action, with the lure veering off to one side and wobbling crazily, returning to a straight running path, then veering off to the other side and similarly going berserk. Either a lure has that coveted quality, or it doesn’t. There’s no doubt the Dutch hybrid jerkbaits have it.
For more information on Sybe Baits, go to www.jerkbaitkopen.nl. The website is in Dutch, but using Google Chrome, you can right click and choose “translate to English.” Note that crankbaits (pluggen in Dutch) will be listed as “plugs” in the translated version.