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Keep Your Hands Off by Ernest F. Bass

There is a top water fishing lure called jitterbug. When fished it moves along on top of the water representing something delicious for a fish to eat. Now, some lures are designed pretty, others are functionally stark, and some just plain ugly. The jitterbug falls somewhat on the ugly side.

The standard size of this lure is 3/4 ounce, and is about three inches long. If you lay it in the palm of your hand you cant close your fingers around it. Good size largemouth bass and other large fish species take this lure, but small fish, playing out of their league, will strike it and are frequently caught.

It has a symmetrical elliptical shaped body and was originally made from hard wood. The modern lure is plastic. The eyes on the lure are huge and realistic. Two large, and I will say cheap, cad-plated treble hooks hang below its body. It takes a substantial rod and reel combination to cast and retrieve this lure comfortably.

But the most distinguishing feature of this lure is a huge piece of metal screwed to its body where the nose of this imaginary creature would be. The metal part is thin and about 2/3 as wide as the body is long. Although symmetrical, it has an odd cupped shape.

You cast the lure near the bank. Long casts are better then short casts, and best over cover, partially submerged trees and such, where the big fish live. On the retrieve the jitterbug makes a very distinguishable sound. Plop-plop-plop-plop, and its body swings left and right with each plop, plop. The sound is steady and rhythmic. Plop-plop-plop. It gets in sync with your turning the reel handle. All is peaceful.

But there are fish lurking, and what makes the jitterbug a favorite of many who angle is how this lure is attacked. For some reason it can put a largemouth bass into a very aggressive mood and trigger the kill instincts of an efficient predator. The strike is a surprise, violent, visible and heart stopping.

You cast the lure in a high arc towards the bank. Wait a second. Then, start to reel. Plop-plop-plop-plop-plop-plop as the lure comes back to the boat. No big deal. Its just another of many casts. You looking at the jitterbug moving along and then, in a split-second, all hell breaks loose.

SMASH!!!, an explosion where the jitterbug was. A lot of water is thrown into the air. Nothing is left but a big swirl where the lure was. Quickly you reel in slack line and pull back and up on the rod. You set the hook, and set it hard. Then you feel the weight of the fish. You set the hook again.
The bass jumps, shaking her head left and right in an attempt to throw the lure, then hits the water. A second time the bass jumps. The hooks hold. All this in just a few seconds.

The fish tries a new tactic. It starts bullying its way back into the deeply submerged tree and presumed safety. This could snap the line that connects you to your adversary. The fish is strong enough to strip line off the reel. You can feel every lunge and head shake. Its a big fish, but your able to turn her away from the tree.

The fish is beginning to loose its strength by the tremendous pressure brought against her. It comes towards you. Seeing the boat, the bass calls on its last reserves. With a resurgence of energy she runs left then right, then under the boat. Quickly, you use the rod to bring the her head up and put more line on the reel. The fish expends all her energy in her attempt to escape.

The bass is near and you can see her shake her head to rid herself of the jitterbug. You bring the fish to the side of the boat. The fight isn't over yet. A lot of good fish are lost at the side of the boat. You hold the fishing rod high in one hand, and reach down and grab the fish by its mouth. The fish is in the boat. Only now can you sit down and start breathing again. All the action takes place within a short minute. WOW!

That's what makes using the jitterbug exciting. For heart stopping excitement its just hard to beat. The strike by the bass is surprising and brutal. The fight is hard fought. The fish can win as easily as you, and many times does.

ou may go a long time and throw many casts before a fish will hit a jitterbug. But many who fish believe the time is well spent. On occasion and in shallow water you may see the bass rush the lure. At other times a bass will take a motionless jitterbug as you try to get a bite of a sandwich. But no matter how a fish takes it, it is an experience that's hard to forget.

I remember one morning in late June. My friend was fishing from the front of the boat with his back to me. I had lost my last jitterbug on snag earlier in the morning. I was reaching into his tackle box to sneak out one of his. Without turning around, he said, in a serious tone of voice, “Keep your hands off my jitterbug!’ Oh well, that's how it goes.

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