“For my money, a Jumpin’ Minnow would be tough to beat,” said Jerry Crook, a long-time tailwater guide on the Tennessee River, as he handed me his lure box so I could make my own selection and rig up for an afternoon of topwater action.

Having spent enough time in Crook’s boat to know the value of following his hunches, I pulled out a bone-colored Rebel Jumpin’ Minnow to tie to my line. The stripers and hybrids had been feeding well during late afternoon, and we were headed out for a couple hours of play to end the day.

Joel Townley of Shakespeare Fishing, who had spent the final hours of the previous afternoon catching stripers and hybrids with Crook, also reached for a Jumpin’ Minnow with no hesitation.

It didn’t take long for the fish to affirm our united decision. Townley scored the first two, with two eager stripers that annihilated his walking plug on back-to-back casts. Crook was quick on his tail with a fish that blew up behind his bait five times in the swift current before finally hitting the mark. Within a few minutes, I too was into the action and battling my own brutishly strong fish.

Beginning midway through the spring every year, stripers and hybrids begin looking up in the tailwaters of Wheeler and Wilson dams, and topwater fishing can be outstanding. Crook plans drifts that take his boats past underwater rockpiles, where actively feeding stripers stack up.

Finding the best groups of fish in the broad tailwater sometimes requires multiple drifts. However, once Crook hones in on the ideal starting point for drifts, the action can be furious.

Crook has tried a variety of topwater plugs, including poppers, walking baits and prop baits, and he has caught stripers on many types of offerings. However, he has found no rival to a Jumpin’ Minnow, with its erratic walking action, baitfish-like shape and high level of castability.

A Jumpin’ Minnow also handles really well in strong currents, which is critical for fishing the big tailwaters along the Tennessee River. Crook has found that he gets the best action from his bait by casting crosscurrent, instead of upstream. Because the boat is drifting, the bait stays roughly even with the boat as his he works it.

Crook makes long casts and works the lure with a steady “walk the dog” retrieve, adding no long pauses to normal retrieves. However, when a fish busts his Jumpin’ Minnow but misses it, Crook will let it drift a moment before resuming the retrieve, having found that the fish often will come right back and get the bait.

Crook rigs a Jumpin’ Minnow, which is 4 1/2 inches long and weighs 1/2 ounce, on 17-pound-test Silver Thread Excalibur, spooled on a Shakespeare Catera 4300A and matched with a 6 1/2-foot medium-heavy Ugly Stik Lite rod.

To book a trip with Jerry Crook, call (205) 608-0933 or (205) 243-6198.