The Frank Suick Story
By: Todd Koehn ©
name Suick comes to mind most musky hunters think of "Muskie Thriller"
jerkbaits. Frank Suick was born in 1899, a month before the turn of the century. In the
1920's he started fishing Pelican Lake in Wisconsin every summer. Making the 28 mile trip
was not simple in those days. Most travel was with Model T Fords and in the late 20's,
Model A Fords. The trip involved traveling on poor and many times impassable roads, with
time commonly spent fixing flat tires and other repairs. Frank's parents owned a tavern in
Antigo, Wisconsin where many of the local Chicago & Northwestern railroad workers
would come to exchange railroad stories. Antigo was a in hub of this railroad line. It
tracked north along the east shore of Pelican Lake to Monico Junction just north of
Pelican Lake. Frank developed a close relationship with many of these railroad workers,
and this opened an opportunity for easy travel to Pelican Lake by steam powered freight
train. Once he made the one hour trip he would rent a boat from Guths Bay Resort or Otis
Bait Shop. In these early days most Muskies were caught by casting or trailing suckers
behind a rowboat. This was a tedious, time-consuming method. When a fish finally hit the
bait a long wait was required before setting the hook. This waiting process is what Suick
wanted to eliminate. One day in the early 1930's he began whittling with a jack knife on a
piece of cedar. His handy knife work developed into one of the all time classic jerkbaits,
the Suick Muskie Thriller.
Thriller lure accomplished what he wanted it to, by simply allowing fisherman to set the
hook as soon as the fish hit. This concept came from observing trout feeding in of one the
many ponds at a hatchery he owned. He noted that the only time trout would attack was when
it's prey was sick, injured, or off-guard. When trying to dip-net a sick or injured trout,
he noticed that it would dive down 18 to 20 inches to escape the net and then come back to
the surface almost immediately. When the attempted netting was repeated, the diving trout
attracted others that noticed its weakness. Soon this floundering fish was attacked by
larger fish. It is ironic that the principle of the Suick evolved from watching the
feeding habits of trout. Trout are the prey of musky in many of our deep, cold-water
When whittling out an early prototype, Frank's knife slipped and cut
off part of the cedar tail. This accident soon led to the development of an adjustable,
stainless-steel tail which allowed the lure to be tuned to run at different depths.
The earliest color combination had a gray back with a white belly and
red gill markings. The stainless tail also produced a flash which improved it's
attractiveness. These original prototypes ran from 12 to 18 inches below the surface, the
same as they do today.
When Suick began testing his lure on Pelican Lake, it quickly became
apparent that he had a winner. Soon he had caught and mounted several heads of large musky
on his garage in Antigo. (Keep in mind this was before the days of catch and release, and
the first size limits.)
The earliest rod and reel combinations, used by Suick to work his
lures were 5 to 5 1/2 foot rods made from pool cues or Caluatta canes, fitted with guides
and a Pflueger Supreme reel. This type of cane pole was different from the bamboo cane
poles we think of today. Caluatta is a woody plant stem with knots or knobs that grow
closer together than bamboo creating a material twice as strong. These rods were light and
had a stiff action capable of heaving suckers long distances.
Braided steel leaders were used for years. Frank was always looking
for an alternative, because the braided wire would fray and break where the swivel or
sleeve was attached. Frank soon located some piano wire and began to make his own leaders.
The boats of his day were 14 foot wooden shallow V hulls with a
narrow bow. Even at that time most fishermen stood on the bench seats for better
visibility, while wearing polaroid sunglasses.
Soon after this new Suick lure was perfected, the news spread of
Frank's incredible catch of 30 muskies in 30 days. Many serious musky anglers tried to
beg, borrow or steal more information about his success and the new mysterious Suick lure.
A few area fisherman even got together and decided to put together a
petition, as a joke, to prohibit Frank Suick from fishing on Pelican lake.
This petition read;
We, the undersigned hereby petition your honorable body and the
Honorable Governor of the State of Wisconsin, to hereby issue an order to prohibit Frank
Suick of the city of Antigo, County of Langlade, State of Wisconsin from fishing or taking
of fish in Pelican Lake, located in Oneida County until such time whereby other fisherman
are able to catch fish out of the above mentioned lake. We hereby do this in the interest
of Muskies at large.
There was one Pelican Lake cottage owner that didn't take this
petition as a joke. He said he would refuse to pay his taxes for that year if Suick
continued fishing. Over 60 signatures were documented.
Musky anglers traveling through Antigo on the way north would stop at
Frank Suick's tavern the "Muskie Bar" just to try to get a glimpse of his new
lure. This bait was the flrst commercially produced jerkbait which was first offered for
sale in 1942.
During World War II it became difficult to find good treble hooks and
rivets to mount the lures' adjustable tail. Automobile brake-shoe rivets were the only
available fasteners. Many of Suick's friends would stop at automobile repair shops and buy
whatever brake shoe rivets were available.
In the late 1940's his tavern and dining room was a big attraction,
since it had the largest display of musky mounts and heads in the world.
Suick was known as a die hard musky hunter. Once he was on Pelican
Lake it was almost impossible to get him off the water. Suick's wife told a local
newspaper reporter "He is so crazy about catching muskies that when he falls asleep,
he often dreams of fighting fish and would actually reach back and clutch a bed post and
pull on it like it was one of his rods."
Once his lure was established as an essential lure for the musky
fisherman, Frank got involved with a commercial motion picture photographer. The
photographer was in the Pelican Lake area filming a commercial for an outboard engine
manufacturer, and a brand of lures other than the Suick Muskie Thriller. After several
fruitless days the photographer had not a single fish. He then talked Frank into guiding
Suick told him he knew where there was a nice musky, and took him to
the spot. After a few casts Suick set the hook into this fish. The weather conditions were
excellent for filming the ensuing fight. With the camera rolling the whole episode was
captured on film. Soon a nice 24 pound musky was in the boat, another victim of the Suick
Many months later the photographer sent Suick a copy of the film. As
he watched, Frank could not believe his eyes. The edited movie included a lure, but not
the Suick Muskie Thriller. The fish had another lure hanging out of its mouth. From this
point on, Frank became wary of promoters.
Suick was the master of Pelican Lake because he studied muskies and
their feeding habits. One local angler said, "it was like he could crawl under the
skin of a musky, which better enabled him to understand their daily routines".
gaining notoriety as the "Musky Professor", Heddon Tackle Co. had him design
many different musky rods. Heddon made several rods for Frank with the custom inscription
"Made by Heddon Specially for Frank Suick". These custom Heddon rods were the
ones he used until his death in the mid-seven-ties.
Frank's largest musky was taken on a 9 inch Suick Muskie Thriller, a 46 pounder
from Pelican Lake.
|Frank's two sons John
(Pete) and Jim took over the lure business in 1951. The original 9 inch model of the
Muskie Thriller didn't takeoff until 1960. The 7 inch Thriller went into production in
1956, followed by the 4 inch in 1985, and the Super 10 inch in 1987. Today the business is
operated by Frank's grandson Steve Suick. As of today, there are 17 different color
combinations with the exception of the4" model, which has twelve.
different gamefish are caught on Suicks of all colors and sizes. In northern Minnesota and
Ontario it is not only known as a top musky lure but also as a trophy northern pike
producer. In the southern states many fisherman use the 7" Thriller for trophy
large-mouth bass. In 1993 Suicks will be sold in England for northern pike. No matter what
the gamefish species, there is a Suick that will work.
Although Frank Suick was best known as a musky hunter, his first love, he also enjoyed
many other forms of fishing. Few people realize Frank enjoyed chasing trout and would
often spend an entire day on the famous Wolf River with a fly rod. Bass and panfish were
species he pursued with a passion during the spring before musky action began. This broad
experience probably made him a better overall musky hunter.
Considering the Suick's great tradition, it seems every musky box
deserves a piece of history like this famous jerkbait.