FRANK SUICK STORY by Todd Koehn
the name Suick comes to mind with muskie fisherman they
think of "Muskie Thriller" jerk baits. Frank
Suick was born in 1899 a month before the turn of the
century. In the 1920's he started fishing Pelican Lake
every summer. Making this trip of only 28 miles wasn't
that simple in those days.
travel was with Model T Fords and in the late 20's,
Model As. This trip involved traveling on poor, many
times impassable roads with time commonly spent fixing
flats and other repairs.
parents owned a tavern in Antigo where many of the local
Chicago & Northwestern railroad men would come to
exchange railroad stories. Antigo was a main hub of
this railroad line. From here it tracked north along
the east shore of Pelican Lake to Monico Junction just
north of Pelican Lake.
developed a close relationship with many of these railroad
men. This opened an opportunity for easy travel to Pelican
Lake by steam-powered freight train. Once he made the
one-hour trip he was dropped off and would rent a boat
from Guths Bay Resort or Otis Bait Shop.
the Pre-Suick days most muskie 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
could result in the fish dropping the bait. Waiting
for this process to be completed 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 jerk
baits, the Suick Muskie Thriller.
new Thriller lure did what he wanted it to accomplish,
by simply allowing fishermen to set the hooks as soon
as the fish hit. This concept by Suick came from observing
trout feeding in one of the many ponds at a hatchery
he owned. By
this observation he noted that the only time one trout
would attack another is when its prey is sick, injured,
or off guard. When trying to dip net a sick or injured
trout from the pond, 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
this netting was repeated the diving trout attracted
others that noticed its weak movements. Soon this floundering
fish was attacked by larger fish repeatedly. It
is ironic that the principle of the Suick evolved from
watching the feeding habits of trout. Trout are the
prey of muskie in many of our deep, cold water lakes.
whittling out an early prototype to test, Franks knife
slipped and cut off part of the cedar tail. This accident
soon led to the development of an adjustable stainless
steel tail which allows the lure to be tuned to run
at different depths.
earliest color combination was; gray back, white belly
with red gill markings. The stainless tail produced
a flash which helped improve its attractiveness. The
original test baits ran at from 12 to 18 inches below
the surface, the same as they do today.
testing began by Suick at his cottage on Pelican Lake
it rapidly became apparent that he had a winner. Soon
he had caught and mounted several heads of large muskie
on his garage in Antigo. Keep in mind this was before
the days of catch and release and the first size limit
which was 28 inches. The
earliest rod and reel combinations used by Suick were
5 to 5 ½ foot rods made from pool cues or Caluatta
canes fitted with guides and Pflueger Supreme reels.
This type of cane pole was different from the bamboo
cane poles we think of today.
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.
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 discovered a source for piano wire
and began to make his own leaders.
boats of this day were 14-foot wooden shallow V hulls
with a narrow bow. Most fishermen stood on the bench
seats for better visibility while wearing Polaroid sunglasses
bought from drug stores.
after this new Suick lure was perfected the news of
Franks incredible catch of 30 muskies in 30 days got
out! Many serious muskie fishermen tried to beg, borrow
or steal more information about his success and the
new mystery Suick lure.
few Antigo area fishermen got together and decided to
put together a petition as a joke to prohibit Frank
Suick from fishing on Pelican Lake.
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
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
there. Over 60 signatures were documented.
anglers traveling through Antigo on their way north
would stop at Frank Suicks tavern the "Muskie Bar"
to try to get a glimpse of his new lure. This bait was
the first commercially produced jerk bait which was
first offered for sale in 1942.
World War II it became difficult to find good treble
hooks and rivets to mount the lures' adjustable tail.
Auto brake shoe rivets were the only available fasteners
at this time. Many of Suicks friends traveled through
other cities and would stop at auto repair shops and
buy whatever brake shoe rivets they had.
the late 1940's his tavern and dinning room was a big
attraction since it had the largest display of muskie
mounts and heads in the world. The weekends were always
busy, with the bar and dinning room full.
taverns serving food during this time period had a separate
room. The bar room was for men only, and women when
escorted by a man. The tavern dinning room was open
for everyone. Times certainly have changed since then!
was known as a die-hard muskie fisherman. Once he was
on Pelican Lake it was hard 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 bedpost and pull on it like
it was one of his rods."
his lure was established as an essential lure for the
muskie fisherman, Frank got mixed up with a commercial
motion picture photographer. This experience is one
that irked the "old muskie professor."
motion picture 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 talked the "old muskie professor"
into guiding him.
told him he knew where there was a nice fish hanging
out, Frank took him to the spot and after a few casts
Suick struck this fish hard. 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 fish was in the boat, another victim
of the Suick Muskie Thriller.
months later the photographer sent Suick a sample film
to view. As he watched, Frank couldn't 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.
was the master of Pelican Lake because he studied muskie
and knew their feeding habits. One local angler said
"it was like he could crawl under the skin of a
muskie, better enabling him to understand their daily
Frank gaining notoriety as the "Muskie Professor"
Heddon Tackle Co. had him specially design many different
muskie rods. Heddon made several rods for Frank with
the custom inscription "Made by Heddon Specially
for Frank Suick." These custom Heddon rods were
the last ones he used until his death in the mid seventies.
largest fish was taken on a 9 inch "Suick Muskie
Thriller," a 46 pounder from Pelican Lake.
two sons John "Pete" and Jim took over the
lure business in 1951. The original 9-inch model of
the muskie thriller didn't take off 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.
small 4' bass style is made in two different designs.
These lures are made of plastic which eliminates the
stainless steel tail. Without the adjustable tail they
cannot be tuned to run at different depths, hence the
two different models a floater and sinker.
the business is operated by Frank's grandson Steve Suick.
In 1993 there are 17 different color combinations with
the exception of the 4' inch which has twelve.
different game fish are taken on Suicks of all colors
and sizes. In Northern Minnesota and Ontario not only
is it known as a top muskie lure but also trophy northern
the southern states many fisherman use the 7" inch
Thriller for trophy largemouth bass. In 1993 Suicks
will be sold in England for northern pike. No matter
what the game fish species, there is a Suick that will
Frank Suick was best known as a muskie fisherman, his
first love, he was 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 spring before muskie
action began. This broad experience probably made him
a better muskie fisherman.
muskie box deserves a piece of history like this famous
jerk bait. Remember what Frank Suick always said, "The
Bait That Thrills Muskie and You!"
Todd Koehn is the owner of Inter-Voice
Outdoor Communications which produces the "Discoveries
In Fishing Hot Line" 1-900-454-5555, entering its
4th year of services. The Hot Line provides Midwest fisherman
with current fishing information, with a new season starting
in April 93. The Hot Line "Top Wisconsin Muskie"
action report starts in June. Todd is a long time guide
on Pelican Lake and can be reached at: 1308 Smith Avenue,
Antigo, WI 54409 or by calling 715-623-7172.