By Rod (Codmac) Mackenzie
StumpJumpers have stood the test of time and have most likely caught more big Murray cod than all other cod lures put together.
As lures go for Murray cod, there are almost as many as there are snags along the course of the mighty Murray River itself. Early models of flatfish and floppy made way for better designs that held good depth and rode the timber well.
Of all that followed, none can lay claim to rival the legendary status deserved of the StumpJumper. This lure carved its way into cod fishing folklore and altered the angling practices of countless diehard bait anglers forever. As lures go, the StumpJumper is the paradigm for every cod lure to follow. Its overall design and aerodynamic body shape provide for long accurate casts. It dives deep and fast, effectively finding the strike zone very quickly. It has sufficient buoyancy to negotiate and back out of the snags hence the naming of the lure. Just as importantly, the natural bait-like swimming action of the StumpJumper is one that consistently arouses a response from Murray cod and golden perch. This lure, like most other successful designs, came from a thinking angler who understood Murray cod and the waters in which they live.
In 1986 John Ellis designed the StumpJumper lure along the banks of the Murray River at Cobram. The early models were hewn from timber and were fast to find popularity among local anglers who successfully fished them in the nearby Murray River and other popular cod fisheries like Lake Mulwala. Over the next five years, numerous cod to 40kg and better insured the popularity of the StumpJumper lure and demand for these lures quickly outgrew supply. The original wooden model was replaced with plastic and eventually ended up being manufactured offshore. A generation of diehard bait fishos were converted to lure fishing with the introduction of the StumpJumper lure. For many older anglers, the terminology for any form of lure fishing, be it cast or troll, is simply referred to as stump jumping and all lures regardless of the brand are the same.
The StumpJumper would be the most successful and widely-known lure along the Murray River today. The older timber models are now highly collectable and go for a hefty sum if in mint condition. Even those battle-scarred and beaten by the very fish they were designed to catch still sell for many times the price of a newer plastic model. For my money, I would rather swim these lures and use them for what they were intended.
The StumpJumper would be the most successful and widely-known lure along the Murray River today.
If you look at the average depth of the Murray and its adjoining rivers, it’s not hard to see why the StumpJumper lure has been so successful. It’s a mid-range diver that suits most of these waters and, even in the deeper sections, most cod encounters take place either at the top or bottom end of the hole as the lure swims out into open water over the edge of the lip. Remember, cod look up more often than down and dredging the bottom with your lure will lead to fewer big cod encounters than if it’s swimming above the structure.
Almost every angler I have fished with over the years, has a favourite StumpJumper or two in their tackle box. Fishing scribe Steve Cooper is a strong advocate of these lures and intent on using a single colour to catch his cod. While I am unsure of his taste in music, he favours the Dolly Parton colour scheme and, just like some of Dolly’s more obvious attributes, I did see Scoop bag a couple of thumpers on this lure. The rock-bar in front of Dead Man’s Creek just downstream of Fort Courage on the Murray River was a consistent producer for Scoop and barely a pass with the high-vis colour scheme would swim through unscathed. It got to a stage where I would deliberately watch his rod tip as I knew the lure would be smashed at any moment. On one trip, Scoop lost his favourite lure early in the piece and went home fishless. On his return visit, he lifted the lid of the tackle box and displayed several trays of the Dolly Parton colour he had so much success on. First pass in front of the Dead Man’s and his rod loaded to the cork. Scoop and his legend lure slayed them on that trip.
Alex Julius himself dons his favourite StumpJumper first up when he heads south to chase a few cod. On his last visit, it took but several passes on the timber-rich corner before Alex’s lure was smashed dead in its tracks. Alex worked the unseen cod to the boat and we were both excited when perhaps 40kg of green fish appeared from the depths. It hardly squeezed into the large Environet and, with a third of body and tail threatening to slide back into the drink, it was anxiously lifted aboard. Not an hour on, Alex pulled another metre-plus model from the drink and once again it was caught on what was fast-becoming his favourite StumpJumper. Check out these huge Murray cod getting cod caught at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vtZCCsR4NDw
In the early days we would often colour the bib black with a texta on some models to increase the overall visual appearance of the lure. Of course, the coloration did little in shit water but, in clear water from a visual prospective, it added another couple of centimetres to the lure’s size. The first genuine 100lb plus Murray cod I saw landed fell to the hand-done felt artwork. Taken on the cast the monster would be just one of many landed on the darker bib. With this in mind, Gillies released bib packs with different colours, including a silver glittery model that works exceptionally well. The interchangeable bib system is another of the StumJumper’s great attributes, allowing a single lure to cover a range of different water depths and angling situations. Although others have tried, none have ever really come close to the simplistic interchangeable bib system.
The interchangeable bib system is another of the StumJumper’s great attributes, allowing a single lure to cover a range of different water depths and angling situations.
When it comes to colours, I have several favourites in the StumpJumper range, and fish them in accordance to water depth and flow. In the early days, I snagged up a real fish catcher from the Murray River that had no less than a dozen heavy snap swivels connected to the tow point. The ingenuity of some anglers has no bounds and the string of brass was either to achieve more depth or act as a heavy trace. Either way, there was more work than thought put into the making of the rig. The lure itself was a very faded Tuity Fruity colour scheme and was to rack up five metre-plus cod in as many trips before succumbing to a snag. I purchased a new one shortly after but the fresh model never bore me the same results. Perhaps its predecessor simply swam in the right spots at the right time. I still tend to give this colour a run when the clarity is poor and it racks up one or two big cod every year.
Most seasons, Gillies releases a new line of colours in the StumpJumper range and the tackle rat in me just has to give them a run. By chance, I was to see the Complete Angler colour range at Bathurst while doing a run of instore talks on Murray cod fishing. Some great new colours in this bunch that will get a fair run this season and no doubt catch fish.
Where to now you might wonder as it’s hard to improve a tried and tested lure. Big has become the new vogue of cod lures and it seems the StumpJumper fits this mould also. Go back a few years to the early part of the 2016 cod season, and I received the first large prototype StumpJumper in the mail. First trip out, it was stopped dead in its tracks as a 125cm Murray cod inhaled the large offering as though it were a jellybean. Not a bad first up cod for any lure but indicative of the successful run the StumpJumper range has had on native fish.
First trip out, it was stopped dead in its tracks as a 125cm Murray cod inhaled the large offering as though it were a jellybean.
Hewn on the banks of the Murray River, the StumpJumper is without doubt the most prominent cod fishing lure ever made and, more than three decades on, continues to outsmart the very fish it was designed for. While I won’t be here, it’s a fair bet that in another three decades time some other fisho is writing about the StumpJumper lure and how it continues to stand the test of time.
As cod lures go, it’s very hard to fix perfection.