With fall quickly approaching and cooler weather on the way, fishing suspending jerkbaits can be one of the best techniques you can utilize when water temperatures start to plummet. They are an excellent imitation of a dead or dying baitfish, and bass gravitate towards them during certain times of the year. In fact, I consistently hook my first fish of each year on a jerkbait. Even though cold-water temperatures might entice and tempt you to be more inclined to slow down with a drop shot or jig, the jerkbait can often outshine these slower techniques. Within this article, I will share some of my favorite tips and techniques to assist you in being a better jerkbait angler!
Suspended jerkbaits produce to some degree all year, but techniques and locations will change with the change of the seasons. Prime time for fishing the jerkbait is when the water temperature is less than 60 degrees, which for me, usually correlates to early spring, as well as from fall into winter. In early spring, I tend to focus on fishing around chunk rock banks and grass flats in 8 to15 feet of water. Bass are just moving up from their deep winter haunts, and with baitfish activity increasing the jerkbait action starts to get worthy.
A soft plastic jerkbait like the V&M Pork Shad can also work well in spring, especially later in the season including summer when bass push heavily into shallow weeds and other shoreline cover. When fall arrives and the fish are scattered before the cold weather takes hold, my primary focus is around chunk rock banks and weed flats. Believe it or not, I have caught largemouth and smallmouth bass in 39-degree water off of weed flats! This just goes to show you that bass don’t always “go by the book”, and sometimes you need to experiment to find success.
The manner in which you twitch the jerkbait is also crucial. You do not want to twitch the rod sideways using your arm.
Try to always twitch the bait with downward motions using mainly your wrist. One note, I navigate the boat to be positioned correctly where I can twitch the bait with a downward motion before I ever make a cast. If your technique starts incorrectly, utilizing your arm to twitch the bait, you’ll wear out quickly and you won’t impart proper action on the jerkbait. Using your wrist gives the bait a considerably sharper, more erratic action, thus drawing more strikes.
I won an FLW tournament in Washington a few years back fishing a jerkbait. My jerkbait rod was the only one I had rigged on the boat at the time! It was early spring and I was targeting smallmouth on rocky stretches of bank. I finished the tournament with nearly 30 pounds for two days and won the tournament by 16 lbs. The key was fishing the bait all day long and never laying it down. There were a multitude of anglers fishing the tournament that would fish a jerkbait for 10 minutes without a bite! Then they would abandon the jerkbait for a less strenuous method. I fished the same jerkbait for two days straight using the downward motion with my wrist and blew the field away and won the tournament!
The retrieval rhythm that I choose for the day depends heavily upon water temperature. General rule of thumb is: “The colder the water, the less aggressive of a retrieve you’ll want to use.”
When water temperatures are 40 degrees, baitfish aren’t actively swimming around, so your jerkbait should be worked accordingly. Longer, more frequent pauses in between twitches will also result in more bites during these chilly times. As the water temperatures warm, both bass and baitfish become increasingly active, and I start to speed the bait up with sharper, more frequent twitches. Remember to always give the bait an occasional pause no matter what! Remind yourself fish also have intellects of their own, and every bass will not always do or want the same things. Don’t be afraid to try different retrieve cadences if you aren’t experiencing success!
Keep in mind that jerkbaits work the very best when fish can clearly see it from a distance. Crystal clear water isn’t mandatory, but decent clarity is needed to experience any measurable success. If the water is exceedingly cloudy, something like a spinnerbait or crankbait are much better choices. They produce the intense vibration, sound, and stronger silhouettes therefore bass can easily detect them before gaining a visual.
Having a jerkbait that suspends perfectly in the water column is extremely important. If the bait sinks or floats you will not get a bite even when the water is cold. It has to not only look like a dying or injured baitfish, but the bait must present an easy meal to cold-water bass. Suspending baits look extremely realistic and when they are paused they represent an easy kill for a bass. I test every jerkbait before use to make sure they all suspended perfectly. There are several key techniques you can use to make a bait suspend if it’s not doing so correctly. If the bait floats, you have the option of changing the hooks to a larger diameter, adding suspending dots to the belly, and/or adding a larger split ring to the front hook. All of these will add just a touch of weight to the jerkbait, which in many cases this is all that it needs to suspend perfectly. On the flip side, if the bait sinks the best route is put lighter wire hooks to assist the bait and help it stay suspended. Just make sure that the hooks you attach are the best quality and precisely sharp.
I have been fishing jerkbaits for 11 years now and I’ve come up with the best setup for fishing these baits. My rod of choice is RainShadow’s NEW REVELATION 6’8″ medium action blank. It has just the right amount in the tip so that it takes minimal effort to make the bait dart enticingly. Fishing a jerkbait is very physical and a demanding technique. It’s challenging to fish an all day experience without getting fatigued. Many anglers will use a 7’0” to 7’2″ rod then be clueless as to why their neck and arm hurts at the end of the day. Due to experience, I find the shorter length rods to be beneficial in combating this. I use anywhere from a 6’8″ to a 6’10” rod, with the longest model being reserved solely for long-distance casting. If I’m fishing around boat docks or other areas requiring shorter casts, theRainShadow REVELATION 6’8″ Medium action is an absolute sniper of a rod! It has enough length for decent casting range and easily keeps me in control of a hooked fish. The blank has enough forgiveness to avoid ripping the small treble hooks out during an unexpected bite or during a tough, prolonged battle.
I match my rod up with a 7.0:1 Lews Tournament Pro baitcasting reel. Utilizing a high-speed reel is crucial when you are twitching a jerkbait. It is imperative to be able to pick up large amounts of slack line quickly. The Lews reel is also lightweight, compact, and casts a mile, which all come together to form a very comfortable, durable, high-performance package.
Using the right line can be the difference between success and failure. I find that it is best to stay away from monofilament with jerkbaits due to the stretch that mono possesses. Monofilament requires a harder twitch to impart the necessary action, and hurts your hook-setting power, especially at long distances.
Fluorocarbon is the absolute best choice because it has extremely low stretch. The lack of stretch transfers the angler’s twitch directly to the jerkbait, and gives a much-improved hook-setting performance.
I use 10 to12 pound Sunline Super FC Sniper fluorocarbon. This thin diameter line offers less resistance so the bait can move naturally and dive deeper. With anything larger than 12-pound test, the line will impede a jerkbait and not allow it to achieve optimum depth or action.
I use a couple of different jerkbaits when I am targeting bass: The Bass Pro Shops XPS suspending jerkbait, and a Spro McStick. Both baits work great and catch lots of fish! As far as colors go I like to experiment with my color choices depending on the body of water, as well as the water clarity. It is really pretty simple, right?
I hope these helpful tips will aid you on your next jerkbait outing. Using a jerkbait is one of my favorite ways to fish, and I feel that it could easily become one of your favorite methods as well! With the right gear selection, a little seasonal know-how, and some time on the water, you’ll quickly find out how effective these baits can be. Now get out there and put these tips to use so you can experience the ultimate in jerkbait success!