Jerkbaits work for fall bass because the fish go on the chase because summer’s smorgasbord of easy pickin’s begins to decline. Much better than retrieving a plug at a steady pace, work the rod tip, and knock retrieves a little haywire with irregular snaps and breaks. Get the knack of a regular pulse of rod twitches. Knock the plug about unexpectedly, and you will trigger bass to strike. Easy to write, but not so easy to do. I know this, because I’ve tried it a couple of times already this fall and I was surprised to find I don’t have the form I did in my youth.
The rod tip is the sensitive part of the instrument that is playing your plug. You need fast action, because this allows direct control imparted from the wrist. Medium power spinning of about 5 ½ feet not only casts with better accuracy than a longer length rod, it better controls the retrieve because the wrist is closer to the tip. It’s less about craziness and more about sustained rhythm. I believe it’s this regularity at the core of irregular retrieves that arouses bass interest. You want a strike, so a sudden jerk sending a plug in a quick, erratic direction triggers an aroused fish to lunge.
Optimal water temperatures prevail into October, and even when temps fall below ideal range, bass continue to feed heavily on fish forage until water temps dip below 50. Recent years, I’ve used spinnerbaits exclusively, but, perhaps because I filled a box with plugs for trolling hybrid stripers in May, I’ve taken a rekindled interest in minnow plugs- for both Largemouths and smallmouths.
In September, smallmouth bass in the small rivers of Central and North Jersey depend much less on the summer smorgasbord of insect forage and begin chasing baitfish—and plugs. It is this time of year that the young of the year shad begin moving down the Delaware River towards the Atlantic. Jerkbaits score both smallmouths and largemouths in lakes, reservoirs, and ponds from mid- September through October. Depending on water column dynamics, you might need a suspending jerkbait after mid-October.
There’s something edgy about a brisk, blustery fall afternoon. Not cold enough to make you want to find the nearest passage to a warm room but not the August heat that makes you want to mellow out with a margarita. Driven pursuit is in the air. No mistake, it’s also hunting season. Maybe we humans have this response hard-wired. During Paleolithic times, we pursued our winter food stock. Fish are cold blooded, but they are also part of this overall picture. Research shows they do not fatten for winter, but optimal temperatures mean they take every advantage possible to grow and increase their overall health as metabolism functions optimally for just this increase of size, weight, and vitality. Thus this corollary behavior of fish, compared to warm blooded mammals that do “stock up” for winter.
So, my advice is to capitalize on the fact that bass in the fall take chase. Work a plug as if it’s trying to escape from something chasing it, because bass are competitive. If a plug seems to be escaping from something, a predator nearby is likely to try and get it first. Be ready, however, the work can wear you out, so don’t forget the bass beat. Rod tip twitching that develops a core-level sustained rhythm can protect your wrist from getting sore, and the bass will feel the vibration if you’ve got the knack. Live the Passion!
Bruce Edward Litton first published at 16 in The New Jersey Fisherman, adding numerous articles by the time he was 18. Despite a long hiatus, Litton never lost his passion for fishing. In 2005, armed with deeper knowledge, he began to cover subjects as varied as trout fishing New Jersey streams and wrangling Outer Banks bluefish. Litton’s work was noticed by New Jersey outdoor writers/editors Jim Stabile and Jim Hutchinson, The Fisherman’s managing editor leading Litton’s photography and numerous articles on fishing places, techniques and tackle being published. Litton solid reputation as an outdoor journalist caught the eye of iBass360’s Rob Zorn, a fellow Lawrence High graduate, and Litton was asked to join the team. iBass360 values Bruce’s vast fishing knowledge, his journalistic contributions, and his friendship.