The jerkbait is a very effective bait for bass when they are chasing baitfish. It’s primary function is to imitate a dying or dead baitfish. Once you understand that, you can tap into it’s true fish catching potential. There are two types of jerkbaits, a soft bait and a hard bait. I am going to focus on the hard jerkbait. Hard jerkbaits come in float, sink, and suspend models. The suspend model, the most common, sinks to a particular depth and sustains or suspends at that mid-level of the water column depth. As you retrieve, once the lure dives underwater it suspends at the depth you stop cranking. This is a big advantage, since suspended bass in the Fall or lethargic bass in Winter are in search mode for easy prey. The suspended bait stays in the strike zone longer, giving the bass time to decide when, where and how to strike.
An effective approach with this lure is to create an action that mimics a dying baitfish struggling to swim. Think of a sluggish fish moving in short darts then floating still as it tries to regain energy to swim again. This makes an easy target for bass–especially for the lethargic bass in cold water- since the suspension effectively minimizes striking distance thereby allowing the bass to conserve energy.
The jerkbait is very versatile. A blog article could turn into a book by listing all the different ways to use it. I prefer to stick to the basics thereby allowing you to use these concepts to get your own gears turning as to the different ways to adapt it to the various situations you fish. First, these lures are long and slender with three treble hooks attached to the bottom, so they are not recommended for throwing into heavy cover. Jerkbaits produce an erratic motion that bass need to “see” or “feel” through their lateral line. Therefore, jerkbaits should be worked more in the open, along rock ledges, weed edges, over and around humps. The more water clarity, the better. Use your electronics because you’ll want to know the depth of the water where you’re targeting Bass in order to select the right diving jerkbait for the situation you’re fishing. Keep in mind, bass is more likely to swim up for a lure than down.
One of the benefits of a suspended jerkbait is its weighting system allowing good casting distance which is both rattling, and has a weight transfer system for long casts. When fishing them, begin by casting past your target. Crank in a few turns to get the lure down to the desired depth. With your rod tip pointed toward the water, use short popping motions or sweeps to give action to the lure. Between twitching, jerking and popping motions allow the bait to pause in the water. The pause is key and often when you will get bit. After each rod movement, point the tip of the rod back toward the lure to create slack in the line. This allows the lure to come to a natural stop and suspend at different angles. Experiment with different rhythms of jerks/sweeps/twitches along with length of pause. For example, a winning cadence could be jerk-jerk-pause-jerk-jerk-jerk-pause-jerk-jerk-pause or perhaps jerk-jerk-sweep-long pause-repeat. Experimentation and the bass will tell you what is right. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of varying your pause times anywhere from a few seconds to half a minute or more. Pay attention to the rhythm you are using when you catch a fish–other fish might react to that same rhythm.
These are my key points to remember:
Effective jerkbait action is produced by a jerk, jerk, pause, twitch, sweep type of motion- not by continuous reeling.Experiment with different stop-and-go retrieves with short to long pauses in between.Leave slack in the line when you pause the bait. Watch for movement in the line to detect strikes.The only time you need to reel is to collect slack to get the bait moving after pausing.When you catch a bass, repeat that successful rhythm. Let the fish tell you what they want.
Rapala, MegaBass, Yozuri, Rebel, Smithwick, Strike King… there are many different jerkbaits in diving, suspended and shallow water versions. Some have various water forward and easy casting variants. Others have custom paint finishes. Choose what works for you in colors that match the baitfish forage of your chosen water. Get out there while the fall bite is still on and Live the Passion.