They come small, medium, and large. You can choose between three hooks and two hooks. Some have long bill’s (some call them lips), others short bills. Some even have funky bills. You want rattles? They got them. Running silent? No problem. The can dive, suspend or float. Want to match the hatch? They come in more dizzying colors than you can imagine. All this choice is sure to give the beginning jerk bait angler a headache. When you add the complexities of what rod and reel combo you are using and what type of line you spooled, that headache becomes a migraine. I have been sorting through a lot of this myself as I add to my experience with these baits, so let me try to break it all down for anglers who also want to become more proficient with a bait that can be a lot of fun to fish.
Let me start by saying what jerk baits are not- they are not any baits with a jerk at one end and the bait at the other. Well some people might disagree with that where I am concerned, but let me assure you, jerkbaits are very effective fish catching lures. As a budget minded angler from mid- America I also think it is important to bring the cost effectiveness aspect into the discussion. Some of these baits can be real bank-busters, and I am not talking about the land surrounding the lake or river. My focus here is to show you how the right selections and a little practice can result in catching quality fish on budget.
The Rod & Reel: Let me start with the basics. To get started, choose a good medium action rod- I
prefer a 6’6” to 6’10”. I find that a shorter rod helps me achieve a better jerk or whip action and works well in short bursts or long pulls. I use a Falcon Expert Casting rod with medium action. Bass Pro Shops sells their Megacast combo for around $60 that will be a great starter setup if you don’t already have a rod for jerkbaits. I prefer a baitcasting reel, although, if you have not mastered the backlash, some anglers still use a spinning reel. My focus is baitcasting. Taking up line after the twitch or whip is the main role of the reel when jerking. I use a basic 6:3 or 7:3 ratio reel to take up the slack as it picks up slowly and let’s the bait sit or move slowly mimicking a dying fish. The Bass Pro Qualifier reels are a budget friendly favorite at about $60 new. You can also sometimes find a real steal on Ebay. The BPS Bionic, a step down from the Qualifier, is also a good quality reel.
Line: I can’t over emphasize the importance of spooling the right line. I use fluorocarbon because of its low stretch and ability to create erratic action when jerking the bait. Fluro is not cheap and
I would not advice skimping here. I like Seaguar Red Label 10lb Fluoro which runs about 15 bucks for a 250 yd spool. Another good line is Sunline FC SNIPER. Either will work well, but if the water is really clear, I would downsize to an 8lb leader with its smaller diameter. Since it is expensive, use the Fluoro as a leader tied to a good but relatively inexpensive braid.
The Baits: Now that you have the basic set-up, the fun begins. There are a ton of options but my goal is to keep it simple. As you gain experience, you will want to experiment. Do it! You can’t improve without a little trial and error. First, let’s start with color. I use 3 basic colors: 1.Shad color- the basics are the Threadfin or the Tennessee shad; 2. Ghost colors- these are see-through baits with a hint of color. I like the ghost minnow; 3. Chartreuse- for those times when water clarity calls for it, you can’t beat a chartreuse bait. Building from these basics, on bright sunny days I will use a variant with flash. When the sun goes down,
darker colors work well casting an image against the sky above. On those overcast days, I will put out the ghost and shad patterns all the while keeping in mind the natural hatch that could be schooling in the particular body of water I am fishing. When it comes to the number of hooks, the debate rages. Some anglers take off the middle hook make it easier to remove the fish. I know anglers who replace all trebles with one or two single hooks. Others swear that keeping all 3 trebles because that extra treble keeps makes it harder for the fish to throw the hook. Others counter that by saying it gives them more leverage to throw the bait. One thing is for certain, when you are handling fish hooked on a multiple treble lure you need to take care of both the fish and yourself. Then there is the issue of the lip. Lip size and shape varies with the depth the bait is built to achieve. I use shallow and mediums divers in spring and early fall as bass tend to be higher in the water column feeding in the warming (spring) or cooling (fall) surface level waters. In summer, it’s the deeper divers that will beat the summer heat.
The Retrieve: I can tell you from experience that you can select the right bait- color, depth, shape,
etc.- and fish it with the right combo, and still not catch fish. There is no question that your retrieve is critical in catching fish. The retrieve also depends on what the time of year. I fish a really erratic action in late spring, summer and early fall. In late fall, winter and early spring, bass are more lethargic only move if they have to for the easy meal. That means short jerks with long pauses will be most effective. At these times, I make a long cast, then let it sit a minute,
maybe even more, then a quick jerk jerk and a pause during which I reel up slack. I very the length of the pause until I find what the fish want. Then jerk jerk pause again, reel in slack , wait, and jerk pause again. I vary the jerks, one, two, maybe even three. Don’t be afraid to change up both the number of jerks and length of the pause. The fish will tell you how they are feeding.
Even when you have waited what seems like an eternity, waiting longer could be just what will trigger the bite. The colder the water the slower I fish. On a long cast, try counting off 30 seconds on the first jerk series and vary shorter or longer on subsequent jerks. You can also vary the length of the jerk- short bursts, a longer burst. A dying baitfish will be very erratic.
When it comes to brands, Rapala, Strike King, MegaBass, Lucky Craft, Berkley, etc. etc. There are many. Pick one that fits your tastes and your budget. Hopefully this overview will give you the basics to get started with a good level of confidence and add a good tool to your year- round, but especially fall and spring, fishing arsenals. I set out to give the beginner a better understanding of how to get started with jerk baits without putting to much of a hurt on the budget. Still have questions? Feel free to contact me on FB or Messenger. Share your experiences, stories and pictures on the iBASS360 SHOW US YOUR PASSION FB page so we can all #LiveThePassion!
Illinois angler Kevin Carwile is a frequent contributor to the iBass360 Blog and Facebook page, and he is a critical part of our member engagement team. As someone working in the food industry, Kevin has been essential in helping get safe food products to our grocery shelves during Covid times. This has put a crimp on his fishing time but not on his passion. Kevin has methodically added a variety of fishing techniques to his arsenal and shared them with the 360Nation through the blog. He is active in supporting Riot Baits, and Lucky Craft and has been on the pro development staff at JET Customs where a jig color he developed has been added to the product family. Kevin Lives The Passion every day and we are thankful for his contributions.