Jerkbaits have graced the tackle boxes of the most successful bass fishermen in the modern fishing era. They are one of the best representations of an injured baitfish, and the erratic action can entice vicious strikes from bass as well as any other bass lure.
In this article, we will take a look at what jerkbaits are, some tips about gear selection, how to properly pick a the best one for the circumstances and most importantly how to fish a jerkbait under different situations.
What is a Jerkbait?
As you can see from the picture above (Strike King KVD Jerkbait very popular), jerkbaits are long and slender lures meant to imitate struggling baitfish such as shad and when fished correctly, they are irresistible to bass year round. The Jerkbait entices strikes from bass because of the visual presentation. When fished correctly, they produce very erratic movement in the water. Because of this, they are best used in clearer water where there is several feet of visibility.
While there is a specific retrieval technique, it can be slowed down or sped up depending on water temperature and bass activity making it usable at any time of the year. Jerkbaits are most effective from top water to 10’ depth and come in a myriad of sizes, buoyancies, and bill styles that let you get to that deadly strike zone.
Jerkbait Gear Selection Tips
Fishing Reel. There is quite a bit of debate on whether a baitcaster or a spinning reel are better served with a jerkbait. In all honesty, you can be successful with either type of reel. The retrieval of the lure has nothing to do with the reel, so the decision deals mostly with casting distance, accuracy and your personal preference.
For example, with a baitcaster, you will be able to cast your lure further allowing you to cover more water quickly. On the other hand a spinning reel is designed for lighter lures. This can be helpful when fishing with light jerkbait or when trying to cast this lure in a difficult to reach area.
Best Jerkbait Rod. The type of rod is critical to fishing jerkbaits most efficiently. Keep in mind that fishing a jerkbait is all about the action that you give the lure, to help you do that I would recommend a rod with a fast tip. Medium-fast to fast action rods with a stiff backbone are the best setup to transmit a lot of action to the lure. Rods with a softer backbone tend to absorb a lot of the energy that should be transmitted to the lure, and you end up having to work a lot harder for that erratic movement.
Fishing Line: You can get away with using just about any type of line when it comes to fishing jerkbaits, but we do think there are some aspects of line to consider when throwing one. Stiffer lines such as fluorocarbon and braid tend to transmit more rod movement to lure movement than monofilament which has a bit more stretch. Fluorocarbon has the added benefit of low visibility which helps when fishing jerkbaits in clear waters where these baits shine. The drawback to fluorocarbon is the sink rate. If you want to keep your lure at shallower depths mono or a type of copolymer line will help.
Picking Your Jerkbait
If you get on the water and think it’s time to tie on a jerkbait you have several decisions to make regarding the lure itself.
Best Jerkbait Color: When deciding on the color of the jerkbait you should factor in water clarity and the type of baitfish in the area. If you are fishing in clear water, natural colors are a better choice, such as perch or shad. The key is to remember you are trying to imitate a dying baitfish. For the best results, always try to match the hatch.
If the water visibility is a little more limited, for example 2 – 4 feet, you might think about getting a little louder with your colors so make it easier for bass to pick up on the lure. Remember, when fishing with a jerkbait, the ability to see the lure is key. If the fish can’t see it they won’t bite it.
Floaters vs Sinkers: I like to divide jerkbaits into 3 different categories: floaters, sinkers, and deep divers. This is important to consider when selecting the right jerkbait because you want to choose one that is going to get you to the strike zone. Fishing a jerkbait with a high buoyancy is not going to do you any good when fishing suspending bass. Be sure when purchasing lures you are aware of their intended application and you take it into consideration when out on the water.
In addition, some fishermen have had much success adding additional weights to their lure in order to get it to that desired depth.
How to fish a jerkbait
It is all about the action. A lot of anglers don’t fully utilize this lure’s action and ability to entice fish, and the top reason is they are simply using an incorrect rod motion. All the movement that a jerkbait goes through should be initiated by the rod and not the reel. All the reel should be used for on the retrieve is to pick up slack line from the jerks of the rod. To get the erratic behavior that makes a jerkbait so effective, start with the rod low at the 3 o’clock position and then jerk your rod with your wrist and forearm to the 5 o’clock position.
You want this movement to be enough to generate 1-2ft of movement by the lure in the water. Before you make the next jerk, take up excess slack line. A big tip for maximizing the movement of the lure is to slightly push your rod tip out towards the lure before jerking. Adding a little slack line greatly improves the range of movement the lure has.
What is equally important in the retrieval is the cadence of jerks and the pauses in between these cadences. We will take a look shortly at these aspects and how they can change depending on the water conditions.
Learn More About How To Fish A Jerkbait In The Following Video:
Get to the Right Depth. Jerkbaits are great for searching up and down the water column. To be successful with this type of bait, it’s important that you first find where fish are holding and then keep the lure in that depth for as long as possible. There are deep diving jerkbaits available as well as medium to top water jerkbaits available to get your presentation to where fish are holding or suspending.
You can also go with lighter line and heavier lures, which will get down in the water column more quickly. You might get some hits on bass even when you’re not at their level, but you’re going to have a lot more success if you can pull that lure horizontally at the level they are holding.
It is all about that pause
Cold water fishing. Not always, but most often you are going to have to practice patience when learning how to fish a jerkbait in cold water. Bass metabolism slows to a crawl when the water temperature get down into the 40’s and often you will only work a 1-2 jerk one-second cadence. To get a bass involved, pauses of 15 to even 30 seconds might be needed before another round of lure jerks. For example., jerk-once, jerk twice, pause. Keep in mind that bass tend to hit the jerkbait on the pause so never let your guard down or you just might lose yourself a fish.
Warm water fishing. When bass are more active you can get a little more aggressive with your jerkbait retrieval. From late spring to early fall you might go with 3-4 jerk one-second cadence with only a few seconds of pause time. When working a faster retrieval speed, it is important to take up slack line efficiently to give the lure its full range of motion in the water.
A note on cadence: While we generalize the type of cadence and pauses that give you a better chance at getting strikes, the truth is it can change from day-to-day and from one end of the lake to the other. When on the water, play around with various cadences until you find what the bass are feeling that day.
Jerkbaits have been around the block a time or two and they are going to remain a mainstay on the bass circuit. When fished with the right gear and the right retrieval, these lures can bring success on just about any day of the year. We hope that this article has outlined the basics of fishing a jerkbait and serves as a launching point for a lifelong pursuit of mastering this technique.
Now it is your turn. Please share with your use thoughts on how to fish a jerkbait in the section below.