How to Fish a Jerkbait
Old man winter has set in and the water temps on your favorite lake has dropped dramatically. This is the time to tie on a jerkbait and slow way down and catch some big bass that are still out hunting. The winter is a great time to catch some big bass. As the water temps drop there are still some bass that need some fat stores to make it through the winter. The bass that are needing the most fat stored are the big ones so as the winter moves in these big bass can still be feeding like it was early fall. This is why the bass you catch on a jerkbait in the winter are so often big ones. Let’s get into how to fish a jerkbait in the winter as well as a few places to look for them.
Line Weight for Jerkbaits
I won’t go into the different lines for jerkbaits here I have an article about that here What Is the Best Line for Jerkbaits. The most important thing in the line you use for wintertime jerkbait fishing is the diameter. During winter the water clears dramatically in most all bodies of water. This clear water calls for small diameter line. The small diameter line limits a bass’ ability to see the line but it also imparts the most realistic action on your bait. This is important when fishing clear water especially when a pause is need to get a bite which brings us into our next topic for how to fish a jerkbait in winter.
Jerkbait Fishing Cadence
When the water temps drop baitfish, usually shad, will begin to become lethargic and die. It is this die off in cold water that makes the jerkbait so effective in the winter. The jerkbait, fished with the right cadence, cam mimic these dying shad perfectly. A suspending jerkbait, or one that sinks slightly on the pause, is a great place to start. Some jerkbaits will do this right out of the box but sometimes you need to play around with line size and type and maybe even add some weight to the jerkbait to get the perfect presentation.
Once the suspending characteristics are accomplished it’s now time to figure out the best cadence for that particular day. The bass will tell you what they want but you have to fish the jerkbait many different ways for them to tell you with a bite or two. Sometimes the bass want a super slow moving bait while other times they might want it ripped quickly through the water column. It just depends. Change up your presentations until you figure out what they want. After time you will have your own favorite presentations to start with and one of them will probably work.
Wintertime Jerkbait Color
Again, winter usually means clear water so natural colors usually get the nod. However, it seems that while natural will work there are some unnatural colors that for whatever reason seems to trigger more strikes from wintertime bass. Purple for instance isn’t really natural to baitfish that I fish around but I have seen where purple was by far the preferred color for wintertime jerkbait fishing. This can also vary from lake to lake so experimenting with a few colors might be in order, that or listen to a few tournament anglers that like to throw jerkbaits in the winter and they might give a color away for a particular body of water. I have seen it more than once.
When the urge to go fishing becomes overwhelming just tie on a jerkbait and hit the water. The air is a little warmer and sometimes will even break the 50 degree mark and the temptation is just too great and you find yourself launching your boat after months of sitting unused in the garage. March can be tough on bass anglers and especially bass anglers who try the typical springtime techniques like jigs and crankbaits. These baits can work great, but for March when bass are beginning to suspend outside spawning bays, jerkbaits can be the best bait for bass.
There are many jerkbaits to choose from today and you might have your favorite but whatever jerkbait brand you prefer there are several things to consider that can really improve your chances of catching more bass this time of year. Listed below are just a few things to consider when throwing a jerkbait in March and ways to modify them to get the presentation you need.
When to Throw Jerkbaits for Bass
As the water begins to warm, during early spring, bass will begin to come out of those deep winter sanctuaries and position themselves along steep banks leading to spawning areas. Bass will begin this move earlier than you may think. Bass will notice the increase in water temperature and instinctively begin migrating toward their springtime spawning areas holding along steep shoreline areas. These areas are known as staging areas and will hold pre-spawn bass for several weeks leading up to the spawn.
Bass tend to suspend in these staging areas and choose steep banks so they can easily move from shallow water to deep as the water temps change expending the least amount of energy to do so. While bass are lethargic and sluggish this time of year they instinctively know they have to begin feeding to prepare for the rigors of the spawn. This situation is prime time for a jerkbait. The jerkbait will work all season long under the right circumstances but winter and early spring is the best time to throw it.
Where to Throw a Jerkbait
As mentioned above the best place to throw a jerkbait is along steep banks close to spawning areas. There are a lot of different situations during the winter to early spring transition and you must change your presentation accordingly. Knowing where the bass are staging is half the battle the other half is patience and presentation.
Bass can sense a change in water temperature of just a few degrees. During early spring they will move up shallow as the water temps rise throughout the day. Rocks will help warm the surrounding water especially after a few days of sunshine. Creeks will carry slightly warmer water into the lake and warm the entire area enough to make a difference. This should be considered when looking for the most active bass during early spring. To further fine tune your search for an early spring jerkbait bite look to north facing shorelines. These shorelines warm quicker because it gets the most sunlight throughout the day. Combine all of these with the presence of baitfish and you are in business.
How to Work a Jerkbait for Bass
There are many ways to work a jerkbait, but during early spring when the water temps are still below 50 degrees the best presentation is a suspending jerkbait. This lets you work the jerkbait through the suspended bass slow without it sinking. This will get you more strikes when the water is cold. It’s important to pause your jerkbait during early spring. When the water temps are below 50 degrees the best cadence I have found is a twitch, twitch, pause, twitch, pause and repeat. The length of the pause is vital and you have to let the bass tell you what they want that day.
Another vital part of the cadence is the amount of action you give your jerkbait. Some days bass want a very quick and erratic action. Other days a slow and subtle action is the ticket. You can control this action with your rod tip. Quick twitches of the rod tip with slack in the line will impart a quick and violent action on the jerkbait. A slow steady pull and pause is a much more subtle presentation.
Another important consideration when fishing jerkbaits for bass is the position of the bait on the pause. Some suspending jerkbaits suspend level while others suspend head or tail up. During early spring oftentimes there is a shad kill. This is common and a natural occurrence and for the jerkbait angler a time to land some really good bass. When a shad is dying it will dart a short distance and stop. It will slowly rise or suspend, but its head is nearly always pointing up during the pause. This is why I prefer a jerkbait that suspends with its head up.
There are several ways to modify your jerkbaits for bass so it will suspend with its head up. Some will suspend this way out of the box, but many won’t. The easiest way is with Storm SuspenDots. Apply one and test. Add a SuspenDot until you get the head to point up when it suspends. You can also wrap lead wire around the back hook or add a split-ring to the rear hook eye. You can also replace the back hook with a heavier one. All of these mods will work, but be sure that your jerkbait continues to suspend after the added weight. A slow sink is OK. If it sinks too fast it becomes more action than a sluggish bass wants. It can affect the number of strikes you get. It’s the stationary presentation that triggers the bass.
Fishing jerkbaits for bass takes a lot of patience to master. While I have thrown a jerkbait since I was a kid I’m far from mastering the presentation. There’s nothing like a hard strike from a big bass when you least expect it. The feeling alone keeps me throwing it. When the waters are cold and bass are making their move, to pre-spawn areas, the jerkbait is hard to beat.