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.
Jerkbait Tips for Spring Bass
When spring rolls around most bass anglers are thinking about flipping buck brush with a big creature bait or slinging a spinnerbait in the backs of spawning bays. Of course, these techniques catch bass in the spring; however, there’s another option that can help you catch a lot of bass in the spring, especially when they haven’t made it shallow just yet.When the conditions are right during the spring a jerkbait can be deadly on pre-spawn largemouth and smallmouth bass. Here are a few tips for catching more springtime bass with a jerkbait.
Floating Jerkbait During Spring
A floating jerkbait is super versatile and works great for many presentations. You can fish it on top or just under the surface. A floating jerk bait like the is the perfect bait to present over grass beds where you don’t want the bait to dive too deep and get covered with grass. Fishing these baits above grass beds can trigger explosive strikes on the surface or just below.
A floating jerkbait offers just the right rattle to annoy any bass that has no desire to come out of their grassy domain. And I can’t wait to try this technique this spring in Tennessee on my childhood lake. Some friends have invited me to join them on an annual fishing trip when the shad are spawning. They have been throwing a floating jerkbait for as long as I can remember. The way they target those big smallmouth bass, walleyes and stripers is by slowly rolling the floating jerkbait on the surface and pausing it every few feet. This drives fish below crazy and results in some of the most exciting fishing of the year. It’s the same bank and technique we used back when I was in high school. I haven’t done it since then, but I plan to this spring.
Suspending Jerkbait In The Spring
Springtime fishing can vary from year to year due to long winters or cold fronts during early spring as well as other factors like high water or muddy water. There are so many factors during the spring that affect what the bass or other species are wanting in a jerkbait presentation. A suspending jerkbait is the perfect jerkbait to use when the fish are still sluggish from a long winter when the water temps refuse to rise.
The good thing though is the fact that bass will still move up to prepare for the spawn and when they do they are in a feeding mode. If you are springtime fishing and find that the bass are not up shallow, begin moving out toward the main lake or channel and fish the secondary points. Sometimes the bass might still be on the main points leading into spawning bays. These spots can be stacked with bass and with the right presentation with a suspending jerkbait you will catch some fish.
When the water temperatures are still in the 50’s suspending jerkbaits is a great choice. A suspended jerkbait is the perfect bait to target these main lake and secondary points for staging bass. Look for steep banks like bluff walls. Bass wants to be able to move vertically in the water column when the water temps are low. Fishing slow and figuring out the cadence that the bass want will result in a great day of jerkbait fishing. Even better fish those transition spots where a bluff meets a more gradual shoreline. This can be the sweet spot where a lot of bass are staging.
Deep Diving Jerkbait For Bass
There are a couple scenarios that call for a deep diving jerkbait. The most obvious is to get your bait closer to the fish. Oftentimes, especially largemouth bass, will not move very far to strike. This can be due to water clarity or the bass just want the bait closer before getting that reaction strike that jerkbaits are known for.
When targeting that 6 foot depth range, the Smithwick Suspending Super Rogue is a great option. This bait is suspending so it works great for those bass that just don’t want to get near the surface. This can be because of the calm water surface that bass and other fish fear. It can also be a stained water clarity and getting your jerkbait 3 feet closer is all it takes to get a strike. If the bass are deep on those main lake points or bluff walls try a deep diving jerkbait. There are jerkbaits today that can get you down to that 10 to 12 foot range. This will get your bait closer to those deeper bass staging up for the spawn.
If you enjoy catching big pre-spawn bass don’t forget about the jerkbait. In the old days jerkbaits were modified any number of ways to get the correct presentation needed to catch fish. Today’s jerkbait manufacturers have covered every presentation imaginable and with the different lines from monofilament that floats to fluorocarbon that sinks the presentations are nearly endless. If you get on the water this spring and find that the bass haven’t moved to the shallows just yet, tie on a jerkbait and experiment with the presentations and see if you can get a few bites and have a little fun.
How to Work A Jerkbait
- A jerkbait is a great representation of baitfish that largemouth bass and other species love to eat.
- Jerkbaits have long been a great lure for cold water, but as a very versatile bait the jerkbait can be utilized all year long.
- A jerkbait works in many different ways from topwater presentations to deep diving applications.
Jerkbaits for Topwater Bass
I have personally used a jerkbait for topwater applications going to my early years fishing farm ponds. The jerkbait twitched on top can entice hungry summertime largemouths. It can also trigger strikes from giant smallmouth coming from deep, clear water in the winter. The ways that jerkbaits work are more diverse today than ever before. Manufacturers have created jerkbaits and adjusted and tinkered the way that a jerkbait works in the water. There is a jerkbait out there for your fishing style and the way you like to work a jerkbait. There are many modifications you can do to make your jerkbait work the way you want. From added stick on lead strips to adding split rings to the bait. You can add a single split ring to the front or back hook hanger and adjust the way the jerkbait works in the water.
Working a jerkbait just under the surface can be an important presentation when the surface is calm. Without a ripple on the surface a bass is reluctant to come up to strike your bait. Bass instinctively know that they’re vulnerable to predators from above. They can also see your jerkbait clearly. They will refuse to strike if it’s just a little off. Working the jerkbait quickly just beneath the surface can be just enough sense of security. The lack of clear visual reference triggers a strike from those reluctant bass.
Jerkbaits today offers all sorts of variety in colors, size and depths to which they will dive. The depth is determined by the bill and also other factors like size and type of line you use with the jerkbait. Sometimes bass key on baitfish at a certain depth and refuse to leave that depth to crush one 10 feet above if it’s on the surface. The bass might however come up from 20 feet to crush a jerkbait twitched 10 feet above them in the water column. This is where the diving jerkbaits rule the day. Getting a jerkbait down 10 feet can be just what’s needed to fill the livewell.
Countdown Jerkbaits For Bass
A countdown jerkbait is a jerkbait that is weighted to sink at a fairly rapid rate. A countdown jerkbait can actually be fished at any depth you like, within reason. Counting down the depth to where you believe the bass are feeding can be crucial. When the bass are keying on that depth and won’t move far to strike. Sometimes bass have a small strike zone. Counting down your jerkbait to that depth will catch bass you wouldn’t otherwise catch.
There are many modifications you can do to make your jerkbait work the way you want. From added stick on lead strips to adding split rings to the bait. You can add a single split ring to the front or back hook hanger. This will adjust the way the jerkbait works in the water. Adding a split ring can adjust the way the jerkbait sits in the water. Nose up or down. It can also create just the right buoyancy for your jerkbait making it perfectly suspend in the water column. Or maybe you want it to barely sink or rise.
3 Popular Jerkbaits On The Market Today
The Yo-Zuri 3DB Jerkbait is a suspending jerkbait with a realistic minnow shape. The 3DB is the only jerkbait with flat sides. A flat-sided jerkbait makes it ideal for stop-and-go retrieves. The flat sides on this jerkbait make it a very responsive jerkbait, especially when your rod tip is jerked. A holographic tinsel tail flashes and pulsates to entice even the most pressured bass. 3DB Series lures boast a patented ribbed belly that creates multiple and distinctive wave-motion vibrations. They also produce a flash created by internal prisms that are 3d. Each resembles an injured baitfish swimming erratically and sends out a flash of reflected light from its scales.
- Suspending Jerkbait
- Flat sided
- Mylar tinsel tail for realistic action
- 2 round bend nickel treble hooks
- Stainless steel nickel split ring hardware
Strike King KVD Deep Jerkbait
When it is time for a jerkbait and you need to get a couple feet deeper in the water column, reach for the Strike King KVD Deep Diving Jerkbait. Expertly designed with an extended lip by legendary angler Kevin VanDam. This deadly jerkbait puts the perfect combination of roll, flash and wiggle, in front of fish holding in deeper cover or cruising deep vertical structure. Internal weight transfer system allows for more accurate and longer casts. Equipped with realistic 3D eyes and premium nickel hooks. KVD suggests cranking this Strike King original down to the proper depth, then simply working it as you would with any jerkbait. Pauses, slack-line twitches, and an irregular cadence will bring any bass over to investigate.
- Designed by Kevin VanDam
- Extended diving lip to get deeper in the water column
- Superior action
- Great over deeper cover or vertical structure
- Internal long cast weight transfer system
- Realistic 3D eyes
- Premium nickel hooks
The Berkley Skinny Cutter 110+ Jerkbait offers a slimmer profile than the standard Cutter jerkbait. This could mean all the difference in getting bit. Designed by Dave Fritts and other pro anglers, this premium suspending jerkbait boasts an artfully handcrafted wood design. A detailed painted finish promises both durability and irresistibility. At 7/16 oz, the Berkley Skinny Cutter 110+ Suspending Jerkbait provides the perfect combination for long, precise casts while a coffin shaped bill delivers maximum darting action. Anglers at all experience levels will appreciate the versatile action. The 3 premium stainless steel treble hooks will ensure that when the bass strikes it will remain hooked up all the way to the boat.
- Premium suspending jerkbait
- Expertly painted body
- Designed by Dave Fritts
- Great for long and precise casts
- Versatile action
- Coffin shaped bill provides max darting action