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Fishing Jerkbaits Year Round

How To Fish Jerkbaits


Jerkbait Bass Caught by Greg Vinson

Greg Vinson, second place finisher in the 2012 Bassmasters Classic, with Jerkbait Bass

2012 Ronnie Garrison, licensed to About.com
Jerkbaits are known as being best in cold, clear water, usually in the winter or early spring. But they work well year round and bass in stained water will eat them, too.

There are two basic kinds of jerkbaits. Hard jerkbaits are plugs and have two or three sets of treble hooks, depending on the size of the bait. They are long and thin, with a small bill on the front to make it dart and wobble when you jerk the rod tip. A soft jerk bait is a soft plastic bait usually shaped like a small baitfish. It has a natural darting motion when you twitch the rod tip.

  • Jerkbait rods
  • There are rods made just for fishing jerkbaits. They need to be fairly long and have a medium action with a light tip. Sometimes when you jerk the rod tip the fish will be there, and if it is a big bass you can tear the hooks out with a heavy action rod. The more limber rod will also help fight the fish.

  • Line
  • Flurocarbon line is good for fishing both kinds of jerkbaits. Monofilament will absorb more of the shock of setting the hook since it stretches more than monofilament but fluorocarbon sinks and the less stretch in it gives you more control. And it is less visible in clear water. You can also use braid line with a fluorocarbon or monofilament leader.

  • Hooks
  • Hard jerkbaits come with hooks but you tie a single hook to your line for soft jerkbaits. Since they usually have pretty thick bodies a wide gap hook is best. Match the size of the hook to the size of the soft jerkbait.

  • Reels
  • I fish a jerkbait on a spinning outfit since I seem to be able to jerk the rod tip better without wearing out my hands but a baitcaster gives you more control.

  • How To Fish Jerkbaits
  • With a hard jerkbait you cast it out, reel it down a couple of turns of the handle, then start jerking the rod tip two feet or so each time. Each jerk makes the bait jump and dart like an injured baitfish. Vary your timing and hardness of jerks until you find what the fish want. A standard cadence is to jerk, jerk, pause then repeat. But try three or one jerks between each pause and vary the length of the pauses, too. The colder the water the longer the pause should be. If the bass don't seem to want a hard two foot jerk, try a shorter or longer jerk each time.

    With a soft jerkbait let the bait sink just under the surface and work it back with small twitches of the rod tip. Pause between each twitch and the bait will dart from side to side in a gliding motion. You can let the bait sink deeper if the bass don't want something just under the surface. Also try harder or softer twitch. Sometimes a small twitch with a long pause lets the bait sink and that is what the bass want.

  • Colors
  • Colors can vary a lot, too. Clearer water usually calls for shad or natural colors. Stained water usually means you should try brighter colors. A solid white jerkbait is often a very good choice to start with each day no matter what the water color.

You can also get hard jerkbaits with longer bills to get down deeper or use a weighed hook to get soft jerkbaits down deeper more quickly. You can also tie a swivel to your main line and a two foot leader between it and the soft bait to get the bait down deeper and also keep twist out of you line. A soft jerkbait is bad about twisting up your line.

Fish jerkbaits anywhere bass are feeding on baitfish. In the fall key on shad moving into the creeks. A flat in the back of a creek will often hold a lot of good size bass in surprisingly shallow water when they are feeding up for the coming winter.

Give jerkbaits a try and you may not go fishing without one tied on.

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