What Is A Jerkbait? | How To Fish A Jerkbait For Bass?
Are you finding it hard to fish a jerkbait? Jerkbait fishing is luckily relatively easy to get into. It is not a technique that has a high barrier to entry and requires a ton of new gear to purchase, at least for getting out on a day on the lake. The one-piece of indispensable gear is a good quality jerkbait. Try fishing with a lure that doesn’t run true, rises too fast, or sinks like a rock you could be left with catching nothing, getting your lure hung up, or faced with a painful arm fishing a lure that is just not performing, or worse!
In our fishing blueprint, we breakdown everything you need to know about fishing a jerkbait, types, colors, and knowing when and where to fish it to give you the best chances of success. This article helps you identify the factors that are most vital to you so that you can start catching fish quickly and easily.
The jerkbait is one of the most effective choices for luring in smallmouth and largemouth bass, thanks to the unpredictable movement of the bait as it darts around the water.
For those who fish, this bait mimics a dying baitfish in the cold, clear water…
But be warned! Go through the following guide slowly and carefully to learn how to fish jerkbait lures for bass.
What Does a Jerkbait Lure Imitate, and Why Would a Fish Bite It?
A jerkbait is a type of lure that typically resembles the body shape of a minnow. These lures are known for their jerky movement through the water.
Most jerkbaits also include a small bib at the front, causing it to dive slightly during retrieval. They can have a hard or soft body and include two or three treble hooks.
The design of the jerkbait lure allows you to create erratic movement by jerking or snapping the rod.
Every time you jerk the rod, the jerkbait darts off in a different direction. This mimics the movement of a wounded or struggling baitfish, which can entice bass any season, but especially during the colder months when the bass is more lethargic.
Jerkbaits are considered reaction baits, as they help entice the bass to strike, even when the fish isn’t hungry. Using a reaction bait is a preferred choice for colder weather and other situations where the bass are not actively feeding.
What Are the Different Types of Jerkbait Lures and How Are They Different From Each Other?
Jerkbaits are divided into categories based on their buoyancy and material. When looking at the buoyancy of a jerkbait, the main categories include:
- Floating jerkbaits
- Suspending jerkbaits
- Sinking jerkbaits
Floating jerkbaits are designed to float until jerked. They float near the surface and dive down when you snap the rod.
Suspending jerkbaits drive to a specific depth. For example, you can buy a jerkbait that dives 4 to 7 feet for targeting bass at mid-depth.
Suspending jerkbaits are the most common choice, as the neutral buoyancy allows the lure to suspend in the water column. This creates a natural appearance that the bass should find appealing.
Choosing a suspending jerkbait also gives you greater versatility. You can adjust the buoyancy of the jerkbait using a heavier or thinner line or by modifying the jerkbait.
For example, adding suspended dots or strips adds more weight to the jerkbait, which lets it sink faster and further.
Sinking jerkbaits start sinking as soon as they hit the water. Jerking the rod stops the jerkbait from sinking further, giving you more control of the depth.
Other Variants Of Jerkbaits
Hard jerkbaits are often made with resin or wood. They tend to last longer but may require more practice with your presentation and technique to make up for the less natural appearance.
You can also find jerkbaits with rattles. A rattling jerkbait contains small metal balls that rattle as the lure moves through the water.
Using a rattling jerkbait may help in dingy-colored water or windy conditions where a little extra noise can help draw attention to your lure.
Jerkbaits also come in different materials, including soft plastic bodies and hard bodies. Both options are available in different sizes and weights for fishing at various depths.
Soft jerkbaits have a more natural look and movement compared to hard jerkbaits. Soft jerkbaits are made with soft plastic called plastisol, which makes them more flexible. Those type of jerkbaits are commonly called “flukes”.
The appearance and movement of soft jerkbait make them more effective in most situations, but they don’t hold up as long. However in this article we’re going to stick to hard jerkbaits.
What's The Best Size Jerkbait for Bass?
Common sizes of jerkbaits range from 3 to 6 inches in length and weigh 1/4-ounce to 1/2-ounce. Anglers often use larger jerkbaits in the fall and winter to mimic the larger species that are more likely to be found in lakes.
In the spring or summer, a small 3-inch to 4.5-inch jerkbait is a common choice. It more closely resembles shad and other smaller fish that are available in large numbers during the warmer months.
How To Fish A Jerkbait? Best Retrieval Techniques...
The basic presentation of a jerkbait involves a horizontal presentation and a straight retrieval with several snaps and pauses. The rod movement during retrieval will cause the jerkbait to mimic a minnow swimming erratically through the water, which should hopefully result in a reactionary strike.
Step 1: Start by casting to the area you want to target and allow the jerkbait to drop to the desired depth. If you’re using a suspending jerkbait, which is the most common choice, it should stop sinking when it reaches a specific depth.
Step 2: Point the rod down toward the bait while ensuring you have some slack in your line. Next, snap your rod downward to send the jerkbait shimmying through the water.
Step 3: After snapping the rod downward, quickly bring it back up as you reel in some of the slack on the line.
- Avoid reeling in too much. You need to keep some slack on the line to allow the jerkbait to move.
- Repeat the snapping action two or three times before pausing for several seconds. The period when you pause is when the bass is most likely to strike.
- If you don’t feel a bite after several seconds, repeat the snapping action two to three times before pausing again. Repeat this process until you reel in enough line that you need to recast.
- The speed of your retrieval and the duration of the pause depends on the current conditions, including the water temperature and the amount of fish activity.
- You typically want to use a slower retrieval and longer pauses in colder weather and a faster retrieval with shorter pauses in warmer weather or during heightened fish activity.
5 Great Locations and Structures to Fish a Jerkbait Lure for Bass and Why
The best locations and structures for a new angler to fish a jerkbait include:
- Drop-offs and ledges
- Shallow flats
- Deep channels
- Rocky shorelines
The location that you choose may impact the type of jerkbait you use. Here is a closer look at each location and structure.
1. Drop Offs and Ledges
Drop-offs are areas of the lakebed with a sudden drop in depth. Ledges are the upper lip of the drop.
These areas are ideal for jerkbait, as bass often prowl ledges and drop-offs in search of baitfish. Depending on the depth, you may want to use a floating jerkbait or a suspending jerkbait.
A floating jerkbait can be used over a ledge sitting a few feet above the surface. If you want to go further down the drop-off, use a suspending jerkbait.
2. Shallow Flats with Isolated Cover or Grass
Look for shallow, open areas with either isolated cover such as a rock pile, high spot, stump, or submerged grassy cover.
The bass use the isolated cover as an ambush spot and small baitfish use the grass to hide and search for food, which also attracts bass.
Beginners are encouraged to use a floating jerkbait in shallow flats. A floating jerkbait rests on the surface until you jerk the rod, which sends it diving…
As you get better you can use the floating jerkbait to float over the object and dive down after it passes it.
As you get more confident, adding a deeper diving lure to deflect off of helps trigger more bites.
3. Deep Channels
Channels are submerged riverbeds and are often used by fish during migration. You may find baitfish and bass migrating through the channels before the spawning period in the spring and again in the fall as the waters cool.
When targeting deep channels, you want a deep-diving jerkbait that can sink to the right depth. You let the jerkbait drop and then jerk the rod to send it scurrying through the water.
4. Rocky Shorelines
A rocky shoreline is a great place to find bass seeking warmer water in the fall. By the afternoon, bass are likely to seek the sunny shorelines in search of crayfish and baitfish.
Rocky shorelines are another area where you may use a floating jerkbait or a suspending jerkbait depending on your preferences and skill level. A floating jerkbait allows you to skim the surface when targeting largemouth bass moving toward the sunny shorelines.
Points are underwater structures with shallow water surrounded by deeper water on three sides. The shallow water typically extends from the shore near coves and protrusions.
As with drop-offs, points are ideal for baitfish seeking shelter, especially if the area includes vegetation.
Points are also often found in shallow water near shorelines. Consider using a suspending jerkbait and casting where the water starts to drop around the point.
What's The Best Season to Fish a Jerkbait?
You can use jerkbait during any season, but it’s more commonly used during the cooler months. The bass are less active in late fall and winter and the movement of the jerkbait can lure them out of their lethargic state.
Bass are opportunistic eaters. If they see an easy meal, they are likely to go after it, making jerkbait a great choice for colder weather.
However, you can fish jerkbait any time of the year. Using a jerkbait in the summer requires a much faster retrieval but can still attract smallmouth and largemouth bass.
What The Best Time of Day to Fish a Jerkbait?
The best time of the day to fish a jerkbait is often the early morning and the evening. The first several hours of dawn and the last few hours of daylight create low-light conditions.
Bass rely on their eyesight to find and attack prey, as they can see better in low-light environments compared to most baitfish. Silver, blue and shad-colored jerkbaits tend to work well in these conditions.
While early morning and late evening are perfect times to use a jerkbait, you can also have success throughout the day. The daytime tends to offer greater water clarity, which can help a jerkbait stand out.
You may also have better luck in the middle of the day during the colder parts of the year. During the early spring and late fall, the bass tend to become more active around midday when the sun is shining, and the temperature is at its highest point.
How To Set the Hook When Fishing a Jerkbait?
Most anglers use a sweeping motion with the rod to hook bass after a strike on jerkbait. Sweeping involves pulling the rod left or right while keeping the rod tip pointed down instead of lifting it up.
Pulling the rod upward may pull the treble hook out of the fish’s mouth. Sweeping uses water tension to add more pressure to the line.
When using the “sweep set” technique, keep the rod parallel to the surface of the water. You also need to choose the right time to perform the sweeping action.
Pay attention to any movement on your line. You may feel a slight tap or tug on the line or notice that your line suddenly jumps.
When you notice one of these signs, reel in the slack on the line before performing the sweeping action to set the hook. After setting the hook, continue reeling in your line.
Instead of a slight tap or tug, the bass may pull the line straight after striking. If the line is pulled taught, you shouldn’t need to reel in any slack before sweeping.
Immediately sweep the rod to the side and then start reeling in your catch.
If you struggle to detect strikes when using a fluorocarbon line, you can try switching to a monofilament line with a fluorocarbon leader. The monofilament line is more forgiving for beginners and easier to see on the water, thanks to its buoyancy and light refraction properties.
What Are The Best Jerkbait Colors and Why?
Jerkbaits come in a variety of colors. Anglers often choose a lighter or more natural color in clear conditions and a brighter or darker color in water with limited visibility.
Translucent jerkbaits are the most popular choice for clear water, as they have a natural look. Common options include translucent jerkbaits in white, blue, or shad-like colors.
The more realistic appearance of a translucent jerkbait can help trick the bass in water with greater visibility.
In dingy muddy water or cloudy conditions, you may want a color that produces more flash. A jerkbait with some gold or a stripe of bright colors should increase the visibility of your fishing rig.
What's The Best Jerkbait Setup: Rod, Reel, and Line?
A common setup for jerkbait fishing includes a short rod with medium power and fast action paired with a baitcasting reel that has a fast gear ratio. Using a reel with a faster gear ratio, such as 7:1:1 and higher, can help you reel in slack quickly.
Six to seven feet is a common length for jerkbait fishing. A six-foot to seven-foot rod with medium power makes it easier to snap your rod downward without the tip hitting the water.
A longer rod is bulkier and more cumbersome when fishing jerkbait. Whereas a down side to a shorter rod limits your casting distance.
Jerkbaits are often used with fluorocarbon or monofilament fishing lines. Fluorocarbon is the preferred choice, but beginners may also find the monofilament line useful.
Experienced anglers often use 8-pound to 12-pound fluorocarbon line for jerkbait fishing. Fluorocarbon fishing line is more difficult for fish to detect, which adds to the realistic presentation of jerkbait.
Fluorocarbon line sinks, which is why using a lighter line is recommended. An 8-pound to 10-pound line should be light enough to keep a suspending jerkbait from sinking too far.
Switching to a 12-pound line may allow you to go a little deeper. However, another alternative for adding more depth is attaching a few weight strips or dots to the jerkbait.
You can also pair a fluorocarbon line with a floating jerkbait, which is great for casting above the grass in shallower waters. The floating design of the jerkbait helps counter the weight of the fluorocarbon line.
Fluorocarbon line is also useful for long casts, as it offers less stretch compared to monofilament line. However, the stretch provided by a monofilament line is useful for adding to the erratic action of the jerkbait.
As mentioned, the monofilament line is also more forgiving. You get 15% to 30% more stretch compared to other types of fishing lines, which can help keep an aggressive bass hooked when reeling it in.
Overall, fluorocarbon line works best in many situations, but a monofilament line may be better suited for shorter casts and generating more movement from the jerkbait. Beginners may also benefit from the stretchiness and buoyancy of the monofilament line.
Environmental Factors to Consider
Environmental factors are an important consideration when fishing with jerkbait. The season, weather, and water conditions influence the best locations/structures, bait sizes, colors, line size, retrieval techniques, and more.
Here is a closer look at the main environmental factors to consider when fishing a jerkbait for bass.
How To Fish A Jerkbait In The Spring
Early spring is a common time to use jerkbait, as the waters are still cool and the movement of the jerkbait can imitate baitfish dying off in cold water. Bass are also aggressive eaters in the pre-spawn period.
The pre-spawn period is perfect for jerkbait fishing and tends to last until the water temperatures reach the 50s.
During this period, you are more likely to find bass in more shallow areas with cover. Look for bass in shallow flats and around points.
You may have success with a floating jerkbait or a suspending jerkbait during the pre-spawn period. A floating jerkbait works well when you can see schools of baitfish on the surface.
A suspending jerkbait allows you to go a little deeper. You can try casting a suspending jerkbait in shallow areas around vegetation.
As the water warms, the bass move to their staging areas. Staging occurs when the bass move toward their spawning grounds.
You may need to move further into the bays and creek channels around the lake during the spawning period. The bass also become more defensive during this period.
Anglers often use larger lures during the spawning period. A larger lure measuring five to six inches presents more of a threat, which can encourage more aggressive strikes from the bass.
Using a faster retrieval and shorter pauses may also work better during the spawning period. The bass may not strike immediately, which gives them more time to inspect your fishing rig and decide it’s not a threat.
A faster retrieval, a shorter pause, or more erratic movement when jerking the rod may help attract bass defending their spawning areas.
How To Fish A Jerkbait In The Summer
During the summer, the bass tend to move from shallower waters to deeper areas in search of cooler temperatures. Bass often go deeper in the summer, which can be a challenge with jerkbaits.
Deep diving jerkbaits are available with running depths of 8 to 12 feet. Bass often move as deep as 15 to 20 feet during the height of summer.
Yet, bass also travel through creek channels and around various types of structure in search of shad. Search for ledges and drop-offs, points, and other structures with changes in depth.
Shad and other baitfish are often found in the shallower areas around these structures. You can use a suspending jerkbait for depths of 4 to 6 feet and a deep diving jerkbait for deeper water.
Another option is to add weights to a suspending jerkbait to target deeper waters. Adding weights also allows you to cast further, which is useful for keeping your distance in clear water.
Pro anglers often use long casts and fast retrievals during the summer when working a jerkbait. As soon as your jerkbait reaches the desired depth, start jerking the rod and retrieving your line.
Bass can swim much faster than you can retrieve your lure. Don’t be afraid to jerk the rod as hard and fast as you can.
A faster retrieval process also helps give the jerkbait more erratic action. You create more flash and more erratic action when working the jerkbait faster.
You may also want to use brighter colors during the summer. Orange, pink, and chartreuse are common choices for increased visibility.
Water that is clear during the winter often becomes slightly stained by mid-summer. The brighter colors help the bass detect your baitfish from further away.
How To Fish A Jerkbait In The Fall
Along with springtime, fall is one of the best times to use a jerkbait. Bass feed heavily during this period, making it easier to attract strikes with almost any lure.
When the water starts to cool in the fall, the bass typically start migrating back towards the creek channels and shallower water. However, as the bass are on the move, they tend to roam in both shallow and deep waters.
During the first few weeks of cooler weather, the bass are often unpredictable when it comes to finding their location. You may need to start in shallower areas around ledges and points.
You may also want to fish at different times of the day during the fall. The bass are likely to be more active during the middle of the day when the temperature is at its highest.
As the water temperatures continue to drop, the bass move toward the creeks and areas with vegetation in search of dying shad to fatten up for winter. If you don’t have success in shallower water, head to deeper water, as the bass in your lake may not have moved to the backs of creek channels yet.
How To Fish A Jerkbait In The Winter
As the temperatures continue to drop, you may need to increase the length of your pause when retrieving a jerkbait. The bass are much more lethargic during the winter, as their metabolism slows down to allow them to feed less.
You need to give the bass more time to commit to striking, which requires a longer pause.
For example, the most basic retrieval for jerkbait involves jerking the rod several times before pausing and repeating. Instead of pausing for just a few seconds, you may need to wait 10 seconds or longer.
Try counting the seconds as you pause your jerkbait. Start by counting to ten seconds.
If you don’t get a bite after ten seconds, increase your count by one or two seconds. Repeat this process until you consistently get more strikes.
A slow retrieval and less aggressive jerks of the rod better mimic the action of dying shad. Using a fishing rig that sinks slowly may also help capture the attention of nearby bass.
If you normally use a fluorocarbon line, switch to a monofilament line. Monofilament sinks at a slower rate compared to the fluorocarbon line.
You should also add more slack to the line before jerking the rod. If the line is too tight, you limit the movement of the jerkbait during your next jerk.
Before jerking the rod, point the tip down toward the bait to add more slack to the line. The extra slack keeps your jerkbait in the strike zone for longer, which is useful for attracting sluggish bass during the cold winter weather.
The color of the jerkbait is another consideration during the winter. Many anglers use silver shad patterns during the winter to imitate the appearance of shad dying off in the cold weather.
The water also tends to become clearer during the winter, which can make a translucent jerkbait a good option. However, you may also have success with vivid colors, such as jerkbait with a chartreuse or orange belly.
The brighter colors can trigger more aggressive strikes from the bass in clear, cold water. Experiment with different colors to find what works best for you.
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