When fish are in a very docile, spooky mood, or even when you have great water clarity in the dead of winter, being overly aggressive in your approach just isn’t going to work. What happens when you just cannot get the fish to react?
What do you do then? Well, simple. You stop trying to make them react altogether. You need to give them a reason to have a go at your lure. Instead, you should try providing a meal so good that they cannot pass it up.
A lure that is very natural in its appearance, as well as action, is the key to your success in these scenarios. Mastering this is a skill worth learning. We highly recommend taking the time to study out on the water.
Take time studying how to fish with jerkbaits. You can target absolutely any predator with an appetite using them. They do a dang good job in cold water as well as for fish who have great eyes and visual clarity.
What Is A Jerkbait, Really?
A jerkbait is a type of fishing lure that is designed to be ripped or jerked through the water (hence the name), to entice hunger strikes from actively feeding fish. Especially popular in the sport of bass fishing, they tend to be those lures that catch almost everything regardless.
The traditional presentation is very natural as well as visually appealing. The lure is not threatening at all and it is by no means, a reaction lure. This is a lure that will get bit and gobbled up if the fish are hungry for a meal. It is a hunger lure.
The presentation is more finesse as well as stealthy. They are generally very realistic in their appearance not only in their paint jobs but their actions in the water as well. They are designed for fishing water as clear as crystal and catching bigger fish on the norm as well as in colder weather.
These are one of our top recommended lures if you are after Smallmouth or huge behemoth ten plus pound female Largemouth. Even so, you can use them for Pike, Walleye, Perch, Crappie, and even catfish on some occasions. They really are versatile and should work in your area.
Select The Right Lure For You
Understanding Jerkbait Types
Jerkbaits come in two main varieties. Hard and soft versions. The hard lures are generally made out of wood or hard plastic while the softer versions are made out of softer plastic or silicone rubber.
Knowing the differences in each type is very important because it will help you choose a lure more efficiently when you are out on the water. Generally speaking, softer ones are more natural but less durable.
Fish will also hold onto them longer before spitting them out. Sometimes you may want more action. This is when a soft one works wonders. Other times, harder ones may be a much better producer based on the wants of the fish.
Softer ones are also a little harder to hook up with and may not be the best choice when you are first starting out and just want to catch fish without worrying about it. Harder lures are also much more prone to snagging.
Big, beefy, treble hooks are not a friend of grass or moss. To throw your lure into the thick stuff, use a soft plastic. If you want to just work the edge of the same mat so that you can utilize the sun’s penetration in the water, use the harder one instead. Both types have their pros and cons. You will have to give them both a try and see which one you prefer to use more often. The choice is yours.
Hard lures are the most basic of the two types. All you do is tie the lure onto the end of your line, cast it out, work it back with a few pops, and catch fish. They are normally diving lures that are intended to perform at a certain depth.
Most models have a very long and lean body to them that give the appearance of a minnow or some other breed of baitfish. The lure is meant to inherently mimic a wounded or dying fish in distress which it does very well.
They do utilize exposed treble hooks which might prove to be inefficient in water with a lot of grass or algae. Having those hooks also drastically increases your hookup percentage as compared with softer lures. Hard baits tend to dive deeper and move much faster. They also have the uncanny ability to use rattle chambers for sound as well as weight transfer systems to make them easier to
Their softer counterparts are a little more complicated in their approach for use. They do not come with hooks in the package. That means you will have to purchase them separately and then rig them before you start casting.
We recommend a three or four ot extra wide gap worm or weighted swimbait hook with a straight shank. The depth is not set for the softer variants and they are not limited to the depth at which they can perform. You can use it near the surface or all the way on the bottom like a jig or craw. The depth that the lure travels is influenced by the rig as well as the weights and line used in the process.
You can also work them a host of different ways instead of sticking to one repetitive cadence. They are also designed to mimic smaller fish that are dying or wounded but the approach is slightly different for the reasons mentioned already.
You can use exposed hooks on them but you can also rig them certain ways to make them weedless which is something you certainly cannot do otherwise. There is a slight tradeoff for being able to do this which is the difficulty and skills it takes to hook up.
You normally only get one or two hook points and you have to pull a lot harder. They tend to move slower and more subtly. Even so, soft plastic is nice because you can have great scents and flavors such as minnows, coffee, garlic, and lure salt baked right into the plastic. Awesome if you want to add some more appeal for a few more catches.
How To Rig A Soft Plastic Version
There are quite a few ways to rig a soft plastic variant, all of which are very effective and work equally well at targeting Smallmouth as well as Largemouth and other predator fish.
The Texas Rig is the most common way to fish a fluke or any other similar lure to it. Make sure you get an Extra Wide Gap Worm hook, stick the point of the hook through the nose of the bait, pass it out the bottom, spin the hook, and stick the hook back through the body.
What you are left with is a good looking lure that can be made completely weedless. This is good for throwing into thick heavy stuff such as trees, grass mats, submerged vegetation and the like, without hanging up. The common Texas Rig is the most basic of methods to fish one and is what you will see many anglers using most of the time.
With A Screwlock Hook
Another popular way to is to use a screw lock hook. The screw-lock screws into the nose of the plastic and it secures the hook to the lure. This is helpful if you really want to catch much fish on one bait. The connection is a very solid and firm one.
The hook is not actually piercing the plastic itself but instead, it rests on the bottom with the screw serving as the connector point. This provides a natural look with a proven track record. Again, the hook is pierced through the bottom of the body and out the top.
You can choose to make it weedless or not. You will still have to set the hook pretty hard using this one to ensure you get a good hookup.
On A Jighead
Mounting a fluke or another model of soft plastic on a standard ballhead jig is one of the most basic ways to rig one. All you have to do is take a basic jighead that fits the size of bait you want to throw, pierce the lure with the hook, thread the lure on, and bring the hook back out the top of the back.
You are left with an exposed single hook on the top of the plastic. Great for open water, the exposed hook means that you will want to avoid brushing grass or other vegetation with it if you can help it. The method exaggerates the action of the tail by keeping the head straight and in line.
What Gear Should I Throw These On?
You always have an option about which rod style to use. Spinning rods are the most efficient if you are throwing anything less five inches. Baitcasting gear is the best for throwing magnum sizes and larger tackle.
The rod should be a medium heavy power class with a fast action in the tip of the rod. It has just the right balance between snap and backbone. The best choice for targeting all sizes of fish. Make sure your rod is relatively short too.
Since you will be jerking, snapping, and moving the rod quite often, a longer rod will tend to wear out the angler much faster. If the rod is long, you just do not get to work that bait as well and it causes a ton of excess problems. Try a rod that is anywhere that is in the six-foot range for the best approach.
You also want a pretty fast reel. The reason is actually not to reel in. The more slack you can remove with your reel, the better.
All you want the reel for it to remove slack. Do not use it to reel in unless you are fighting the fish. If you can easily pick up slack in the line and quickly, you are going to be able to keep that lure in the strike zone for so much longer.
You will even be able to pop it much faster. Depending on the rod style you decide to go with will influence which reel style you will decide to use.
The line type you decide to use is generally one-sided as well. Stealth means fluorocarbon. You can use monofilament but it will not work as well. Also having that stretch in the line is a pain sometimes. The abrasion resistance of fluorocarbon is very good too. It holds up very well.
It lets your baits sink a little bit deeper as well as provides them with a better action. The stretch factor is almost nonexistent too, which is what you want. Try anywhere from ten on up to twenty-pound test.
Mono will also work, but you have to remember that it is best used with topwater or subsurface offerings. It takes much longer to sink mono and it is not near as durable. Remember that. Fluorocarbon for your sinking ones and mono for the surface ones.
How To Fish Jerkbaits Properly
In Warmer Water
If you are wanting to get bit in seasons such as Summer and Spring, the best practice is to make a nice, long cast, and rip your rod tip to impart action to the bait. Cast it out, rip it, and wait for four or five seconds. After that, rip it again and repeat.
You can also try experimenting with shorter pauses. Some pauses as quick as a second can trigger huge blowups. Always remember to jerk them. You never want to retrieve them at all. You want the bait darting and slashing all the way back to the bank or boat.
You want to use the reel for nothing more than picking up the slack in the line, which brings us to our next point. ALWAYS work these with slack in the line. The slack causes it to cut which is what you want. In warmer months, you can fish much faster and entice even the biggest predators to start feeding.
In Colder Water
For cooler seasons such as Winter and Fall when the water is much lower on the thermometer, you want to fish them almost the same way as you do in the warmer months. The main difference being the length of the pauses.
Instead of pausing for only five seconds, we tend to double that in colder water. Instead of five seconds, we like to go ten, fifteen, or even maxing out at twenty. This usually enough to catch most fish on most days.
When the metabolism of the fish is lower, you want your lure to be as well. There really isn’t too much more to say about it. All you need to know is to keep popping the lure. Change the length of the pauses depending on the season of the year and water temperature, and reel in the slack.
That is pretty much it. This is how they were designed and this is how they get their drawing power. If you cannot get bit by fishing them this way, certainly try another lure style. If these won’t get any bites, it is unlikely that anything else you try with it will succeed later. You are supposed to fish them this way and exclusively. Try it out if you have harder lures. It is worth it.
Soft Plastic Versions
In Warmer Water
Since there are so many more ways to rig the soft plastics, there are much more ways to fish them by default. This leads to techniques in which you can get more specialized. you can very easily adapt to situations you may come across at different times.
- Popping Retrieve
The popping retrieve is one that appeals to many predators. It will work especially well in Summer when fish are hungry and aggressive due to a higher metabolism level. It is actually not a retrieve. It is actually more of an almost continuous pop with the slack being reeled up. The reel never actually brings in the bait. It just takes up the excess line.
- As A Trailer
Believe it or not, yes. You do not have to exclusively use the soft plastics on their own or by themselves to catch fish. Most commercially made plastics make excellent additions or trailers to your spinnerbaits, vibrators, and swim jigs. Fish them however you would fish your other lure normally. The extra plastic will give it a larger profile in the water and make it more appealing. It also adds an extra bit of action as it is retrieved.
- On An Alabama Rig
Where it is legal, the Alabama or umbrella rig is arguably one of the most efficient and effective ways to catch fish. This is one of the only times you would actually want to retrieve these lures. These are best used with softer tailed lures such as straight tails. The rig mimics a school of minnows swimming through the water. Exactly what you want. You have a lot of exposed hook points on one of these. Plenty of opportunities to stick the fish.
In Colder Water
- Drop Shot
Although not as common, one of the most effective ways is to nose hook it on a drop shot rig. A well-fished drop shot rig with a natural colored soft plastic can catch fish in the clearest and coldest of waters. All you have to do is set up a basic drop shot rig before nose hooking the lure.
Make sure to pierce the nose as perfectly as you can. Set the rig in the water or give it a few test casts to make sure that the lure doesn’t roll or move to one side. Once you have found the sweet spot, you can keep your lure off of the bottom with this rig and target bass when they are suspended looking for food. It is a great rig to use when you need a natural baitfish profile but an aggressive bite.
- Shakey Head
Don’t let the odd appearance of the Shakey head fool you or prevent you from trying with a fluke or similar bait. As the name implies, this method revolves around getting the lure to shake when retrieved.
All you have to do is screw the head into the nose of the lure and cast it out. Utilize the same popping motions you would otherwise. The shakey head imparts a unique darting side to side action with a thirst for a lot of fish. Give it a try it cold water by fishing it very slow and stealthy.
- Nosed Hooked With A Screwlock
A very natural presentation that excels in attracting the biggest of fish is to nose hook the lure with an internal screwlock.
The screwlock screws into the nose of the bait and the hook is pierced through the plastic inside of the metal for a very durable connection. It places the hook near the nose of the bait which is where most fish hit lures first.
That means you get a great hookup ratio. The action of this presentation is nothing short of incredible. It attracts fish in cold water as well as warmer water because it perfectly mimics a dying minnow or baitfish almost exactly. All you do is cast it out, jerk it, let it die, and get bit. That’s it. Experiment with different length of pauses to find out the wants of the fish.
No matter which style you choose to use, whether it be hard or soft, there is one thing that is always true regardless. Learning how to fish with jerkbaits is well worth the learning curve. They make one of the most effective baits to try. All you have to do to start hooking up with some more fish is to learn to fish them properly, give it a jerk, and hold on. This is a lure that we recommend giving a try more than once. Although it may not have the irritating factor of a crankbait, or the finesse of a Ned rig, it strikes a very happy medium that big fish just can’t stand. That is why you should give it a go next time you are out on the water.