For the sake of this article I will only talk about hardbaits, soft plastic jerkbaits need an article all for themselves which I will do later.
A Jerkbait is essentially a long thin crankbait, but this is where most people make a mistake with them, they try to fish it like a crankbait. A Crankbait relies heavily on its natural side to side motion to induce fish strikes, whereas a Jerkbaits fish catching ability is a combination of lure design and a much larger portion of angler input. This is not to say that just throwing it out there and reeling it in will not catch fish, it will occasionally but not to the lures full ability.
A Jerkbait retrieve takes some getting used to, but once you’ve got it mastered you will be able to fine tune your retrieves for different models and conditions. As its name states a Jerkbait is “jerked” to impart action on the lure. A good retrieve to start with would be to use a “Jerk, Jerk, Pause” method.
Cast your lure out, make one or two turns of the handle to get it down slightly and then…. Are you paying attention…? Point the rod tip slightly towards the lure to put slack into the line and then snap the rod back and immediately move it forward again and snap it back, by now you will have a lot of slack line so you reel up the slack but not to the point of moving the lure and repeat the process. The time when you are reeling in the slack line is the pause time.
The snap can vary from a subtle twitch to a hard jerk that actually causes the line to make a snapping sound, let the fish tell you what they want.
The slack in the line before you snap the rod is very important, if there is no slack in the line the lure will just dart forward. With slack in the line the lure will dart forward and then veer off to the side, each time you snap the lure, the lure will veer off to the opposite side. It is this side to side action that catches the fish.
That is the basic retrieve; once you have the hang of it you can then expand your retrieves by doing the following:
Jerk, Jerk, Jerk, Pause, repeat.
Or Jerk, Jerk, Jerk, Pause, Jerk, Jerk, Pause, repeat.
Or Jerk, Jerk, Pause, Jerk, Pause, repeat.
With a floating version you can also slowly retrieve the lure on the surface leaving a nice wake behind it, this is often referred to as waking a bait.
You may ask what difference would an extra jerk do or the 3 – 2 jerk do, but I have definitely found that on certain days they like one retrieve better than the others. Let the fish tell you what they want on a day.
You will need to hold your rod pointing down towards the water, learn to use your wrist to impart the action on your lure as using your whole arm will wear you out in a few minutes
Although Jerkbaits are excellent late winter early spring baits they work all year round, you just need to change speed and aggression of the retrieve or model.
When the water is cold and the fish sluggish a fairly soft jerk with long pauses works well. When the water is warmer a more aggressive jerk with a shorter pause works better, but you will still need to experiment on the day depending on prevailing weather conditions.
Cold water also requires a suspending model whereas with warm water a suspending or floating version will work.
Where to fish the Jerkbait?
Jerkbaits generally only dive to about 5ft so people tend to only fish them in shallow water, but a Jerkbait has an incredible ability to pull fish up from deep water.
I have personally caught fish in 30ft of water using a lure that only dived to 5ft.
Try a jerkbait in the following areas:
Weedlines – this is an obvious shallow water area
Rocky cliffs and submerged trees – fish will often suspend near or around these areas. A jerkbait worked parallel to a cliff will pull these fish up to the lure.
This might get some people muttering, but I have fished with all of the following lures extensively, so these are my favourites in order of most favourite to least favourite.
1. Strike King Wild Shiner – Designed by KVD – in Suspending and floating
2. Storm Thunder Stick – 5” Shallow version
3. Rapala X-Rap 12cm
4. Rapala X-Rap 10cm (or is it 9cm) I only use this one when just trying to get a limit
The Lucky Craft Jerkbaits are apparently brilliant as well but I can’t comment as I have never fished them.
My Favourite colour is without a doubt a Silver Black back with Baby Bass coming in second and silver with light green back for really clean water.
I am not a fan of bleeding bait hooks except for 2 types of lures, Jerkbaits and Topwater.
Stained to clear.
Spinning or Baitcasting.
I like 10lb line, but heavier line up to 17lb can be used.
Rod – I like a medium strength 7ft with fast action.
Jerkbaits offer you an incredibly versatile tool that can often catch fish when other lures won’t and aside from this they normally catch much better than average fish as well. Go forth and Jerk!