Jerkbaits: A Good Bet for Bass

News & Tips: Jerkbaits: A Good Bet for Bass

Most bass fishermen will agree that the good ole days of fishing jerkbaits is right now.


A Lucky-Craft Sammy hard-bodied jerkbait fooled this big largemouth bass in the early summer.

"A lot has changed in the style and design of jerkbaits in the last few years," said avid bass fisherman Ricky Carroll. "I remember when we first started fishing them in the dead of winter at Lake of the Ozarks. A bass club friend of mine, Stan Nelson, was one of the first to begin fishing Smithwick Rogues at LOZ. He won a lot of tournaments before the rest of figured out what was going on."


In the early jerkbait days, anglers put lead wire on the hooks to get the baits down and to get them to suspend at the desired depth. It took a lot of experimentation and practice to get it right.


Pro bass fisherman Mike Iaconelli is a jerkbait fanatic. "Because I am a power fisherman, a jerkbait allows me to cover maximum amounts of water and also allows me to generate reaction strikes," he said.


Hard-bodied jerkbaits have long been considered a winter time bait, but Iaconelli's favorite time to fish a jerkbait is in the spring during the pre-spawn, spawn and post spawn. Water temperatures are usually between 55 and 70 degrees in that time frame.


During the pre-spawn, Iaconelli concentrates on staging areas between winter and spawn locations, typically main lake points, secondary points, ends of bluffs and deep edges of flats and shoals. He uses the same baits and slow techniques as in winter until the water begins to warm. Then he increases his lure action from two twitches to three or four with a shorter pause in between.


When the water temperature hits the magical 60 degree mark matters change. Bass are in the spawning mode and head to shallow coves, creeks, bays and flats. Iaconelli pitches both suspending and floating jerkbaits to bedding bass. He still prefers the Rapala 9S floating jerkbait.


Floating jerkbaits are Iaconelli's number one tool during the post spawn. He advises to fish them like a topwater bait and twitch them on top for the first third of the retrieve. "During the remainder of the retrieve, I twitch it erratically, but occasionally stop the bait and allow it to float back to the top," he explained. This tactic often triggers reaction strikes.


Today there are jerkbait models that float, models that sink and models which suspend. Then there are the lipped jerkbaits with models which shimmy just below the surface, while others can reach depths of 15 feet. Deep or shallow are the two main considerations when choosing a hard-bodied jerkbait.


Jerkbaits are extremely popular partially because there is no wrong way to fish them. Anglers traditionally utilize a "twitch, twitch, pause" retrieve, or some variation thereof, with their baits. Success often comes by experimenting with the speed of the retrieve and the manner in which the bait is jerked and paused.


Dian Cooper caught this Allegheny River smallmouth on a Rapal X-Rap.

Soon after hard-bodied jerkbaits first hit the market, anglers discovered that baits, such as the Rapala, were deadly on winter and pre-spawn bass. Eventually anglers like Kevin Van Dam and Mike Iaconelli enjoyed great success with jerkbaits in the summer.


Long after the origin of the hard-bodied jerkbaits, soft plastic jerkbaits, commonly called "flukes", made their debut. These baits were meant to do the same thing as their hard-bodied counterparts. However, they do it in a totally different manner. Most anglers use soft jerkbaits as a variation of topwater fishing. However, bass anglers are constantly looking for something to give them an edge on both fish and their tournament competitors.


Many anglers now rig soft jerkbaits on Carolina rigs to present the famous action to fish on main lake points. Another popular trick is to add a small amount of weight to the nose to fish soft jerkbaits at mid-depths.


The key to fishing a soft plastic jerkbait is to slightly jerk or move the bait to produce the injured/dying baitfish action for which the baits are famous. And as anglers are discovering everywhere, that action is deadly from the top to the bottom of the water column.


Jerkbaits are just as effective in river fishing environments as they are on lakes and major impoundments. The best smallmouth bass river fishermen I know all utilize a lot of jerkbaits. Jeff Knapp, a fellow Bass Pro 1Source writer from Pennsylvania, is fond of Rapala X-Raps and Zoom Flukes. He proved how deadly they are on the Allegheny to my wife, Dian and me on a trip he shared with us.


Soft plastic jerkbaits, such as the zoom Fluke, are especially popular with river bass fisherman.

A thousand miles away, in the Missouri Ozarks, Will Rollins regularly fishes jerkbaits on his beloved Gasconade River. "I still fish the Smithwick Rogue fro smallmouth," he began. "I use the 4 1/2-inch model in both Clown-Colored and Baby Bass patterns. My other favorites include the 41/2-inch Zoom Fluke in Pearl and Smoky Shad. I also use a lot of the KVD Caffeine Shad in Baby Bass and Pearl."


Dale Goff is a top smallmouth angler on the Big Piney River. His favorite soft jerkbait is the Zoom Fluke in White Pearl. "Smallmouth in this river go nuts over a fluke. I have been throwing them for years and the action never seems to slow down. I always catch my biggest smallmouth on them."


On my last trip to the Quetico Provincial Park of Canada four years ago, me and my two fishing buddies caught dozens of trophy smallmouth bass on soft plastic jerkbaits. Ninety percent of our fish were caught on Pearl Flukes. We caught fish in shallow bays, over steep points and in streams entering the main lake. I gasped in disbelief one afternoon as fish after fish dashed to the top of 18-inch waves to snatch Flukes from the surface.


Regardless of the type of jerkbait you choose to fish, you can't go wrong under the right conditions. There are now dozens of baits on the market, but include some of the following in your tackle boxes and you will be set for some arm wrenching action. In the hard jerkbait line be sure to pack Smithwick's Rattlin' Rogue, Lucky Craft Pointers, Sammys and Flash Minnows, Reaction Strike XRMs, Rapala X-Raps and Husky Jerks. In soft plastics include Flukes, Hyper Sticks, Senkos, Magic Shads, Berkley Gulp Minnows and Bass Pro's Stik-O-Worms.