Mention suspending jerkbaits to most bass fishermen and it immediately conjures up images of fishing painfully slowly with long pauses and ultralight line on deep, cold, clear lakes. Like watching paint dry or grass grow. Boring. Sissy fishing. Check, check, and check. On plenty of lakes in the dead of winter, it’s about the only way to get bit, but I find it excruciating even when the bite is good.
If you’re part of today’s ADD culture that won’t read a 14 word Twitter message because even that’s too long, I have some good news for you. Suspending jerkbaits can be very productive when fished on big line and moved quickly. Did I mention that it catches big fish too? Matter of fact, one magical afternoon on Lake Fork, I caught 3 fish over 10 lbs with jerkbaits after getting skunked on other baits all morning.
In general, the colder, clearer, and deeper the water, the slower and more finesse you need with a jerkbait. In contrast, I look for several conditions that allow for success with bigger baits and bigger line while working quickly. Once the water approaches 60 degrees and higher, faster erratic movements with brief pauses usually produces more fish. Stained water makes bass less wary and you’re not trying to call one up from 10’ below like in clear water, so that also works in your favor. Finally, bass that are suspended around docks, standing timber, and grass beds are typically less finicky, plus bigger gear is needed to land these big fish.
Many suspending jerkbaits are made for finesse situations, so you need to start with a bait that will work well with heavier line. For example, a Lucky Craft Staysee 90 or Pointer 78XD are designed to get about 10’ deep and deliver subtle movements on 6-12 lb test. On the other hand, a big bait with a wide erratic action like a Lucky Craft Pointer 100 SP (4” long, 5/8 oz) or Pointer 128SP (5” long, 1 oz) casts like a bullet and maintains great action on 15 to 20 lb fluorocarbon. The bigger line keeps these baits only 2’ to 3’ under the surface, which is usually optimal when fishing over grass, just under dock floats or through the tops of trees.
With heavy baits and big line, this isn’t the place for a wimpy little rod. I use a 7’ Dobyns Champion 705CB cranking rod for this. The mod fast action means the rod has a slow enough tip to allow bass to fully take the bait and helps keep the treble hooks from ripping out, yet it has plenty of power in the butt of the rod to fire out these beefy baits. Most importantly, this rod is very well balanced and light in the hand, something you’ll appreciate after snapping jerkbaits along with your forearms and wrists for several hours.
The magic with jerkbaits comes from popping your rod tip with a bit of slack line, creating short erratic darts in a random mix of left, right, up, and down. The biggest error I see with jerkbaits is anglers pulling the bait on a tight line. Snap your rod straight down about 6” and pop it back up as soon as the line tightens, repeating this quickly. I’ll experiment with my retrieve until I start getting bit, everything from 2 soft snaps with a 5 second pause to 5 crisp pops with a half second pause, often mixing it up throughout the cast. Most of your strikes will come during the pause or as soon as you start moving again. Instead of sitting still a long time to lure in wary fish the way most people jerkbait, power fishing jerks with a quick wild motion often triggers reaction bites from fish that spurn more traditional offerings.
In some regions like the Ozarks or in northern smallmouth territory, jerkbaits are a staple lure. Other places, like here in East Texas, jerkbaits are pigeonholed as winter and early spring baits to use on the toughest of days. That means power jerkbaiting is a presentation bass rarely see on many lakes.
So where to try the power jerkbait technique? Basically, any area that is about 3’ to 8’ deep (or has grass, wood, or docks within 8’ of the surface) where you’ve caught bass on a spinnerbait, topwater, crankbait, jig, worm or about any other bait is a potentially good spot. Like any other lure, jerkbaiting doesn’t work every time. However, it often produces a couple extra bites from a spot when they stop biting other baits, and sometimes bass will eat jerks all day when they turn their noses at common baits they’ve already seen 10 times in the past hour.
Just one more tool for your toolbox—a tool that many of your fishing buddies don’t use enough. For more fish catching tips, check out my website www.LakeForkGuideTrips.com, or follow me at www.facebook.com/tomredingtonfishing and www.twitter.com/Tom_Redington .
Tom Redington is a FLW Tour pro, host of TV’s “Big Bass Battle” & a bass guide on Lake Fork. To make the most of your experience in the outdoors, he recommends the Boy Scouts of America, Lake Fork Trophy Lures, Dobyns Rods, Ranger Boats, Mercury Outboards, Diamond Sports Marine, Lucky Craft, Costa Sunglasses, Lowrance, & Power Poles.
By Tom Redinton