UPCOMING EVENT: Bass Fishing League - 2016 - Lake Okeechobee

Jerkbaits: Beyond the basics


Most veteran bass anglers know that jerkbaits can be productive tools during early spring. However, knowing to use a jerkbait and knowing how and when to jerk it can be two totally different things.

Roger Stegall doesn't jerk a jerkbait. Well, at times he jerks. However, during early spring, when the prespawn bite sizzles and big smallmouths crush jerkbaits on Pickwick Lake, Stegall "pulls" a jerkbait instead of jerking it.

"Shad are dying late in the winter and early in the spring," said the EverStart Series pro, whom many consider to be the best smallmouth fisherman on one of the nation's finest smallmouth lakes. "That's why jerkbaits work so well at that time, and pulls and pauses - almost like you use when you fish a Carolina rig - make that jerkbait look more like a dying shad than anything else I have tried."

Early spring beckons jerkbaits from tackle trays on lakes all over the country. Largemouths and smallmouths alike find suspending jerkbaits difficult to resist as they stage to spawn.

"I consider a suspending jerkbait the ultimate lure when the bass are staging prior to the spawn," said Fujifilm pro Sam Swett. "The fish aren't on top and they aren't on the bottom. They want to eat as they prepare for the spawn, but the water is still pretty cold so they aren't very active."

Unlike Stegall, Swett works jerkbaits with sharp tugs. The aggressiveness of each jerk and the length of the pause between them varies largely by water temperature and by the stage of any front pushing through. Cool water temperatures and post-frontal conditions call for a very slow approach.

"That's actually one of best times to fish a jerkbait - when the skies are high and the air is cold - but you have to fish it slowly," Swett said. "I'll give a bait a couple good twitches to get it down, and then I might leave it to suspend for 10 or 20 seconds before twitching it again."

Swett and Stegall both look for the jerkbait bite to heat up when the water temperature gets above 45 degrees during late winter/early spring, although Swett noted that he wants it to be a "steady 45," as opposed to hitting 45 degrees at the surface late on a sunny afternoon.

Roger StegallStegall sticks with a suspending jerkbait from the time he ties on his first lure each spring until the water hits 56 or 57 degrees. After that he turns to a floating model, which he works much faster and more aggressively. Somewhere around the 50-degree mark he also transitions from slow pulls to jerks and pauses with suspending baits.

Jerkbait waters

One real key to catching jerkbait fish during early spring is fishing the bait over the right types of locations, which typically means close to spawning grounds.

Swett always looks for a bottom break in eight to 10 feet of water, where a long, tapering point drops off toward deeper water or the channel edge breaks off along a river bend. "If I can find that kind of break and it is close to an area where I know the bass are going to spawn, I want to fish a jerkbait directly over the break," he said.

Key areas for Stegall vary depending on whether he is targeting largemouths or smallmouths. For smallmouths he looks to the edges of gravel bars - looking for drop-offs from the gravel into notably deeper water. "They'll be in places where they can move up to feed but then get back to that deep water quickly and easily," he said.

Largemouths will use similar areas and sometimes will be mixed in with smallies. However, Stegall also expects to catch largemouths along bluffs and over the top of riprap during early spring.

Sam SwettMost anglers consider jerkbaits clear-water baits and look for the clearest water they can find. However, neither Stegall nor Swett will allow a little mud to keep them from throwing their favorite early-spring offerings. "I switch to darker colors that offer an easier profile to pick out when the water is off-colored," Swett said.

Both pros pointed toward natural colors and color patterns that feature a lot of chartreuse in them as preferences, with the chartreuse patterns getting the nod any time smallmouths are a major part of the equation or the water is stained.

Tackle considerations

Stegall does the bulk of his jerkbait fishing with baitcasting gear. He favors a 6-foot, 6-inch titanium rod that has a soft tip. "A high-speed reel is important for getting up slack between pulls and being ready if a fish hits," he said. He spools up with 8- or 10-pound-test monofilament.

Swett varies his line size from day to day, as he once learned the hard way the huge difference line size can make. He spent half a day on Lake Seminole getting "schooled" by another angler, with both of them of them throwing the same color jerkbait over the same cover.

"He had a limit in the box and was culling, and I had one fish and had missed a couple short strikes," Swett said. "I finally figured out that he had on 8-pound-test line, as opposed to my 12. I switched to an outfit that was spooled with 8-pound line and immediately started catching fish. We were fishing over hydrilla, and the lighter line allowed the baits to tick the grass. That made all the difference."

Swett also varies his rod according to the bait he is fishing. For large jerkbaits, he likes a 6-foot, 4-inch rod. For the smaller jerkbaits, he goes to a 6-foot medium-action rod, finding the other rod can overpower the smaller bait and take away from its natural action.

Stegall also suggested that anglers keep spinning gear available, noting that when the wind kicks up, having a spinning rod for throwing a jerkbait makes things far easier.

Most jerkbait strikes are one of two types, Stegall said. "Either the fish will try to rip the rod out of your hands or you'll feel a little `tap, tap,' almost like a worm bite. Be ready when you set the hook, even on the smallest tap. On Pickwick it could be a 6- or 7-pound smallmouth."

C-rigged jerkbaitC-rigged jerkbait

When bass on the beds turn finicky and won't take traditional jigs or soft-plastic lures, Sam Swett digs deep into his bag of tricks and rigs a 3 1/2-inch jerkbait on a Carolina rig.

"I'll cast past the bed and drag the weight across the bottom, right to the edge," Swett said. "By just twitching the rod and then giving it line, I can make the bait dance without moving the weight. When I give it slack, it sort of backs up and starts to float up again. A bass can only stand that for so long."

Swett typically uses a 10- to 12-inch leader, which is just long enough to keep the bait up off the bottom, and weights the rig with a 1/4- to 1/2-ounce bullet weight.

Jerkbait cousins

Soft-plastic jerkbaitSome lures resemble jerkbaits closely enough that they accomplish some of the same purposes. Yet they are sufficiently unique to fill different niches:

• Soft-plastic jerkbait - Sam Swett always has a soft jerkbait rigged when he fishes a hard jerkbait. It serves as his follow-up bait for when a bass strikes short or follows his hard jerkbait but doesn't take it. The slow fall and unintimidating action of the plastic bait often will draw strikes from fish that won't quite take a plug.
Deep minnows• Deep minnows - Used mostly by walleye anglers for trolling, deep-diving plugs that have jerkbait-type bodies can be cranked several feet deeper than traditional jerkbaits but fished using the same basic techniques, which can provide a real advantage in deep-water lakes. Some baits, like Spoonbill Rogues, even come in suspending versions, so you can dig them 10 feet down and then jerk and stop them, just like traditional jerkbaits.

Tags: jeff-samsell  magazine-features 


FLW Podcast 128 - Mark Rose



1000 Islands Day 3 Midday Update



1000 Islands Midday Update Day 2

Day two of the Costa FLW Series Northern Division event presented by Mercury at 1000 Islands got started on a slightly different note this morning when FLW’s tournament directors declared Lake Ontario off limits due to hazardous conditions. The change threw a few of the top pros off their primary plans, but regardless the 137-boat field will be cut down to the top 10 after today, so adjustments need to be made in order to qualify to fish the weekend. READ MORE »


FLW Podcast 126 - ICAST



2017 Walmart FLW Tour Schedule

In what has become an annual tradition at FLW, the 2017 Walmart FLW Tour schedule was announced at a press conference and industry gathering held Thursday on the show floor at ICAST in Orlando, Fla. READ MORE »


Si Se Puede ... Yes We Can

Mexico’s Lake Zimapan is different in many ways from the lakes to the north such as Florida’s Lake Okeechobee and California’s Clear Lake, but one element it has in common with those famous fisheries is big bass. READ MORE »


5 Rookie Lessons Learned

People have asked me what my first year on the Walmart FLW Tour was like. Well, it was like running headfirst into a hurricane for a few months. I came out the other side a little battered, bruised and smelling like fish. READ MORE »


FLW Podcast 125 - Scott Martin



Review: Lew’s Custom Speed Stick Lite

Recently I had the opportunity to try one model in particular – the 7-foot, 4-inch Magnum Pitchin’ rod. After fishing with it several times, I’ve concluded that it performs as advertised, is sensitive and lightweight, and is well worth the money. READ MORE »


Reunited, and it Feels so Good

This year I really had a reunion with finesse fishing. Most of my better tournaments came from fishing some type of finesse presentation. Finesse tactics seemed to always give me a certain confidence about the day. While finesse tactics are nothing new to the game of bass fishing, this year I regained the confidence and joy of catching bass on smaller offerings. READ MORE »


2016 ICAST Preview

The doors to ICAST don’t open until next week, when everyone gets out on the showroom floor in Orlando, Fla., but there are already plenty of snippets of information available. FLW’s media crew will be there in full force to bring you coverage of the hottest new products, as well as the annual New Product Showcase awards. For now, take a gander at some of the early birds. READ MORE »


FLW Canada Kicks Off at Tri-Lakes

Among these Canadian all-stars was the eventual winning team of Chris Vandermeer of Peterborough and Jeff Slute of Millbrook. Capitalizing on a strong day one shallow-water smallmouth pattern, the duo took advantage of the slick-calm conditions using a silver-hued topwater popping plug to agitate the lake’s bronzebacks into attack. READ MORE »


FLW Tour Pro Cooksey Recovering After Accident

Walmart FLW Tour sophomore Dalton Cooksey of New Concord, Ky., is recovering at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee following a single-car accident that took place Wednesday afternoon. READ MORE »


FLW Podcast 124 - Jeremy Lawyer



Stetson Blaylock’s Recipe for a Wacky Rig

From March until the end of the fishing season I’m going to have a wacky rig on deck. It’s a really effective way to fish anytime the fishing is tough, or if the fish are up cruising banks. Anytime fish are about 5 feet deep or less, I can catch them on the wacky rig. READ MORE »


Morgan Claims third FLW Tour Angler of the Year Title

MINNEAPOLIS – Livingston Lures pro Andy Morgan of Dayton, Tennessee, added to his incredible fishing resume by winning his third Walmart FLW Tour Angler of the Year title Saturday at the FLW Tour's final 2016 regular-season event on Lake Champlain.... READ MORE »


Three Things by DD: Kentucky Lake

Kentucky Lake did not go the way I intended. I was pumped and ready to rock out a top-20 finish. I had great expectations of myself, but nothing seemed to come together. Practice was dicey, but I thought for sure I could put something together to make the cut. That was until day one came, and the whole vibe of my day instantly went from eager to agitated. READ MORE »


How to Catch Smallmouths with Hair Jigs

The “right” hair jig for smallmouths is a small 1/16- to 1/8-ounce marabou jig with a round or mushroom-shaped head. The jig is similar to marabou jigs used by crappie fishermen, but bass models will often have a larger, stronger hook and possibly a longer or thicker skirt. Naturally, anglers have their favorites, and there are subtle differences in jigs that make some better than others. READ MORE »


Two Exciting Events to Look Forward To

We are in the last stretch of the 2016 Walmart FLW Tour. Awaiting us is the Lake Champlain tournament in just a few days. A couple of things will be settled there: the pro field for the Forrest Wood Cup and the Angler of the Year. READ MORE »


Tagging Along with Sprague in Kentucky

Through the first four events of the 2016 Walmart FLW Tour season, Jeff Sprague finished inside the top 20 every time and challenged for the win at Beaver Lake. After stop No. 4 on Pickwick, Sprague took over the lead in the Angler of the Year race. This is the story of his first tournament as the AOY leader – stop No. 5 on Kentucky Lake. Currently, Sprague is preparing for the finale on Lake Champlain. He’s in second place in the AOY standings. READ MORE »