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How to Fish Jerkbaits | Expert Advice from Mike McClelland

Mike McClelland has honed his jerkbait fishing skills over the last three decades. In this video, he reflects broadly on how to fish jerkbaits, including key locations, timing considerations, and equipment recommendations. In addition to the knowledge needed to fish this versatile lure category effectively, McClelland shares details about his favorite jerkbait varieties for different conditions, and the best all-around jerkbait rod for working the bait and hooking fish. Be sure to checkout our jerkbait tips playlist for more in-depth content.

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Jerkbaits are versatile minnow imitators. Their long and slender bodies mimic a wide range of forage species, making them a staple in every experienced bass angler’s toolkit. Unlike standard wobbling minnow plugs, jerkbaits are designed to be fished with rod snaps, causing the bait to dart erratically to the sides, imitating a wounded fish. They also suspend at rest, keeping them in the face of chasing fish. With an armory of sharp treble hooks, they can effectively catch slashing or nipping fish. Jerkbaits are also excellent for covering water fast and drawing fish from a distance, especially in clear water.


Remember, the best jerkbait for the situation is the one that triggers bites. As an angler, you need to choose a bait that resembles the primary forage and reaches the correct depth. McClelland, for instance, carries a range of jerkbait colors, lengths, profiles, and running depths. He shares a handful of his favorites covering most situations and recommends proven colors based on factors like water clarity, wind, and baitfish. The bottom line: the fish will tell you what they want. It’s your job to find the right size, color, action, and dive depth that attracts fish and ultimately triggers a feeding response.


Jerkbaits are equipped with a bill that imparts a consistent side-to-side action on a straight retrieve, but they really shine when you impart an erratic action with your rod. Jerkbaits are freestyle lures, meaning that angler input changes how the lure performs, like varying your rod snaps and retrieve speeds. At the most basic level, McClelland discusses the traditional jerk-jerk-pause retrieve. He also covers jerkbait fishing with forward-facing sonar technology and how to adjust your retrieve to the mood of the fish.


Based on their universal minnow-imitating appeal, jerkbaits perform throughout the year. Most agree that they work best when there’s decent water clarity, as the bait primarily appeals to a fish’s sense of sight. McClelland prefers fishing jerkbaits when there’s wind-driven surface disturbance, as bass tend to be more active while slightly riled water masks unnatural attributes. Generally speaking, use jerkbaits when fish are actively feeding on suspended forage, and you need to cover water to locate fish.


Choosing the best jerkbait rod for your application is important. For starters, McClelland prefers a shorter rod in the 6-foot 8-inch range to work the bait with downstrokes without slapping the water. Next, a medium power rod with a softer action delivers the best hooking and holding percentages, as light-wire treble hooks are prone to tearing out with stiffer rods. While some prefer fishing jerkbaits on spinning rods, McClelland likes casting gear. He shares his preferred gear ratios for different water temperatures and his go-to line type and sizes based on the desired running depth.

In conclusion, whether you’re a novice or an experienced angler, this video will teach you to use a jerkbait more effectively. Tune in to learn from Mike McClelland’s expert advice and start catching more fish with this dynamic and versatile bait.