KVD’s Jerkbait System for Big Water Smallmouth Bass

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Kevin VanDam loves using jerkbaits as a search lure in clear water, especially when targeting Great Lakes smallmouth bass. For VanDam, it’s all about their ability to be fished fast, draw bass from a distance, and trigger reaction strikes. For these reasons, VanDam reaches for his jerkbait rod when hunting smallmouth spread out across huge flats. This video is a comprehensive guide for finding smallmouth using modern fish finder technology and drawing reaction strikes using deep-diving jerkbaits.

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Lake St. Clair is known for its vast flats interspersed with grass and patches of sand and rock — the perfect backdrop for fast-moving baits such as crankbaits, bladed jigs, and jerkbaits. VanDam stresses the need to locate bottom composition changes and determine the type of cover bass are relating to. The opportunistic smallmouth feed heavily on yellow perch, crawfish, and round gobies. While the gobies live in rock, perch favor areas with a mix of grass and sand patches. This is the ideal scenario for Humminbird’s MEGA 360 Imaging, which VanDam uses to paint a detailed image around him and direct high-percentage casts. From there, he starts formulating a pattern.


VanDam stresses the need to identify the target forage base, which can vary seasonally and even day-to-day. Minnow-imitating lures excel on perch bites, whereas realistic goby-imitating swimbaits and jig and plastic combinations get the nod on goby bites.


VanDam teaches how to fish jerkbaits and adjust your retrieve based on the fish’s response. Forward-facing sonar is game-changing here, as the real-time cat-and-mouse game provides immediate feedback. Not getting bit? Then, make adjustments until you trigger the fish. Cadence changes usually do the trick, but sometimes it’s lure color, running depth, or the need to switch baits entirely. A tuned jerkbait rod is a big performance enhancer. VanDam details his setup, discussing how a slower-action medium-heavy rod and fast reel spooled with 12- to 14-pound fluorocarbon works best for him.

The video showcases VanDam’s adaptability, as he switches to drop-shotting when encountering hesitant bass following his jerkbait. This change in strategy underscores the importance of versatility. Whether targeting smallmouth bass in Lake St. Clair or any other body of water, VanDam’s strategies and tips will help you catch more smallmouth bass.


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