Warming temperatures in the Spring bring out the birds, bluegills and bass anglers. Many of the country’s fisherman have been cooped up indoors sorting tackle, getting boats ready and dreaming about warmer days.
Springtime is also jerkbait time, and this year that could be a short window of opportunity as bass move very quickly from their deep water haunts to spawn. Most spring seasons, anglers have several weeks for fish to move up in stages, but with all indications pointing towards an early spawn, there may be only a few days where they stage. Believe it or not, in a recent two-day period, we have seen water temperatures jump 24 degrees from 40 to 64 degrees.
Staging bass will still be ready for jerkbaits, but that window could be very short. Prespawn could be replaced with spawn and post spawn this year. Umbrella rig anglers might love it, but jerkbait anglers may have to rely on post spawners to show the value of these deadly shad imitators.
I have had the pleasure of utilizing jerkbaits to my advantage for many years. I see them as a way to catch deep-water suspending prespawn bass, shallow water staging bass on flats, and bass on main lake blow-downs prior to spawn.
I have been fortunate enough to follow the bait evolution from early days to present. Our first baits were all topwaters we built into suspenders. A little solder, some golf club tape and even drilling and lead pouring were some of our early efforts. We even used rubber core lead sinkers around the hook shanks to give these jerk and divers their action. Some anglers talk about the good old days, but with jerkbaits, the good old days are now.
Gone is the necessity to customize. It is now replaced with factory models that not only look sweet but also perform much better than the make shift models of yesteryear.
Jerkbaits, rip baits, stick baits, twitch baits or whatever you may call them are now designed to suspend indefinitely, slowly rise or even sink a bit depending on design. Colors vary but manufacturing processes have allowed for much better and more realistic looking shad and minnow imitators. Depending on water clarity there is a color combination for just about every body of water.
Here are nine jerkbaits for you to consider. They are in no particular order of rank just numbered to correspond with the above photo. You may have others but these baits have been tested, won events and will always be part of my jerkbait arsenal. Click the underlined titles to see the available colors, sizes and prices of each.
1. Megabass Ito Vision 110 Family – The modern staple to this genre and one that, by design, is difficult to get in certain colors, the Ito Vision family of jerkbaits shines across the country when conditions demand a suspending presentation. A creative and unique body style casts easily thanks to a weight-transfer system that makes it rear weighted on the cast and front weighted when sitting horizontal in the water.
2. Smithwick Rattlin’ Rogue (Suspending) – One of the earliest baits to come out in a suspending model, the Rattlin’ Rogue has a large following across the country. I particularly like the model with the three Excalibur hooks and foil finish. The larger model, 5 ½ inches, is the one I prefer for castability, but the smaller one, 4 ½ inches, can be equally effective. Even if the water is super clear, I like rattles in my jerkbaits so bass can find them with sound and flash over deeper water. Smithwick makes them in a wide variety of colors, but I have several hand painted models that get a special place in my boat. For some reason, in my area a bit of pink on the bait seems to be the ticket for early season bass, and I have several varieties of that color on several baits. Pay attention to accent colors that really seem to trigger fish on your fishery.
3. Spro McStick – A relative newcomer to the genre of fishing baits but due to painstaking detail design by stickbait expert Mike McClelland and the Spro designers, it came out with a bang. Again, the colors look good and the bait is effective right out of the package. Perfectly balanced, the McStick suspends very well even in cold water. I have put larger round-bend, short-shank hooks on them at times to get them to slow sink like a dying shad. They display a side-to-side action on the fall too.
4. Lucky Craft Pointer– One of the first premier jerkbait providers that changed how other companies built their products, the Pointer 78 and 100 are mainstays to jerkbait tackle boxes, and their color selection is unmatched. I really like the paint jobs on these baits especially Aurora Black, Bloody Chartreuse Shad, and Ghost Pearl Ayu. A very unique balancing system has made this a great bait for long pause retrieves. They have a very low center of gravity due to a brass weight system, and the bait wobbles and vibrates slightly when stopped. The Pointer shines in cold water situations, and it affords anglers long casts, even in high winds.
5. Reaction Strike XRM – A hidden jewel, out of Indiana, the XRM 80 and 100 are high motion offerings that suspend very well. The heavy lip design combined with a beefy body style allows them to be thrown long distances, and a specially designed J-Trough inside the bait positions a bearing to travel to the rear of the bait when it is cast. A small tail mounted bearing gives it a subtle rattle and three ball bearings in the belly allows them to suspend horizontally even in cold water. Ghost Minnow is my favorite color.
6. Lucky Craft Flash Minnow – the Flash Minnow 95 and 110 are shallow running cousins of the Pointer, and I like to fish them off the edges of shallow gravel flats and around docks. The lip is positioned near the nose of the bait and can be fished in 2-5 feet of water effectively. It too has the brass balancing system, and due to its bulk, it can be accurately cast long distances.
7. Rapala X-Rap – the X-Rap is jerkbait with a ton of versatility. It can be cast or trolled equally well thanks to its precision center weighting. The X-Rap has an action unlike many of the previous mentioned due to its nose forward bill. When jerked it dives quickly, nose down and slashes from side to side very well. Active fish love this action, and the color schemes of this line up makes it a great bait that provides a ton of flash. I like Albino Shad, Glass Ghost and Purple Ghost the best.
8. Rapala Husky Jerk – This classic jerkbait is precisely balanced and runs true right out of the box. I like to fish it in shallow water applications, 4-6 feet in a jerk-and-go style. Many hits occur after the bait is paused and then starts moving again. It is neutrally buoyant bait, so it suspends very well. Due to the weight of the larger models, it too can be cast very well. Favorite two colors are Silver and Helsinki Shad in this bait.
9. Jackall Squad Minnow – I have some of the early models of this bait, and it too fits in a category by itself, in my opinion. It’s more of a glide bait and has a tighter wiggle that allows it to be jerked fast. I like to use this bait on points and channel swings and like to use it when water temps are near 55 degrees. The Squad Minnow’s weight system is the reason a stop, dart and go action works well with this bait.
Early spring is the best time to use these types of minnow imitators, but I have caught fish year round on them. When the bite is tough, even in summer months, it may be a good idea to remember the jerkbait. Remember, clear water is best suited for this genre of baits and using fluorocarbon has added a great way to feel and catch more fish for me.