Catch Fussy Smallmouth Bass with These 4 Jerkbait Tips

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Cold water and jerkbait fishing are a proven pairing for bass, but you still need to make adjustments to account for weather and water conditions. Wired2fish’s Mitch Anderson encounters an “off” day for smallmouth bass during the spring of the year and shares 4 timely tactics and gear-related tips that’ll get you bites under challenging conditions (think cold fronts and pressured bass).


Unlike many lures, jerkbaits carry the magical ability to freestyle the bait action to the mood of the fish. Instead of the typical aggressive jerk-jerk-pause, getting the bite often demands working the bait less and hanging natural-colored and downsized suspending jerkbaits in their face for up to several seconds.

Here are Mitch’s recommendations:

  1. Choose smaller-profiled jerkbaits equipped with 3 hooks. The proverbial “downsizing” applies to jerkbaits too. Anderson recommends using smaller jerkbaits; a morsel is more likely to get bit when bass aren’t committing to bigger offerings. Consider the bait shape too. Like a flat-sized crankbait, a flat-sized jerkbait has a subtle shimmy on the pause that bass find irresistible. Despite a shorter length, Anderson is a big advocate of jerkbaits with three hooks over two. The extra hook equates to better hooking percentages when bass are nipping at the bait.
  2. Select natural-colored jerkbaits. Many of the best jerkbait anglers love using bright and gaudy-colored jerkbaits to appeal to bass’s innate curiosity. While proven, make sure to try the opposite if you’re not getting bit. Using a natural translucent or opaque-colored jerkbait is like putting the real thing in their face. Keep some on hand and work them into your lineup before abandoning the jerkbait program.
  3. Use fewer jerks and longer pauses on the retrieve. Start with your typical jerk-jerk-jerk or jerk-jerk pause cadence, but scale back to a jerk- followed by a long pause if you aren’t getting bit. Bass can rarely resist biting a realistic suspending jerkbait hanging in their face.
  4. Scale back your overall rod setup (line, rod, reel). Anderson stresses the virtues of using the lightest line you can get away with, as it improves bait action, casting distance and is less visible to the fish. This usually means a 10-pound test, but also compare line diameters, too, as they can vary between manufacturers. Avoid using your fastest high-speed reels, which increase the chances of overworking the bait. A mid-speed gear ratio such as 6.3:1 is ideal when paired on a lighter moderate power and action rod.