My Major Change of Heart on Jerkbait Fishing

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When I was growing up, my sweet momma had a rule in our house; we couldn’t say the word “hate” no matter how much we didn’t like something. It was a rule in her house when she was a little girl and that translated to our household. It didn’t matter if it was a school project we didn’t want to do, someone picking on us on the school bus or one of those nasty bullies in the hallway. The Smith family never used the word and I think I’m a better man for it.

But Momma Smith didn’t quite know about jerkbaits back then. She didn’t know how much they irritated me and she dang sure didn’t know how much I’d get my butt kicked in tournaments by other folks using ‘em.

I don’t know if you’re reading this, Momma, and if you are, I sure hope you don’t whoop me the next time we come visit. But folks… I have hated jerkbaits all of my life. Like most of you, I’ve been bass fishing since I was a little thing and I experimented with all kinds of different lures and presentations. I liked ‘em all until I tried those stupid jerkbaits. I might not have said it out loud in front of my Momma but when I laid in bed at night, sunburned from a long summer’s day of hiking around local farm ponds throwing these things… I certainly had some hateful thoughts for ‘em.

So let’s fast-forward a decade or three and revisit this topic. I started fishing tournaments with one of my best buddies and easily one of the best fishermen I’ve ever met, Matt Henry. Back then, I was a co-angler and I was basically trying to catch any scraps he left behind for me. That joker would catch dozens of fish on a jerkbait every single time we fished together.

The weather, fishing pressure, cold fronts, warm fronts… none of that mattered. He would smoke my rear end throwing this silly Yo-Zuri jerkbait. I’d have 19 rods on the back deck and be in full panic-mode and not catch a thing. But sure enough, I’d hear that “whip, whip, pause” on the front deck and ol’ Henry would be catching the snot out of ‘em. I’d go to bed at night and here that “whip, whip, pause” cadence in my ears as I nodded off to sleep.

So what changed? Give me a minute or two of your time and we’ll go through it.

The tough day that made me a believer

I was fishing one day about 5 years ago and it was absolutely brutal. If my memory serves me right, it was probably July or August and the fishing flat-out sucked, if I’m being totally honest. I tried fishing grass beds, skipping shallow and deep docks, dragging points and any other summer staple you can think of. I didn’t catch a dang thing.

I pulled into this pocket, however, and the wind started blowing. It wasn’t a stiff breeze but just enough to cool the sweat off your back. I got to thinking about my ol’ buddy and that stupid jerkbait. Something came over me and the Good Lord must have finally drilled it into my thick skull; throw the stupid jerkbait.

I rigged one up and I made one cast. I made three jerks next to a weird-looking metal seawall and as sure as the day is long, I caught a dang keeper. I went all day without a bite and I picked up this silly thing and caught a 3-pound bass.

I figured there might be something to this. The proverbial light bulb finally turned on and my stupid butt finally started to learn how effective a jerkbait really is. As the day went on, I bet I caught 15 fish on this jerkbait. The surface temperatures were flirting with 100 degrees and what I thought was solely a cold-water lure was producing in stupid-hot water temperatures.

There are certain qualities I look for

Am I a jerkbait wizard or some type of mastermind? You can bet your butt I’m not. But one thing you’ll get from me is honesty and a simple fisherman’s perspective on things. For the last few years, throughout this jerkbait epiphany, I’ve figured out a few really important traits I look for when I’m deciding which one to buy or tie on.

First and foremost, casting distance seems to be a really big deal for me. Because I love to target structure such as points, humps and ditches with a jerkbait in windy conditions, it’s important that I can make super-long casts without getting too close to the structure I’m fishing. I’ve really started looking for jerkbaits with some type of weight-transfer system in them.

I’ve also started looking for a holographic-type color scheme and a good-looking matte shad color. Now, this is going to change based on your particular fishery; you don’t have the same forage as I do and vice versa. But in my opinion and personal experience, I think the main thing is to have a good color for both sunny and cloudy conditions.

Use the shiny stuff for sunny skies and use the dull-looking stuff when it’s cloudy. It might sound elementary but I really think we might be making things too complicated. I don’t think a bass is going to swim up to your jerkbait and make a conscious decision to not bite it because it has a blue-colored back instead of a black-colored back. So if you’re new to the whole jerkbait deal, don’t lose your mind and spend hundreds of dollars on them. Stick with shiny and dull colors, see how they do in your local fisheries and adapt from there.

The bottom line

Don’t get carried away with the crazy details of jerkbait fishing when you first start. Trust me… I tried that route and (sorry, Momma), I hated it for years. Little did I know how much of a fish catcher these baits would be.

They’re going to give you sore forearms at first or at least if you’re a wimp like me. But like anything, enough repetitive motion will build up those muscles and help you fish them more comfortably. After a week or two of heavy jerkbait fishing, I was experiencing zero arm fatigue after a long day of fishing. So don’t let that scare you away.

In the fisheries I frequent, I tend to stick with 3- to 5-foot divers because I target shallow cover. I stick with 12-pound fluorocarbon on a 7-foot, medium-action rod and keep it pretty simple. Everyone is going to have a different setup for jerkbait fishing and heck, I’m sure some of the Wired2fish staffers reading this might have a different deal that works best for them.

But the point of this particular article is to make you throw a jerkbait. I don’t care what brand or anything like that. Throw the dang thing and you’re going to catch a bunch of bass. I’m giving you a personal guarantee that you will catch more fish if you try this. Whether it’s hot, cold or somewhere in the middle… try it. I missed out on a lot of fish catches for a bunch of years because I was stubborn as a mule.

Don’t be like me.