Though I’ll confess I’m no jerkbait aficionado, I’ve had my teeth kicked down my throat often enough by this bait in the dead of winter to put it firmly on the list of my top five baits for shallow and cold water. But it’s not only here because of the damage its done to my bruised and battered ego. A jerkbait also offers something different from any other bait on this list – the ability to target fish that are loosely relating to cover as opposed to holding tightly to it.
For the crankbaits, spinnerbaits and jigs that comprise the rest of my top five, you’re going to want the bait to be extremely close to the cover. If you’re cranking riprap, you want your bait bumping bottom. If you’re slow rolling a spinnerbait down the side of a log, you want to try to scrape the bark off.
But with a jerkbait, you’re able to target suspended fish that are loosely relating to cover. Take a riprap bank or bridge pilling for a couple of examples. The fish may be sitting 10 to 20 feet from the cover but they are relating to that cover while waiting for baitfish that are also relating to the cover to pass by. A jerkbait gives you a great bait to toss into that scenario and trick a bass into biting.
Cadence is key; you’ll hear that a lot anytime someone mentions a jerkbait and rightfully so. When you figure out the right combo of pumps and pauses, it can unlock every fish’s jaw in the area. But I’ve seen the pump, pump, pause 3 seconds, pump, pause 10 seconds cadence work wonders in super cold water and I’ve watched Hank Cherry work a jerkbait just as fast as he possibly could in super cold water and absolutely wreck them. So, yes, cadence is key. But it’s not a one-size-fits-all deal. Play with it and figure out the combo that works best that day and you’ll be on your way to a big bag.