#23 – Jerkbait Fishing

I want to begin this post by making it clear that a jerkbait is not the typical crankbait. It’s very easy to look at these two lures and assume they do the same thing underwater. I’m not even sure how long I fished these baits the wrong way when I first started out. And for that reason, I didn’t like them. I would toss one out and wind it back in assuming it was doing the same thing as any other crankbait in my box. I might’ve caught one here and there, but it wasn’t until I learned the true purpose of the bait, that I started catching fish more regularly.

Once you understand the fundamental purpose of a jerkbait, you will tap into it’s true fish catching potential. There are two general types of jerkbaits–hard and soft. We are more concerned with the hard jerkbaits in this particular article. Hard jerkbaits will usually be built to float, sink, or suspend at a particular depth, meaning once the lure dives underwater it will remain still at the depth it stops. This provides a big advantage for remaining in the strike zone of suspending or lethargic bass. An effective approach with this lure is to create an action that mimics a dying baitfish struggling to swim. Think of a sluggish fish moving in short darts then floating still as it tries to regain energy to swim again. This is an easy target for bass–especially for the dopey bass in cold water that has condensed its strike zone in order to conserve energy.

Due to the versatility of a jerkbait, this conversation could go a million different directions from here, but I’ll provide a basic approach to consider and hopefully that will get your gears turning on the different ways you can use this lure. First off, most of these lures are long and slender with three treble hooks attached to the bottom. Therefore, I don’t recommend throwing it into heavy cover. Jerkbaits also produce an erratic motion that bass will need to see underwater.At least some water clarity will be ideal. You’ll also want to have an idea of the depth at which your targeted bass is swimming and use an appropriate diving jerkbait. Keep in mind, a bass is more likely to swimm up for a lure than down.

Begin by casting out past your target. Reel a few rotations to get the lure down to the desired depth. With your rod tip pointed toward the water, use short popping motions or sweeps to give action to the lure. Between sweeping or popping motions allow the bait to pause in the water. Important: After each rod movement, point the tip of the rod back toward the lure to create slack in the line.This will allow the lure to come to a natural stop and suspend at different angles. Experiment with different rhythms of jerks/sweeps along with length of pause time.For example, a cadence could be jerk-jerk-pause-jerk-jerk-jerk-pause-jerk-jerk-pause. Vary pause times anywhere from a few seconds to half a minutes or more. Pay attention to the rhythm you are using when you catch a fish–other fish might react to that same rhythm.


Takeaway notes:

  • Effective jerkbait action is not produced by continuous reeling.
  • Experiment with different stop-and-go retrieves with short to long pauses in between motion.
  • Leave slack in the line as the bait pauses. Watch for movement in the line to detect strikes.
  • The only time you need to reel is to collect slack to get the bait moving after pausing.
  • Replicate successful rhythms in order to test different patterns of bass behavior. Let the fish tell you what they want.
  • This lure is not for inexperienced fishermen since the action is produced by the angler and not the just the lure itself.


Check out the video below for some smallmouth jerkbait fishing. Father-son fishing duo, Justin and Leo Morris provide some additional tips on fishing jerkbaits. They discuss the
importance testing different patterns in the movement of your jerkbait. By keying in on effective patterns, these two had a successful day of bass fishing.

Check out Leo’s fun page on Fiverr.com. For $5, Leo will record a video of him releasing a fish in your honor with a custom message of your choice. All earnings will go straight to Leo’s college fund. This is a fun way to help Leo become a better angler, support catch-and-release and help fund Leo’s education.

Thanks for the video, guys!