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Jerkbait Fishing – Everything You Need to Know

By: Nick Updated: November 22, 2023

Jerkbaits are long minnow style lures that mimic injured baitfish. The great thing about jerkbaits is their ability to trigger reaction bites. It is probably the best bait for triggering a response.

This really pays off when you come across a big school of bass because if you can trigger one bass then you will likely trigger the entire school. This makes for exciting fishing when you are pulling in one after another and can be very addictive.

When to use Jerkbaits

Jerkbaits really shine during the fall transition through winter. The cooling water temperatures often lead to a die-off of weaker baitfish, creating easy meals for bass. The erratic action of a jerkbait resembles the struggling movements of these dying baitfish, making it an irresistible target for hungry bass looking for an easy meal.

How To Fish a Jerkbait

When fishing a jerkbait you want to make as long of cast as possible. Longer cast give you more time at their max depth which is vital for diving baits. To get your bait to it’s max depth quickly lightly jerk your rod tip down towards the water while you reel in. Do this for 5 seconds in order to reach max depth.

Once it gets to max depth, let it pause for a few seconds then give it 2 small twitches to create some slack line. With the slack line, barely shake your rod. This will give you jerkbait very subtle back and forth motion in place as it pauses. After pausing for a few seconds, give your rod tip a few quick pops while doing a half handle turn on your reel.

The half reel turn will bring in just enough slack so you can still feel a bite and set the hook while leaving enough so your bait isn’t negatively affected during it’s pause.

Continue this process until your lure starts to rise near the end of your cast. Once your jerkbait starts heading for the surface, speed up your retrieve. This action mimics a bait fish darting towards the surface to get away from the bass. This often triggers the bass into striking so it doesn’t miss out on a meal.

One of the most important things about fishing a jerkbait is always having some slack line. You never want the jerkbait to swim from reeling in, you want the action to come from your rod. You want crisps twitches and hard stopping on the pauses.

Another thing that matters is how hard you snap your rod tip to work the bait. In most cases the longer the bill or the deeper it dives the less you have to work it. So on a deeper diver like a Lucky Craft Staysee you use smaller movement and a softer snap. On the other hand, lures like the Jackall Rerange or Lucky Craft Flash Pointer can be fished much more aggressive with much harder snaps. These smaller billed baits are great when bass are up shallow and hunting baitfish.

Along with the size of the bill, water temperature also plays a roll in how hard you should work a jerkbait. When the water is cooler you should slow down and let the bait pause longer. On the other hand when the water is warm you can work the bait much faster.

Choosing the Right Jerkbait

With so many jerkbaits on the market, selecting the right one can be overwhelming. The choice often depends on the depth you’re targeting and the specific conditions. We have an in-depth guide to walk you through finding the best jerkbaits for your needs.

How to Fine Tune Jerkbaits

The key to jerkbait fishing is reaching maximum depth. The only way to reach those critical depths is by getting your jerkbaits to run perfectly true. Lures rarely are perfect out of the box and often need slight modifications.

Tune Jerkbaits to Run Perfect

Most jerkbaits won’t run perfectly straight right out of the box. To correct this I make adjustments to the eyelet. With pliers, I come straight down over the eyetie and I twist the eye slightly in the opposite direction of where it was running. If the bait was leaning to the right then slightly bend the eye to the left. Make small incremental adjustments and test between each until you get it running perfectly.

Take your time and fine-tune your jerkbaits. It is absolutely worth it to get it dialed in just right. You will catch a lot more fish with a jerkbait the runs perfectly straight.

Replacing Stock Jerkbait Hooks & Hardware

Jerkbaits have giant bass potential so it’s critical that you have the proper hardware to be able to handle them. Stock jerkbait hooks are a no-go. I replace almost all my jerkbait hooks and hardware.

What Line to Use When Fishing Jerkbaits

When fishing a jerkbait I mostly use 10-12lb fluorocarbon. It gives the perfect balance of distance, responsiveness, and just enough stretch to absorb the fight of a large bass without bending out your hooks.

Additionally fluorocarbon is basically invisible in the water so it is great when you have to slow down in the colder months.