The Versatility Of JerkbaitsThe Versatility Of Jerkbaits In the case of jerkbaits we often think of them as topwaters. We show you some new ideas in this article.
By Ronald F. Dodson, Ph.D.
A few years ago a friend asked me if I could show him how to navigate the upper end of Lake Palestine in preparation for a tournament he was about to fish. He always had a couple of hot, secret lures that he was testing for some company or the other. He produced a new bait called a Slug-go and explained this was going to create a new way of fishing soft plastic plugs in a style of fishing now recognized as jerkbait presentations.
To say that I was not impressed at the first glance was an understatement. There were several reasons for my skepticism. The first was that if the concept worked, surely a mental giant such as myself would have realized that Mr. Nick Creme's lure floated and had the general body contour of this bait. Thus I would have tried it in this technique if it obviously had not been written in stone that you had to put a slip sinker in front of Mr. Creme's worm to make a hallowed Texas rig.
The second blow to my perceptive instinct was when he pulled the bait out of his worm pouch and it was bubble gum in color. The comparison he offered was that this bait could be worked on top just like a Zara Spook only made weedless by sticking the hook back into the bait. I was in the middle of a smart-aleck comment about having recently heard of pink blue gills in a lake poisoned by an influx of selenium when he rudely interrupted by catching a five-pounder.
I may be slow, but can be taught and after initially gritting my teeth grew to consider jerkbaits and the various ways to use them as important parts of my arsenal.
This bait still offers one of the best ways to work the top of thick weeds. In fact, the comparison of the type action you place on the retrieve with to walking the dog side-to-side action of a Zara Spook, isn't a bad concept to mimic. The other thing about using a soft plastic jerkbait is that on calm, clear days you have a basically silent entry into the water. There are times on these kinds of days when fish are very skittish and a noisy splash will work against you.
Jerkbaits can be rigged weedless as with any other worm, but depending on the hardness of the plastic may require a much greater pressure on hook set than if the hook is simply punctured through the worm and partially pulled back into the body cavity. The other approach is to take the hook through to the barb and then bow the worm so that the point is stuck just into the skin on the back of the worm.
If you choose to use a jerkbait as a countdown plug, then try adding a small split shot several feet in front of the hook. You can change the action of the bait on retrieve and its actual angle of fall by inserting weights into the body. These are nothing more than pieces of straight nails although you can buy the commercial version made of lead or bronze.
Lure companies have developed several modifications of the original tapered body. The first is the shad-type body style in which the front of the bait has an appreciably larger thickness that tapers to a thin tail. The other popular version offers a V-tail that both creates a flutter on the fall and acts as a rudder to guide the bait upward on the retrieve.
It is interesting that while the bodies of these two types are similar there are subtle differences in action that is particularly evident when you suddenly jerk the bait to the surface. Those with a V-tail tend to dart out of the water giving the appearance of a minnow racing to the top. On some days this burst of speed triggers an aggressive reaction in the bass.
By the way, the Bass Assassin represents a model of the minnow-form of body while the Zoom product called the Fluke typifies the V-tail versions as do the Fin-S Shad by Lunker City (the folks who make Slug-go).
If you are like me you may lean toward the minnow or shad colors in these baits but as noted with my friend's selection, bright colors such as bubble gum, chartreuse, as well as bright yellow, chartreuse and white, work well when more contrast is needed. These include when fishing stained water, low-fight conditions (early and late), and in some instances when the vegetation is very thick and surface contrast helps the bass pick out a target.
The folks at Bass Assassin have introduced a Glass Shad version to their product line. This bait has a thicker body than the original Bass Assassin and has prism foil inserts within the bait to pick up and give off more flash. The plug certainly requires a larger hook than most of us use for worm fishing. In fact, I step up at least one to two sizes when using a jerkbait. It also doesn't hurt to use one of the ultra sharp hooks that are available since the resistance presentation of a thicker body makes the hook set more difficult than the thinner body of worms and lizards that we are used to fishing.
One of the ways that I have found jerkbaits to be highly effective is on a Carolina Rig. The style of presentation that I use is not like most folks use when fishing a Carolina Rig. One day I got the bright idea that if you work a jerkbait on top with a darting-swimming action like a Zara Spook, what would happen if I added some zip to the jerkbait when fished close to the bottom? While I couldn't pretend that I'm quite as vigorous on the retrieve as when fishing on top, I nevertheless intentionally give the bait enough rapid action to make it dart and swim for several feet with each movement of the rod or uptake on the reel.
The technique works really well if you get into schools working shad. If you get them to hit a French fry, think of it as a straight, shorter version of a jerkbait. By using a large-sized jerkbait rather then a short French fry you will tend to get the larger bass in the school excited.
Another way you might try a jerkbait is as a flipping or pitching plug. The erratic action of these plugs on the uplift of the rod, as on the vertical fall, makes them an interesting option to lizards, or more classical worms and jigs. This approach is particularly useful in fishing pockets of vegetation and is best carried out by placing a split shot close to the eye of the hook or to make it even more weedless, try an oversized hook to give the additional weight. As noted you can also add a weighted insert (nail) in the head region, or midsection to impart different actions during the drop or lift of this style of vertical fishing.
Most folks get locked in on one way of presenting a particular plug. In the case of jerkbaits we often think of them as topwaters. In reality if you work them like suspended plugs, they become like an oversized French fry with a lot more potential action. In fact, think of your jerkbait when worked at the desired depth as a sinking Red Fin or Rogue. The advantage over the Red Fin or Rogue is you are using a weedless lure rather than one with two sets of trebles to snag weeds or brush. The same rule, as to the importance of size, applies to jerkbaits. You can get more strikes on shorter baits and typically fewer, but larger average, fish on the larger baits.
No matter what your preference is for working these versatile plugs, you should have several colors and styles as part of your tackle box.
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