THE FLOATING HARD-JERKBAIT: THE OVERLOOKED LURE
By Massimo Zanetti
Massimo was a member of the "Kick'n Bass Pro-Staff," our first international Pro.
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I believe that the hard-jerkbait is actually one of the hottest lures and one of the best secret of B.A.S.S. pros around the world: ever wondered why this lure is seldom mentioned on the bass magazines? Since 1993 Bassmaster magazine has dedicated only two articles to the hard-jerkbaits: one on the suspending version and the other about pros modifications on the floating version. Normally, if a lure is hot, outdoors writers cannot resist to write a scoop on it. Well, considering that even in Italy, in the high competitive ranks, I rarely see a jerkbait tied on a bass rod, its well worth the time to gain skills and knowledge of the lure, at least to get one more edge on the competitor field.
One of the big bass lures Doug Hannon, the "Bass Professor", relies most often to catch monster bass in clear spring Florida waters is the Rapala Original Floating 11 and 13 in Gold or Silver colors. He states that the Rapala, with its small profile and slender shape, presents very few negative cues to the eyes of a "smart" old big mouth and,a very interesting point, it is one of the few minnow-type lures that swims perfectly horizontally, just like a real fish does. If Hannon, with his great track record of more than 500 10+ pounders caught in the last 20 years, has some Rapalas in his tackle box, it means this is a great lure. But Rapala accomplishes only one of the several tasks a hard-jerkbait has to accomplish. In fact, if you go back to the paragraph above, Hannon uses the Rapala mainly in clear waters.
I rely mostly on three jerkbait brands and models, and I'll tell you why.
First is the Rapala Original Floating 11 cm. (a little more than 4") S coloration (Silver/black back) for sunny days and G (Gold/black back) for cloudy days or low light conditions. Rapala is a light lure and I fish it mostly in calm water (a smooth surface is better) and CLEAR water. It is a lure which has few attracting qualities but high triggering qualities. It produces very few vibrations or flash in the water . It is a discrete lure that works the best in clear to moderately stained waters. Because of its very light weight, I fish it on a 6'3" spinning outfit and 8 to 10 pound test clear mono.
The second lure I love to fish is the Bomber model Long 14A. Again, this lure is about 4" long but heavier than the Rapala. It works very well in moderate windy conditions and dives a little deeper than the Rapala Original minnow. My favorite color is Silver foil/orange belly which produces an huge amount of flash and more often than not, triggers vicious reaction strikes even from the most finicky bass. I use this color mostly on light sunny days but I've caught bass on it even at dawn or dusk in very poor light conditions. Other good colors I rely on for the Bomber Long-A are Silver flash/blue back (also for sunny days) and chartreuse flash/blue back/orange belly, excellent in stained waters/cloudy days. I fish the Bombers with a 5'6" pistol grip casting rod (with light tip but lots of backbone) and 12 lbs. clear test mono.
The third lure you'll find in my jerkbait box is the Rattlin' Rogue 4"1/2. This lure dives up to 4'. I fish this lure in poor light conditions (e.g.: dark water/cloudy day) because of its bigger size and very important - built-in loud rattlers. As Jim Porter has written in one of his article about rattling crankbaits: "I haven't seen yet a fish that rattles." I agree with him on his statement but bass seems to love those rattling things and really blast it! As for the Rogue's colors, I got one silver/black back and a Gold one, for the identical reasons that I fish the Rapalas and Bombers (light conditions/water clarity.) I fish the Rogues on the same outfit I fish the Bomber 14A.
Now that I've told to you about my favorite jerkbaits, let's look at my best techniques.
In clear, cold water and with suspicious fish I try to leave my jerkbait in a given spot the longest time I can and move it with short twitches of the rod tip, this usually aggravates the fish to strike.
When I don't know how the fish is positioned, I "run and gun" casting my lure at the most obvious and unobvious obstacles I can. For this application I don't use any one of the lures I've mentioned before but a big Rapala Husky 13. I've caught tons of fish in the past retrieving them quickly with the rod tip pointed at it, just like a crankbait.
In every other condition, I usually cast the jerkbait parallel to the obstacle or shallow structure and retrieve it with sharp jerks of the rod. Its very important changing the angle of your cast at the same obstacle. Normally I make a 6" jerk with the rod tip low on the water but sometimes you need to get a long jerk to make fish strike your jerkbait.
I know a guy who fishes hard jerkbaits with very long, sharp and quick jerks and seems he to catch fish in almost every condition with such tactics. I've tried this tactic from time to time, using the same tackle and lures the fellow angler uses but Ive caught only few fish. He's one of the gifted fishermen that, for no know reason, seem to catch a ton of fish in every condition - except when they start a tournament.
Few tips on how I modify my hard jerkbaits before tying them to my line.
First thing to do when you open the package of whatever lure you find in the tackle shop is changing the treble hooks with bigger ones and ALWAYS keep 'em sharp. Before casting a lure, I always check with my thumb nail how sharp is the hook. No matter if it is a jig, a spinnerbait or a jerkbait, if the hook is not sharp enough, I'll sharp it with the sharpening stone I always keep in my modular tackle bag. The reason for changing the treble hooks is because I try to overcome the poor hooksetting these lures normally have. Bigger and stouter hooks surely help you to land a few more fish and in a tournament situation one fish landed or lost often means the difference between getting a check or not. Some lures manufacturers affirm that putting a bigger set of treble hooks on their lures will alter their balance and swim but I havent still meet this problem. Take care to put treble hooks not too big otherwise youll often find them tangled together.
I often replace the split rings with bigger ones, according to the treble hooks size and put one on the front-eye of the lures like the Rapala Floating model that comes without the ring. It adds a hell of lot more action to the jerkbait! If I want to add weight to a floating jerkbait to get more castability, get to a deeper depth and a slow the rise (more suspending), I usually wrap the treble hooks with some lead wire. It works like magic on finicky bass! Consider that most of the hits on your jerkbait will come when you make a pause between a jerk and another and youll realize how important the speed of your lure is when it rise to the surface. Sometimes the bass hit with lot of delicacy and you hardly feel the bite, just like the tick-tick on a plastic worm, other times the mighty little green fish will almost pull the rod out of your hands, talking about vicious strikes! Well, no more modifications are required with the hard-jerkbait. All you need to do is train your biceps with a jerk-pause, jerk-jerk-pause or similar retrieve. At the end of the day, I know this may sound hard to believe, but even fishing a jerkbait with sharp jerks, you'll find your arm quite sore, especially if big bass are on the mood to blast the minnow-shaped lures.
Massimo's email address in Italy is:
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