After reading the title of this article, you can probably guess that the article that
you are about to read is about the jerkbait. The two-step part of it has two separate
meanings: one being the two separate styles of jerkbaits, hard and soft, the other
the importance of rhythm in fishing. A jerkbait can be worked with a rhythm and
still be erratic. I think this is very important. In this article, I plan to tell you
everything you would ever want to know about fishing jerkbaits and probably a lot
that you could care less about but can digest anyway. 

Jerkbaits can out produce many other styles and techniques in fishing, even during
the toughest times. Fishing jerkbaits can be thought of as finesse fishing tactic as
well as an aggressive fishing tactic with just a few minor changes. Jerkbaits can
produce almost year round. I say "almost" because they are less effective during
the dog days of summer and the dead of winter. During the dog days of summer,
the water tends to fill with algae--jerkbaits are most effective if the water has a
visibility of greater than 2 feet. In the dead of winter, fish are usually deeper than
the jerkbait works effectively. In other words, you could still catch fish on the
jerkbait, but there would be many other ways that would be more effective.
Jerkbaits probably work best during the pre-spawn when water temperatures reach
mid 50's and up. 


When selecting a hard jerkbait you need to consider three things: speed, action,
and depth that you want to cover. It's important to always have a plan to start
with. You can change from that, but it's essential to have a plan. Hard jerkbaits
can be broken into two categories, those with a tight wobble and those with a wide
wobble. The tighter wobble is better for cooler water. The tighter wobble bait
usually runs deeper and is less erratic. This suits cooler water perfectly. Another
thing with the tighter wobble baits is they can be slightly harder to tune and keep
tuned, but don't let this scare you. YOU CAN DO IT! The Rapala series and
Smithwick Rogue are baits with a tight wobble. Baits with a wide wobble are more
erratic, generally run shallower, and stay tuned better. These are much more
effective in warm water. Wide wobble baits that I use are the Bomber Long 'A'
and the Storm Thunderstick. Another thing to keep in mind is that any bait that is
suspending is usually less erratic than those that float because of the weight added
to the bait to get it to suspend. 

Now that we have that down, we can talk about working these baits and the
equipment that I use to work them. I like a 6' baitcasting rod with a soft tip. The
soft tip is the most important part of the equipment being used. The tip of the rod
puts the action in the bait and is less fatiguing. If you use a rod that is too stiff you
will have to work much harder to get the bait to do the things that you want. Not
only that, but any bait that has treble hooks are easiest to throw for the bass. The
soft tip in the rod will help you play the fish better so that won't happen. I like to
use 10 lb test line--the line is limp enough so that it doesn't hamper lure movement.
However, if you would like your lure to run shallower or deeper you can play with
line size. If you want your bait to run deeper, you can go to a thinner line and get
more depth without adding weight to the lure. A jerkbait is a lure in which the rod
imparts the action, not the reel. Because the reels only job is to pick up the slack
line, a high speed reel is best. I like to use a 6.3:1. I tie directly to the o-ring with
an improved clinch knot, however there are times when I want a more erratic
action and will use a clip or loop knot. When working a jerkbait, I tend to use the
jerk-jerk-pause retrieve with the rod tip pointing down while trying to move the
lure 12-15 inches per pull. I will vary the lengths of the jerks and pauses according
to what I feel will work best that day. Once you jerk the rod, point the rod tip
directly back at the bait to create slack. This is the most important step, read that
again! Without slack in the line the bait doesn't work its magic. Look at how your
fish are hooked, you can learn a lot from them. If you are hooking a lot of the fish
with just the rear treble, you may want to change your retrieve with a longer pause
and shorter jerks. Or switch all together to a sweep-pause retrieve. If you are
catching a lot of fish with all three hooks across the mouth, remember what you
did...IT WORKED! You may notice during a day that you were hooking fish well,
then you will catch 3 fish in a row with just the rear treble. Try to figure out what
changed: maybe the wind switched slightly, or cloud cover. Something has
changed, and you need to adjust. Your ability to adjust will determine how many
fish you are going to catch. 

The final paragraph of this section related to hard jerkbaits contains some hot tips
to help you put more fish in the boat. First, change factory hooks to premium
hooks-- many times bass will slap at a bait to wound it. With super sharp hooks,
you will get many of these fish. Another hot tip that I like to keep to myself but
will reveal to my close friends is...SHHH don't tell anybody this...During late
prespawn, add suspend strips or lead tape to the area just in front of the front
treble so that the lure sits face down in the water. Bass will see this as a feeding
stance and will sometimes devour this bait. Another fun tip is to work a floating
jerkbait on a Carolina rig in shallow water. You can work the bait much slower and
keep it in the strike zone longer. For a different look, try adding a treble hook off a
POP-R or other feather type hook to the rear of the jerkbait. 


Probably most popular in the early 90's due to the onset of tubes and creature
plastics like spider grubs and brush hawgs, the soft plastic jerkbait has lost a little
bit of its original popularity, but they still catch as many fish as they ever did. The
soft plastic jerkbait is usually worked with a 4/0 hook, the 4/0 is not needed for its
size but more for its weight. Where you put the eye of the hook will directly affect
the lure's action. The lower the eye is on the bait, the more it will rise with the
jerks. You can change hook size to get the fall that you are looking for. If more
weight is needed, add a barrel swivel 12-15' up the line. This will add weight
without hurting the action of the lure. You can also add a 1/32 oz sliding worm
weight to the front but it will put a totally different action to the lure. Another thing
I will do is add a finishing nail to the body of the lure. Sometimes that is all that is

I tend to use a spinning rod combo with soft plastic baits, because of the lack of
weight. I have used a baitcaster, but I like the presentation of the spinning outfit
better. I like to skip soft plastic jerkbaits into cover, they are a great cover bait
because they are weedless if rigged correctly, and with a few skips can get where
no other bait except a tube can go. I use 10lb test again but have used as little as 6
lb and as much as 17 depending on the structure or cover being fished. 


If you read my last article, "My theory on bass and I'm sticking to it", you will find
the acronym K.I.S.S (Keep It Simple Stupid). There is no better example of that
than here. At the beginning of this article, I stated that jerkbaits are a clear water
technique, so use natural colors. My favorite is probably dark green back with gold
sides, or black back with silver sides. I have other baits, but these are the two that
produce best for me and that I have confidence in. 


Remember when fishing jerkbaits that you are fishing clear water. Keep this in
mind when approaching structure. Stay back far enough so that you don't spook
the fish, yet close enough that you can make an accurate cast to the cover you're
fishing. Also remember to keep a rhythm. I think fish can key in better if you do
the same movement repeatedly so that they can time their attack. Just keep in
mind that just because you are fishing with a rhythm doesn't it mean it can't still be

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