BlogSeptember 2020

How to Fish a Jerkbait

How to Fish a Jerkbait

By Andy Whitcomb

Sep 08, 2020

With cooling temperatures, the jerkbait will be used more for reaction bites. Here are all the jerkbait tips you need to know.

Water temperatures are beginning to drop and so anglers will be adjusting their seasonal tactics. Although it can catch fish all year, one traditional cold water lure is the jerkbait. If you are wondering how to fish a jerkbait, well, like the name indicates, you jerk it. But there is a little bit more to the jerkbait for beginners than that.

Rather than just steady reeling for the action for some lures such as a bladed jig or a crankbait, for jerkbait fishing, you make the lure twitch and shoot forward by popping the fishing rod and reeling in the slack line created. A crucial component of learning how to fish a jerkbait is the rhythm of this action. It may seem insignificant but the difference between, for example, “jerk-jerk, pause” and “jerk-jerk-jerk, pause” can be huge.

And don’t over look the length of the pause for jerkbait bass fishing, which may be 20 seconds or more. The colder the water, the longer the pause. If the water had a skim of ice in the morning, consider bass fishing expert and TV host Mark Zona’s patience creating tip: “Text somebody.” Once you discover this rhythm or cadence, for successful jerkbait fishing, you’re probably going to need to reproduce it consistently.

Although color certainly plays a role, the working depth can help determine what actually the best jerkbait is for the day. Some jerkbaits float, some sink, and some even suspend once depth is reached. Some of these lures run shallow (1-3 feet), while others have internal weights that may shift or have a larger, steeper lip for diving to 10 feet or more.

The jerkbait setup depends on the water you are fishing. River jerkbait fishing can be with hard or soft plastic lures. There are plusses and minuses for each. Hard lures may have 2 or 3 sets of treble hooks so anything that bumps it has an increased chance of hookup. However, this also can mean rocks and aquatic vegetation issues. One way around this is to use soft plastic jerkbaits, often called “flukes,” which can be rigged weedless with a single hook. If bites are missed, anglers can upgrade and rig with a single treble hook.

Another note about learning how to fish a jerkbait is that in warmer water, it is considered “work.” Other warm water techniques such as the drop-shot or Carolina rigs may be thought of as less work, and, as I’ve heard pro anglers say, more just “dragging it around.” However, as the water cools, Fish metabolism lowers, and fish are eating less. This means you may have to “work” harder by casting, twitching, jerking, lures to trigger a reaction bite, even though the fish may not necessarily hungry.

Andy Whitcomb
Andy Whitcomb
Andy is an outdoor writer ( and stressed-out Dad has contributed over 380 blogs to since 2011. Born in Florida, but raised on banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, smallmouth bass, and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After earning a B.S. in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.