Three Keys to Fall Jerkbait Success
Crisp mornings and a turning of the foliage mean the fall months are upon us. It's a great time for bass anglers to be on the water enjoying the solitude while others are in the deer stand or duck blind, a trend that only gets better with the approaching winter months. While many bass lures can and will produce through the late fall and winter months, the jerkbait should have a constant presence on your boat deck, especially during the coldest days of winter.
The jerkbait is a "visual lure", meaning bass are drawn to it primarily through sight; therefore, the prerequisite for successful jerkbait fishing is good water clarity. Water clarity has different meaning to different anglers, depending upon the reservoir they frequent, but suffice to say that visibility of 2' is adequate for a successful jerkin' and the bite only gets better as visibility increases. With increased clarity of 8-10' or greater, the strike window in which a bass will attack a jerkbait increases accordingly.
Key 1: Long CastsMost bass that are susceptible to a jerkbait in the winter months are suspended over deep water, typically along bluff walls or over points along the main lake and creek arms. Many of these bass are within 5-15' of the surface; therefore, it's not practical to idle over these bass with electronics to pinpoint their exact location. Consequently, making a long cast to cover as much water as possible is critical to locating these fish efficiently. Take note of where the bites come from: steep points, over submerged timber, channel bends banks, etc., as these locations can provide shortcuts when broadening your search in other parts of the lake.
Key 2: Slack Line RetrieveWhile bass are visually drawn to a jerkbait, they commit to eating the lure due to its erratic nature, which is where you, the angler, enter the scene. The typical cadence is the classic "twitch, twitch, pause" and the pace and rhythm of this retrieve can be varied according to water temperatures. As the water is cooling into the 60's during the fall, a fast, aggressive cadence may produce well. As water temps plummet into the 50's and even the 40's in deep winter, a much slower cadence with longer pauses will likely be the key. Regardless of your retrieve speed, make sure to start and end each twitch of the rod tip with slack in the line. This slack line approach is similar to working a hollow body frog across the surface and it allows the jerkbait the freedom to make the subtle left-right movements that triggers wary bass to strike.
Key 3: Light LineFluorocarbon is a must for successful jerkbait fishing due to its reduced stretch and low visibility. Line sizes can range from 6-12# test; however, trending toward lines in the 6-8# range provides distinct advantages over heavier lines. Small diameter lines have less drag in the water, thereby helping the lure reach its maximum depth - key when bass are reluctant to rise very far to eat the lure. Additionally, smaller diameter lines impart a livelier action to the lure each time the lure is twitched. When fishing 6-8# test, many jerkbait aficionados prefer tossing winter jerkbaits on spinning tackle, as opposed to baitcasters, though this is certainly a matter of preference.
The jerkbait is a lure you can pick up in October and fish everyday well into the pre-spawn months of early spring. Keep an assortment of colors and running depths with you, experiment according to various conditions you face and enjoy searching out quality bass in the solitude of winter. It's a great time to be on the water.