Saturday, June 4, 2011

Jerkin' and Catchin'

One of my favorite bass bites is on the suspending jerk bait.  Why?  They are big fish lures and when you have a hot bite you can really get some good numbers.  Jerkbaits are effective in rivers and lakes, and they also can help you land a wide variety of species.  I've caught smallmouth, largemouth, pike, pickerel, musky, stripers and walleye on them.  For the purposes of this article, I'm going to discuss suspending jerk baits.  There are so many different brands and models out there, but my advice would be to do some research and buy a couple different styles in a couple different sizes and learn to fish them first.  After that, you'll get a feel for what others to add to your arsenal.

This nice chunky largemouth hammered a suspending gold Super Rogue.
I'm going to go over a few of my favorites:

Smithwick Super Rogue Suspending 5" - There are a couple lakes near me where the bass really jump on this lure.  I toss them in and around log jams or weed beds and jerk them a few times and wham!  Favorite colors of mine include gold rogue, chrome/black back, or fire roan.  Rogues are extremely effective in the smallmouth rivers that I fish when I'm looking for that big bass bite.  This lure presents a larger profile, rattles, and gives off a lot of flash.

 Smithwick Suspending Super Rogues

Rapala Husky Jerk Suspending - these come in several sizes and are great for river smallmouth and also perform well on the lakes near me.  I start with the HJ12 size for largemouth which is 4 1/2", and scale down to the HJ10 (4") or HJ08 (3 1/8") for river smallmouth.  The HJ14 is 5 1/2" and is also a good largemouth option.  These lures also tempt big walleye and musky.  I carry colors that match the forage in my waters plus a few bright colors like Firetiger.  The smaller sizes are very productive on trout.  Rapala produces a deep model suspending Husky Jerk to reach those fish holding on deeper drop offs.  The only issue that I have with these lures is that the hooks eventually will rust, so it's a good idea to replace the hooks at some point.  The hooks are sharp out of the box though.

Rapala Husky Jerks in various sizes and colors, with a Deep Husky Jerk at the top

Rapala X-Rap - these jerk baits have a feathered hook and really do put fish in the boat.  They are extremely productive on smallmouth, largemouth, walleye, stripers, and trout.  Again, match the size and color to the species your after and try and match the forage base where you fish.  For largemouth and smallmouth, I prefer the XR10 4" size, but will go smaller on small streams to the XR08 3 1/8" size.  I use the magnum sizes when I want that big fish bite or while striper fishing.  X-Raps are also available in a deep model.  X-Raps cast extremely well, and, not only that, can be trolled effectively if you so prefer.  They give off plenty of flash and sound with those loud rattles.

Rapala X-Raps, the top is the magnum saltwater version, notice that it does not come with the feathered tail.

Rapala Max Rap - this lure has a slimmer profile but sports a weight transfer system to the angler achieve longer casts.  I just purchased one recently but haven't tried it yet.  I'll post a review after a trip or two.

Rapala Max Rap

Lucky Craft Pointer - these are pricy, but are an innovative and very productive jerk bait.  They are one of the few jerk baits that truly suspend and don't float to the top.  They are weighted in such away that they continue to shimmer or shake even when you aren't imparting action on your lure.  The hooks are super sharp.  They really have some cool colors.  Aurora gold, sexy shad, and Tennessee Shad are my favorite colors.  They also some in several sizes.  I really like the 100s which are about 4" long.  They cast well and have a bigger profile than other minnow baits of the same length.  The shape is really a life like appearance of many forage species.  You can find both rattling and silent models.

Lucky Craft Pointer 100 Suspending Jerkbaits

How do you fish them?  Really, there is no wrong way other than to not fish them.  Sometimes you cast them to your spot and work them back with a series of hard or soft twitches.  Vary your cadence and pauses in between twitches.  Once you establish what the fish want, focus on repeating that pattern.  If the bite shows, try something different still.  One of my favorite ways to fish them is to dead stick them...yep...cast them out, reel a few cranks and give a big sweep to your rod and then stop...keep the line tight and watch the line for the bite.  If fish are there then they will follow it and then hit after they can't stand it in front of their face any longer.  If no bite after a long count, try a small twitch and the fish often will hit the second the lure moves.  Sometimes if the next 15' of water is still productive then repeat those steps.  I've caught a lot of bass and walleye that way.

Don't be afraid to modify your jerkbaits to keep them in the strike zone.  The suspending nature of these baits keeps the lure in the zone for a long time, but some brands will slowly rise to the surface.  You can add weight to fine tune their suspending ability, or change the way they hold in the water by adding soft or sticky weight to either the body of the lure or on the hooks.  Adding feathered hooks can give them a nice look too and give the fish something different.

How's that for a striper caught on a Rapala X-Rap?

My fishin' buddy Bob with a nice rockfish caught on an X-Rap.  He was speed reelin' his lure when this striper smashed it.

In lakes, cast around cover, over weed beds, along rip rap shorelines, and main or secondary lake points that have stumps.  In tidal water, look for schools of fish in the shallows, birds feeding on baitfish, or cast to structure that you suspect will hold fish.  Often you will see current seams that will hold fish feeding in ambush of unsuspecting prey especially around creek mouths and weedy flats.

In rocky swift rivers, find seams along shoreline or mid river eddies, creek mouths, or behind ledges and wing dams.  Vary your retrieves using jerks, pauses, long pauses, reel/stop, and even dead sticking until you figure out what will trigger strikes on that day.

My brother Kyle landed this nice musky on a Husky Jerk

What rod and reel set ups do you use?  Basically, match the species your after and the size of the lure to your rod, reel and line like anything else.  If you know that you're targeting bass or walleyes, you can rig larger ones on medium spinning or baitcasting tackle.  If you're using larger jerkbaits for musky or stripers, consider a heavier set up.  For smaller jerkbaits used to target walleye, smallmouth, or trout, you might want to consider using lighter tackle and line.

Try them and develop confidence, and you'll find these one of the most useful tools in your tackle arsenal, not only for bass, but other species as well.  Now get out there and start jerkin' and have fun!

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