runs con- trary to everything we’ve been taught about sh- ing for bass,” B.A.S.S. Elite Series pro Kevin Short told Bass West USA. “Here, you’re shing a plug that hangs motionless in the water column like a stupe ed minnow for bass that are nowhere near cover, and are too sluggish to chase down a normal lure. You’re supposed to downsize your presen- tation when the water is cold and clear, yet in these supposedly adverse conditions, a suspending bass will whack a 5-inch jerk- bait that’s ashier than a pimpmobile. None of the usual bass shing axioms ap- ply to jerkbaiting, which is what makes it so darn much fun!” The inherent weirdness of jerkbaiting has undoubtedly prevented this technique from gaining mainstream acceptance among weekend bass anglers. But hope- fully what you’re about to learn from Short and his compadres will convince you to give these misunderstood lures a try on your home waters.
» WINDOW OF
Some lures – spinnerbaits, for ex- ample – are highly versatile, meaning you can sh them successfully all year long in a wide range of water and weather con- ditions. Not so with jerkbaits. “There’s a relatively narrow window of opportunity in spring when jerkbaits rule,” Short has found. “They work best when the water temperature ranges from around 40 to 53 degrees. I’m from Arkansas, and if we have a cold spring, our lakes could stay in that temp zone from January all the way through April. But if we have a mild winter and a warm
spring with lots of rain, the lake heats up quick- ly and gets too murky for jerkbaits. I’ve found prime jerkbait water is usually 44 to 49 degrees.” As Short mentioned, cold water isn’t the only necessity for successful jerkbaiting -- the lake must be clear was well. “I like gin-clear to very slightly stained water for jerkbait shing,” he noted. “Water this clear is com- mon in highland reservoirs and deep/rocky natural lakes in late winter and early spring, before heavy sea- sonal rains send muddy runoff into the system and before the lake has warmed up enough to trigger massive plankton blooms. In a clear lake, suspend- ing bass can see a jerkbait from a great distance, which is why fan-casting the lure across open-water structures like deep points and ledges works so well.”
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» GEARING UP
I don’t know if Larry Nixon actually invented jerkbaiting, but he darn sure put the method on the map. Back in the early Seventies, the young Arkansas pro raised eyebrows by mopping up in spring tournaments with a Rebel Spoonbill Minnow, a long-billed oater- diver prized by walleye sh- ermen. Nixon would modify his Spoonbills to suspend by drilling strategically placed holes in the body, then ll- ing them with lead. It was a time-consuming trial and er- ror process, adding and re- moving weight until the plug was neutrally buoyant, but then and only then would it attract the attention of sluggish suspend- ing bass. I wrote a magazine ar-
ticle about Nixon’s min- now modi ca- tion method back then, and can recall the hate mail I received from a reader who’d destroyed a hundred bucks worth of Spoonbill Minnows, trying in vain to get them to suspend! Today, many hard bait manufactur- ers market jerkbaits pre-weighted at the factory to suspend. Some of the better ex- amples include the Bass Pro Shops XPS Minnow, Jackall Squirrel, Lucky Craft Point- er, Rapala Husky Jerk, Sebile Slender Eel, Smithwick Suspending Super Rogue and Strike King Wild Shiner. The short-billed versions of these minnow plugs will dive around 3 to 4 feet deep on a straight re- trieve, while the long-billed models dive 4 to 7 feet – give or take a foot or two, and depending on what line they’re shed on. Kevin Short is one pro who stubbornly eschews factory-weighted jerkbaits. He adds internal weights to his Norman Ra- zor Minnow oater-divers to make them neutrally buoyant, and may add a wrap or two of lead solder to one of the hooks to give the at-sided plug either a nose-down or tail-down attitude. This may seem like a lot of needless fooling around, but consider