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Mastering Soft Plastic Jerk Baits


One of my all-time favorite ways to catch largemouth or smallmouth bass is on a soft plastic jerkbait. This versatile bait mimics fleeing or dying baitfish better than anything else I have ever used. In this short article, I will touch on some of the main points to help you master this awesome baitfish imitator.

⦁ Time of Year
Although this lure can be used almost year-round it really shines during post-spawn to easily pick off bass guarding the newly hatched fry. In the summer, morning weed edges or grass pockets are great to target, killing the bait and allowing it to sink into the holes. Bass in deeper water can be taken with soft jerkbaits rigged Carolina style, which still allows the bait to glide on the fall. The absolute best time of year though is in the fall when bass are actively gorging themselves on baitfish. This is when you can catch numbers of bass in one area. Try short jerks moving the bait quickly across the surface making the lure skip out of the water like a fleeing baitfish. Although it’s fun to catch the smaller surface feeders, letting the jerkbait fall like a dying baitfish can reward you with one of those bigger lunkers that sit below the baitball gulping the stunned baitfish.

⦁ Colors
Color choices are pretty simple. Standard white, shad, and baitfish colors all do well in clear water. Bluegill and perch imitators like watermelon with red or other color flecks also work well and give you a darker option if skies are overcast.

⦁ Rod
For Texas rigged jerkbaits I opt for a 7’ to 7’-6” medium-heavy rod with a high-speed baitcasting reel. With that said, I am 6’-1” tall and that size works well for me. I prefer around 20 lb. braided line tied to a swivel, then a 10-17 lb. fluorocarbon leader. The swivel will help eliminate line twists, while the braided line is used for its low stretch which helps with hooksets. The fluorocarbon is used due to it being almost invisible in the water.

For nose hooked jerkbaits, I will use a 6’ to 6’-6” spinning rod set up since I use this with lighter 6-12 lb. fluorocarbon line. I also like the shorter rod for skipping under docks.

⦁ Types of Soft Jerkbaits
There are many shapes and sizes out on the market, with the five-inch long being my favorite and probably the most commonly used. Some have different shaped bodies with single or split tails and usually have a cavity for better hooksets. One of the biggest factors though is salted or non-salted. The salted will sink and the non-salted will float. This will affect your presentation see below. You can also add a nail weight, split-shot, or head weight to increase your fall rate.

⦁ Rigging (we will refer to the 5” long jerkbait)



⦁ Presentation
Ask your self the following question…
Which level of the water column do I need to target?
Are they surface feeding?
Are they suspended?
Are they on the bottom?
Do I want a horizontal fall or a nose dive fall?

Surface Feeding - No weight, no salt, Mid-Hook Texas Rig or Nose Hook Rig - Can be twitched quickly on the surface allowing it to skip out of the water like a fleeing baitfish.

Suspended - Depending on how deep you want it to run, salt or no salt, weightless or with a nail weight pushed straight in the nose just above the eye of the hook. Can use all three rigs.

Bottom Feeding - Carolina Rig, Shaky head Rig, split-shot Rig, weighted head, or just use a salted Jerkbait with a heavy hook, let it sink to the bottom then twitch and let it fall back down.

Tight Lines - Bassmanjohn

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