Minnow type baits like jerkbaits resemble the great variety of forage fish the largemouth feed on. By varying the size, shape and color, you can imitate shiners, needlefish or any of the many different species of shad.
Thier long slender profile closely resembles the long slender body of the needlefish, a favorite prey of the big Florida bass. This makes it a popular lure choice among Florida anglers and pros alike that come to Florida to fish tournaments. Florida is notorious for skinny water and shallow running baits are a must and the jerkbaits fit the bill perfectly. Reaction baits require a certain amount of visibility for the fish to see the target. Almost all of Florida lakes have at least a foot or more of water clarity. Even the lakes that have the brown tannic acid stain are clear enough for the fish to see the bait.Jerkbaits, with thier three treble hooks, are not a bait you want to throw into heavy cover and expect to get them back. These baits are pretty much limited to open water targets. That’s not to say you can’t fish the outer edges of structure as long as there is room to fight the fish without him burying up in it.
The best method for fishing open water with jerkbaits is to make a long cast over the structure for example grass, humps, rock piles etc. Start the retrieve with a couple of hard jerks to get the bait down to its running depth. With the rod tip pointed down, make two short jerks with the rod tip, using your wrist, and pause. Then while the bait is paused, reel up the slack and repeat. Work the bait all the way back to the boat maintaining this same rhythm. The bite happens most often when the bait is paused and as you start the first jerk.
Florida’s shallow lakes are perfect for jerkbaits with most lakes having a mien depth of 6-8 feet and lots of submerged grass beds.
Bomber Long A- Gold Prism/Black Ribs 4-½”
The best jerkbaits for this technique is the Bomber Long A- Gold Prism/Black Ribs 4-½”. This color pattern closely resembles the Florida wild golden shiner, the primary food fish of the Florida largemouth. Using the same technique The smaller Bomber Long A- 3-½”, 2 hook model, works great for schoolers. It’s best to use spinning tackle and 6-8lb. test line. This gets the bait down to the optimum depth plus allows you to make longer cast with this scaled down version. Silver Flash / Blue Back are the preferred colors, closely resembling a shad.
Another technique for jerkbaits in open water structure like rock piles, grass, flats etc. is rippen’. The cadence is the same as above, jerk-jerk-pause, except instead of two short jerks with the rod tip, rip it with two long sweeping pulls and then real up the slack and repeat. Unlike the mechanics, described previously of using your wrist to create the action, rippin’ requires the use of your entire upper body. This can wear you out after a couple of hours but the rewards can be well worth it.
On a guide trip with two Japanese anglers we were catching fish on shiners and having pretty good success, when one of them wanted to fish some artificial. This guy spoke only in Japanese while his friend, who attended school here in the northeast, spoke fluent English and had to translate for him. I opened my tackle box and let him tie on whatever he wanted. He dug through my jerkbaits and chose a Smithwick Rattlin’ Rouge and started rippin’ it. Within 30 min. he hooked up with an 8 pounder.
Smithwick Suspending Super Rogue- Chrome/Black Back/Orange Belly 5”
Smithwick Suspending Super Rogue- Chrome/Black Back/Orange Belly 5” is a good choice for rippin’. When you pause the bait, it suspends right in the strike zone giving the fish ample opportunity to attack.
In late spring to early summer, grass will grow to the top and start to matt forming open pockets. To fish these pockets use jerkbaits and cast them to the back side of a pocket and let them set until the rings, from the bait hitting the water, are completely gone. Now twitch it and let it settle down again until it is perfectly calm again. After about 3 or 4 attempts, with no interest, move to the next pocket. This will test your patients but you just have to believe there’s a big-ole-bass setting just on the edge of the pocket, lurking in the cool shade of that matted grass, waiting to ambush an easy unsuspecting prey to swim by.
Bagley Bang “O” Lure- Foil, Black Back / Gold Belly 5”
The Bagley Bang-O-Lure, being made of balsa wood, is a high floater and perfect for this technique. You can also use the tail propeller model for this style of fishing grass pockets. The goal is the same and that is to move the bait until the prop barely rotates.
Small profile jerkbaits are best for fishing targets. Target fishing is casting near objects that break the surface of the water like standing timber, docks, blow downs, boulders etc. Another words any place a fish will use as ambush cover.
Cast the bait beyond the target, slowly reel it up and let it rest right next to it. Let the wake or ring created by the movement of the bait completely settle. Using the reel only, with no movement of the rod, barely move the bait and stop. Your trying to impart as little action to the bait as possible, just enough to tease the fish into striking. With this subtle approach the fish will often just suck it in, leaving very little surface disturbance. You must keep your eyes trained on the bait at all times especially during low light, dusk or dawn.
You could call this a finesse technique.
Rapala Original Floating Silver / Black Back 5-1/4"
Rapala’s Original Floating minnow is perfect for fishing targeted structure because of its slender profile and it leaves very little plash when it hits the water. Either the above 5-1/4’ or the smaller 4-3/8” models are good choices.
- Sandy Flats
- Boat Docks
- Blow Downs
- Standing Timber
- Brush Piles
- Matted Grass Pockets
Open Water:Open water is best fished with a 6’ to 6 ½’ rod with a fast retrieve baitcast reel spooled with 10 to 12lb. monofilament or fluorocarbon line.
Rippin':Rippen’ is a power stroke that requires heavy equipment. Your putting a lot of pressure on the line and rod when rippen’ especially when a fish hits in the middle of a power stroke. Use a heavy action rod, like a flippn’ stick and a fast retrieve reel. Spool up with a heavy monofilament (20lb. +) or even a braid.
Matted Grass:Here you want to use at least a med. heavy rod with med. to fast reel. Line should be 12 to 14lb. monofilament or fluorocarbon line. This style of fishing does not require heavy line until you try to get a fish out of a heavy matt of grass. Try to compromise since it is a type of finesse fishing where the fish will be able to see the line
Targeted Structure:The light jerkbaits you’ll use for fishing targets in open water call for light line and med. heavy spinning rod and reel spooled with 6-8lb. monofilament or fluorocarbon line.
- Bomber Long A- Gold Prism / Black Ribs 4 ½”
- Rapala Husky Jerk- Tennessee Shad 5-1/2"
- Bass Pro Lazer Eye Lure XPS- Lime Green Back / Pearl White Belly 4 ½”
- Bomber Long A- Silver Flash / Blue Back 4 ½”
- Bomber Long A- Silver Flash / Blue Back 3 ½”
Smithwick Suspending Super Rogue- Lime Pearl/White Pearl Belly 5”
Custom painted Smithwick Suspending Super Rogue mimics the color of the needlefish. The back is a pearl lime green with a pearl white belly.
PRADCO has a series of hooks they call the Excalibur that feature a 6 degree bend that adds a twist to help penetrate. Rapala uses the VMC hooks on all of their baits including the VMC Black Nickel Hooks on the Original Floatin series.
All lures are not created equal. You must check the hooks they come with for sharpness. Pay extra special attention to the baits you’re going to use for finesse fishing like matted grass and target fishing. A lot of times the fish will come up and barely breathe on the bait and you must have sharp hooks especially when using the lighter spinning tackle.
The best way to check the sharpness of a hook is to drag the point across your fingernail. If it grabs…good! If it doesn’t…sharpen it!
Jerkbaits are more versatile than most give them credit for. In speaking with Jim Bitter he said he uses jerkbait to catch bedding fish.
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