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Best Jerkbait Lures for Year-Round Bass Fishing

Versatile minnow lures offer all-season solutions in various conditions

Best Jerkbait Lures for Year-Round Bass Fishing

Diving jerkbait (this one looks to be a 4- to 6-foot suspender) is a good tool, both for schooling action in fall, and for "jacket season" when fish may be less active.

Jerkbaits—and here we’re talking about the hard-plastic lipped plug types, not the softbaits—possess a fish-tempting versatility that defies calendar constraints. The ability to hold a minnow-mimicking profile either directly in front of the fish, or saunter it through the strike zone with enticing vulnerability will garner interest whenever bass are feeding on shad or bream.

We won’t digress into a breakdown of various jerkbait styles, but for the majority of Florida Lakes, the choice is simple: floaters or suspenders. Both can work, but while the latter tends to have the broadest applicability, keep in mind the option of modifying a floating jerkbait for suspending duties. Sinking jerkbaits can become more of a liability than an asset in Florida’s shallow, weedy waters—unless you’re fishing one of our deeper lakes like those found along the Lake Wales Ridge.


FALL: Autumn generally sees an uptick in bass feeding. That’s less for the sharp seasonal changes soon to be felt in upper latitudes, as for the approaching spawn, which arrives significantly earlier in Florida. Regardless, the fish are in a chewing mood and jerkbaits are the ideal imitator of the shad that bass will be schooling on in the year’s fourth quarter.

The ferocity of schooling activity often leaves a few wounded shad struggling in the water column, where a jerkbait’s vulnerability makes an easy target for attacking bass. As a search bait, or a targeted presentation to breaking fish, a jerkbait’s tough to beat.

WINTER: With the exception of post-frontal days in which bright sun and high pressure send bass burrowing into dense cover, the December-February period often finds bass willing to slurp in a suspending jerkbait lazily twitched and paused over deep grass, alongside a dock or off the point of a hyacinth mat.

Generally, when the winter sun’s out, working a translucent jerkbait with a dark back within a foot or two of the surface can be money.

SPRING: If your conventional flipping/pitching baits wear out their welcome, making that fish stare at a jerkbait suspending overhead eventually red-lines the aggression. Also, spooky bed fish may bolt on your approach, but eventually sneak back into position. Needless to say, returning to find what looks like a marauding bluegill sizing up the nest may push that fish over the edge.

Backing up a few steps, throwing jerkbaits for staging prespawners is a real sleeper technique worth a few casts. Hit those points at the mouths of canals, trace a jerkbait through workable lanes in pad stems and poke around isolated grass clumps leading into spawning flats.

Terry Scroggins, one of Florida’s most renowned tournament pros, once shared a technique for tempting bass holding off the deep end of a shell bar: Cast over the bar, twitch your bait down a foot or two and slowly work it into the waiting room. In his St. Johns River home waters Scroggins leverages tidal current to carry his bait, but in either case, the appearance of an easy meal washing over a shell bar is nearly a guaranteed sale.

SUMMER: After the spawn, those tired and stressed-out mamas will slide out to deeper recovery zones where easy meals top their preference. Also, bedding bream present easy targets that postspawners will not overlook. Even as summer drones on, bream beds remain a reliable bass pattern, so along with those prop baits, swim jigs and spinnerbaits, twitch a jerkbait around the cluster of beds and you may trigger an opportunistic bass lurking around the perimeter.


Adjust buoyancy by applying adhesive lead strips or dots to the belly—or a few wraps of lead wire around hook shanks. Sizing your treble hooks up or down also affects buoyancy; and using a larger hook on the front or rear creates a nosedown or tail-down posture.

For quick hook changes, start by opening one end of a split ring and sliding the existing hook between the coils. This props open the ring and allows you to grip the replacement hook with pliers and slide it onto the ring’s open end. Pushing on the new hook, pushes off the original hook with a single efficient move.

Even if you like your bait’s hooks, consider replacing them—and the split rings after a busy day of jerkbait action. Consider the stress hooks and rings endure after several rounds of removing the bait from a fish with plier tension.

Color preferences can change by season but adding an orange stripe to a jerkbait’s belly enhances the bream ruse—a deadly move during spring and summer, particularly. Lastly, feathered treble hooks to coax bass after a cold front, as the “breathing” action you get from jerks and pauses adds a lifelike element. FS

Florida Sportsman Magazine October 2020

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