Most jerkbaits are designed to imitate baitfish – while a few mimics the looks and action of an amphibian or a mouse. Generally jerbaits are large lures and considered go-to lures for pike or muskie. But actually slightly downsized jerbaits also account for quite a few trophy-sized zander, walleye, bass and trout.
Usually jerkbaits have no lip to make them dive and wobble. They have no build-in action and are not very interesting when fished with a steady retrieve. They do however come to life, when you make small sharp pulls, jerks and longer gliding movement with your rod tip.
Some jerkbaits float, other suspends… or sinks at a controlled speed, enabling you to count them down to the desired depth before starting your retrieve.
Every model of jerkbait has got it’s own personality, and needs some testing to figure out the best retrieve pattern. When you really know your lures, you can make them do just about anything down there, except eat and breed.
Most important… especially in hard fished waters where fish tends to get picky and play hard to get: Jerkbaits stands out… and your ability to bring them to life can turn jerkbaits into regular game changers. They don’t swim predictable like your standard wobbler or inline blade. They are more like jigs… in the sense that it’s all up to you to make them provoke or just look edible. And when you get it right, they are deadly.
Jerkbaits for pike and muskie are usually between 10 cm to 25 cm (4 to 10 inches) in length weighing between 30 and 200 grams (approximately 1 to 7 oz.) – with 2-4 oz. being a good place to start. For bass, walleye and trout smaller jerkbaits will be better suited.
To be able to cast heavy lures and make short and sharp pulls, you’re best of with a short rod. Most jerkbait rods are between 6 ft. and 6.6 ft. in length. They are pretty stiff, fast action but should have lot’s of power all the way down through the handle. Casting weights vary and you can get rods that will handle lures up to 200 grams (7 oz.) or more. Personally I find it more fun and pleasant to use baits from 30 grams to 90 grams. Still it takes sturdy tackle.
Preferably baitcasting reels
I prefer baitcasting reels for jerk fishing, actually I prefer baitcasting reels for any kind of lure fishing – with the exception of ultra-light lure fishing and finesse presentation of jigs and softbaits. For jerkbaits… I find a baitcasting reel a must. Casting heavy lures isn’t pleasurable using fixed spool reels in my opinion. You have much more control over the lure during casting, retrieve and fight using a baitcaster. And a fixed spool reel doesn’t handle heavy lines very well. Whether you choose a classic round baitcaster or a low profile model is a personal thing. I love both types: The low profile for their ergonomics and the classics for looks. Both will get the job done :0)
Lines need to be some kind of non-stretch braided line, to enable you to transfer the small movements of the rod tip directly out to your lure, and to be able to set the hooks. Line dimension 0.25 to 0.40 mm.
If you target pike or muskie you will need a leader that could stand up the task. That means wire or heavy hard mono/fluorocarbon. I prefer wire and usually the soft coated multi strand type. Other jerkbaiters prefer the stiff single wire leaders – especially for muskie. In clear water lakes and streams I feel that a clear mono leader may get you more strikes, but if there’s a chance for trophy-sized fish… I prefer wire.
Walking the dog
Most kinds of jerkbaits are fished in some variation over the walking-the-dog retrieve. The jerk-pause-jerk retrieve will result in a zigzag swimming pattern, where the lure dashes from side to side like a very ill mannered dog on a leash.
You can perform walk-the-dog on the surface, right under… or as deep as your lure allows. As mentioned earlier, each lure acts differently when fished, so you gotta kind of decipher the optimal code of jerks, pauses and tempo to hit the sweet spot.
Don’t start to heavy
Start with a light to medium baitcasting outfit. I feel that a lot of people start out with extreme heavy tackle and quickly loose the interest… because of that. Jerkbait fishing should not be like a day at the gym. It should be fun :0)