Jerkbaits are an angling favorite when hunting for active bass on a new body of water. Great for use in clear conditions when there’s a bit of a breeze that adds to the lures’ motion, the best jerkbaits for bass are commonplace in the tackle box of both tournament anglers and novice fisherman still honing their skills.
Jerkbait Buying Guide
Shopping for a killer jerkbait? Understanding what they are, the different types available, and exactly when and why to use them is the best way to get started.
What Is a Jerkbait?
Like most other bass fishing lure types, jerkbaits aim to imitate common bass prey like minnows and other small fish. For that reason they can range in form between long and slender, or short and round, depending on what the design is intending to mimic. They usually take colors or patterns similar to bait fish also.
Where jerkbait differ to other alternatives is in their action. Erratic and unpredictable, the movement of a jerkbait in the water can appear quite different to crankbait or spinner lures that have a smoother action. The way they are played (controlled by the angler) is less dependent on reeling (retrieve) in the line too.
When and Why to Use a Jerkbait Over Other Lure Types
Jerkbaits are best used for the angler who wants more involvement than the usual cast out and reel back in scenario. Using the rod handle and body momentum to “jerk” the lure before taking a pause, the technique can be slowed or sped up depending on preference.
In warm waters and good conditions, it’s generally advised to jerk faster to add more frenecity to the bait’s movement in the water. This is because shad, a particular fish that bass like to feed on in warm conditions, tend to behave this way when temperatures rise (often before dying).
Beginners not accustomed to the technique might want to start out with other lure types first to get used to casting and retrieving before moving on to mastering the new technique. After mastering the basics it’s good to move on to a jerkbait quickly though, especially as it can help locate bass in an area you’ve not fished before (as the movement of the lure will often attract them from hidden spots in the water).
In murkier conditions, where the water is less clear, jerkbaits are less effective as their movement in the water depends on a clear presentation (easy to see for the fish). That’s somewhere a lure dependent on lateral lines or water vibration could beat out a jerkbait.
Types of Jerkbaits
Just as the case is with other lure types, jerkbaits are also classified into subtypes and groupings according to common features and differences. Knowing what these are can help you better identify the best jerkbaits for bass.
Usually ranging from 3 to 6 inches in length, the best place to start when considering jerkbaits is the body. As a general rule, the longer the body is the larger fish you’ll be aiming to target.
Body styles of jerkbaits are generally separated into hard and soft body types.
Hard Body: Floating
Hard body jerkbaits are like their crankbait brothers. They are hard. Not hollow.
Usually made out of wood or plastic, hard body jerkbaits won’t be malleable to the touch, nor will they offer elasticity or compliance. Although this makes them almost impossible to modify, it does make them robust.
Hard body floating jerkbaits are those that sit on the top or near to the surface of the water. This makes them easily visible to the angler. Making it easy to monitor the effects of the rod jerk and twitching movements on the action of the lure, this also makes it easier to change and evaluate the success of your technique too.
They are also a good all-year-round lure, with pros suggesting to fish them on the top when schools are visible at the surface or weighing them down in winter when bass tend to sit deeper.
Hard Body: Suspending
Suspending jerkbaits make use of modern technology that enables the lure to sit at a certain depth in the water. This applies even if you’re fishing a coastal area with a current, allowing the lure to stay at a level bass are likely to be.
Suspending jerkbaits do this thanks to a hard-bodied lip. This projection outward from the body itself creates drag in the water enabling it to dive. Generally, the more angled the lip the more the lure will dive.
Hard Body: Sinking
Pros recommend using sinking jerkbaits by first allowing them to hit the bottom before pulling up (twitching) with the rod. This technique, also called “worming”, is a good one to use in spring months to catch bass around grass beds.
Sinking jerkbaits can reach the bottom at varying speeds. Again this depends on the lip but is usually the result of its size rather than its angle.
This lure type is best used in water that’s more than 10 feet in depth where floating or suspending options will struggle to reach.
Hard Body: Solid Body
Solid body jerkbaits are usually modeled after a certain type of bait fish that bass love to eat. Possible options include minnow, shad, and perch. Each has a slight variation on body type but can be categorized commonly by a single-pieced body that’s made of one type of material.
Hard Body: Jointed Body
Jointed body jerkbaits have a one-piece body but feature a joint (or more than one joint) that serves as a divider on the body separating it into separate components. Although this joint doesn’t run the entire width of the body (thus not separating it entirely) it can run deep enough to change the lure’s action.
This can make certain jerkbaits swim even more erratically than usual, giving them extra movement to help mimic injured or flailing fish that bass are likely to eat.
Soft jerkbaits can be more easily angled at different depths and give a more “consistently” erratic movement than a hard jerkbait. Although relatively newer than the harder bodied alternatives, many bass anglers have had success using them. Surprising given they usually don’t feature the treble hooks that the hard bodies have.
While debate continues over whether it’s easier to hook bass on the trebles of a hard body or the single worm hook of soft body lures, they could be better on the health of the fish. That’s something that beginners might take solace in given the damage that a messily hooked treble can do on a fish’s gills or body.
What is the Difference Between Jerkbaits and Crankbaits?
Crankbaits are another hugely popular bass fishing lure that work similarly to jerkbaits by moving in the water to attract bass. Both are usually hard plastic baits. Both usually have bills.
The difference between the two comes down to these features. The bill (or lip) on a jerkbait is generally smaller, determining a different “wiggle” action (the way it moves when reeled in by the angler). The body of a jerk is generally longer too.
Most pros recommend using jerkbaits on the shallow “upside” of the water (1-3 feet from the surface) given the fact their bill size isn’t as varied as cranks. Especially in ponds or creeks where the chance of snagging at the bottom is high.
The technique of pausing after a jerk, that these lures allow, also gives an angler more control in this situation and enables them to keep it visible beneath the surface.
The way you rig a jerkbait can give an angler an edge in certain conditions or bodies of water. The rig refers to the way the line and hook is set-up along the lure. They also take into consideration the ‘head’ (a weighted component with a hook jutting from the back).
Hard Body: Hooks
Anglers need to pay close attention the way they rig hooks on their line as that can be the single biggest factor in successfully hooking and bringing in a bass. This is often done with pins, pliers, and other tools but can be quite tricky for the beginner.
The choice over which hooks to use is an important one. If they don’t come with the jerkbait you’ll have to pick and choose yourself. Most pros go for treble hooks due to their strength and effectiveness. They tend to cost more, however.
Soft Body: Texas Rigs
Texas rigging refers to one of the most common ways of setting up a plastic jerkbait. Using a plastic worm, this method is quick, easy and a good choice for beginners with little experience setting up a cast.
It works by placing the worm on the hook and pinning its body back so the hook tip is exposed. This makes it weedless and less likely to snag on underwater options. Something that tends to happen more with crank or swimmer baits designed to be worked at depth.
Hook choice also factors into a Texas rig. The bigger hook you choose, the bigger plastic worm you’ll need to cover it. Size does tend to make it easier to rig, however, if a little more expensive.
Soft Body: Jig Heads
A jig head is another method to rig a jerkbait set-up that’s as popular as a Texas rig, but uses a single hook with a weight on its head as its main backbone. The bass angler then chooses a sleeve (the “jerkbait” body part of the lure that ) to fix onto the head.
There are a few variations when it comes to jig heads but the standard is the ball head jig that has a hook eye (tip) placed at 90 degrees. This angle of the hook determines the “glide” of the head as it falls in the water.
Like Texas rigs, jig heads are beginner friendly too with most bass anglers having a couple ready to go.
When to Choose Hard Body vs Soft Body Jerkbaits?
Hard body over soft body (and vice versa) is often dependent on angler preference but can also be fairly condition-dependent too.
Fishing in new waters where you’re unlikely to know the terrain is a good spot to use a hard bodied lure. That way they can resist the surprise of taking a beating against rocks or anything else that could mess up a softer lure.
Soft body jerkbaits are versatile enough to use in most conditions too but they’re probably most efficient used on more still, open water environments that you’re used to fishing a lot.
Pairing Jerkbaits with Other Gear
The best jerkbaits for bass become world-beaters when they’re used with the right gear. In the bass fishing world, this means pairing a lure with a suitable rod, reel and line choice that can handle both lure, fish and a range of conditions.
Rods: What Type of Rod?
Bass anglers tend to go for baitcasting or spinning rods around 6 to 7 feet in length in the medium power (degree of rod’s parabolic curve) to fast action (curve closer to rod tip) range. In terms of running jerkbaits, most pros will argue that’s still the standard set-up for good results. Some might even go for something a little faster when running a jerkbait, just to add a little more unpredictability to the lure’s movement.
Beginners will want to keep their set-up as mobile and light as possible when fishing with jerkbaits. That’s because it often involves moving to different spots and scouting the water. That’s why long, heavy power rods are probably best to avoid jerking with.
Reels: What Type of Reel?
Reels should match the rod first and the lure second. A good baitcaster or spinning reel will work well with a jerkbait. Gear ratios in the range of 6.4:1 seem the most recommended.
Beginners shouldn’t worry too much about reels as the jerkbait fishing technique relies more on the rod for the movement more than the reel. The truth is most reels will work just fine.
Line: What Type of Line? What Pound Test?
The standard bass angling fluorocarbon line of 10 to 12 pounds in test is the most versatile set-up when it comes to jerkbaits. In some conditions, you can adjust this, especially if they are on the extreme clear end (when you can go lighter) or dark murky end (when you might want to go heavier).
Beginners should probably avoid using braided line with jerkbaits however as the weight and diameter of them will likely impede on the lure’s action. This can cause them to move unnaturally in the water and potentially spook fish rather than draw them in.
Best Jerkbaits for Bass
Now with a better idea of when and why to use a jerkbait let’s move on to see some of the most recommended options out on the market.
The Rapala X-Rap Jerkbait comes in over ten different colors including gold, hot pink, and silver. Designed to suspend and roll at a depth between 3-8 feet, the Rapala is a great choice for winter or summer bass fishing in rivers, lakes, streams and anywhere else. Its integrated long-casting system makes it good for targeting hard to reach spots. It also has a rattle to help tempt fish into biting.
Dr. Fish’s Minnow range stands out from other jerkbaits with 3D lifelike eyes, a chamber rattling system, plated treble sharp hooks and a swimming action that closely resembles that of minnows themselves. Colors are black and silver with different options coming in a pack of six. Suitable for both salt and freshwater conditions and to target species other than bass like pike, walleye and musky.
The Rapala Husky Jerk is one of the most versatile jerkbaits out there, coming in a range of sizes from 6, 8, 10, 12 and 14. Larger sizes have treble hooks to help go after bigger bass while the smaller options have two hooks in order to increase successful hooking rates. Running straight and true, the Husky is also good for long casts and can be used well while trolling too.
The Livetarget Glass Minnow is an ideal choice for bass anglers fishing in clear freshwater situations where neutral buoyancy is important. Imitating a fleeing minnow, this lure has a magnetic weight transfer which adds to its erratic action. It’s also a silent jerkbait, so better for anglers who aren’t fans of the rattle.
This Strike King jerkbait features premium black nickel hooks and 3D-eyes with a good roll, wiggle and flash in the water that goes a long way in attracting bass. Available in over 20 colors, options include clear, clown, yellow perch, sexy ghost, and clearwater. Diving from 4 to 8 feet this is another good suspending jerkbait option for anglers preferring to fish a little deeper than the surface.
Jerkbaits, through their use of the unique twitch and pause technique, are a lot of fun to use. Choosing the best jerkbaits for bass out there can take that entertainment to a whole other level.