How To Fish Jerkbaits: Pro Tips

How To Fish Jerkbaits: Pro Tips

What is it? Why should you use it? Types of tshirt

Key takeaways

  •  Jerkbaits are lures that move side-to-side like an injured baitfish to catch fish like bass, redfish, and trout.
  •  There are different types of jerkbaits for different water depths - sinking, floating, suspending, and neutrally buoyant. Pick the right type based on where the fish are.
  •  Match the jerkbait size and color to the baitfish in the area. Brighter colors work better in murky water.

Jerkbaits, popular among anglers since the 1930s, are versatile lures that mimic the erratic, off-center wobble of injured baitfish. Designed by Finnish angler Lauri Rapala, these lures feature a thin, elongated body with two treble hooks and a front lip, available in floating, suspending, and deep diving options.

Jerkbaits effectively catch various fish species, especially bass and other predatory fish like redfish and trout. You jerk the rod while reeling, causing the jerkbait to dart side-to-side, eliciting reaction bites.

Table of Contents

Types of Jerkbaits

Hard-bodied Jerkbaits

Hard-bodied jerkbaits are a popular choice among anglers, thanks to their durable construction and realistic appearance. These lures are typically made from tough plastic or metal materials, ensuring long-lasting performance even after multiple catches. Hard-bodied jerkbaits are designed to closely mimic the shape and profile of small baitfish, making them irresistible to predatory fish. 

Soft Jerkbaits

Soft jerkbaits, on the other hand, are constructed from pliable soft plastic materials, allowing for a more natural and lifelike presentation in the water. These lures can be fished using various methods, such as rigging them like a soft plastic jerkbait or attaching them to a weighted jighead for added depth control and better casting distance. One of the main advantages of soft jerkbaits is their ability to be fished in and around aquatic vegetation without snagging, making them an excellent choice for targeting fish in weed beds and other structures.

Buoyancy Options

Jerkbaits are available in different buoyancy options, each designed for specific fishing situations.

Sinking Jerkbaits

Sinking jerkbaits are effective for targeting fish at various depths.

Neutrally Buoyant Jerkbaits

Neutrally buoyant lures maintain a specific depth in the water column.

Floating Jerkbaits

Floating jerkbaits are perfect for shallow water or surface-feeding fish.

Suspending Jerkbaits

Suspending jerkbaits pause at a specific depth when not being retrieved, allowing for a more natural presentation.

Rattles, Colors, and Hooks

Some jerkbaits feature built-in rattles that create an enticing sound when the lure is in motion. This additional auditory stimulus can help attract fish from a distance and trigger strikes.

Jerkbaits come in a wide variety of colors, including translucent, chrome, chartreuse, and red, among others. Color selection should be based on factors such as water clarity, weather conditions, and the preferences of the target fish species. These lures also come in various sizes, enabling anglers to choose the most appropriate option for the fish they are targeting and the prevailing fishing conditions.

Jerkbaits are typically fitted with treble hooks, which can vary in size, style, and material. High-quality treble hooks are known for their sharpness and durability, ensuring a solid hook-set and reducing the chances of fish coming unbuttoned during the fight. Selecting the appropriate treble hook can enhance the lure's overall performance and improve hook-up rates.

Choosing the Right Jerkbait

Water Depth and Clarity

When choosing the appropriate jerkbait for your fishing conditions, there are several crucial elements to take into account. Water depth and clarity play a significant role in determining the most effective jerkbait type. In clear, shallow water, floating or neutrally buoyant jerkbaits are often the best choice, as they allow for a more natural presentation closer to the surface. Conversely, in deeper or stained water, sinking or suspending jerkbaits can be more effective, as they can reach the desired depth where fish are holding.

Baitfish Matching

Another important factor to consider is the size and color of the baitfish in the area. Matching the size of your jerkbait to the prevalent forage can increase your chances of success, as predatory fish are more likely to strike a lure that closely resembles their natural prey. Color selection should also be based on the water clarity and lighting conditions. In clear water or bright sunlight, more natural and translucent colors often work well, while in stained water or overcast conditions, brighter and more contrasting colors can be more effective at catching the fish's attention.

Seasonal Considerations

Seasonal considerations also play a role in jerkbait selection. During colder months, fish tend to be less active and may prefer slower-moving, suspending jerkbaits that maintain a specific depth in the water column. As water temperatures rise in the spring and summer, fish become more aggressive, and faster-moving, floating, or sinking jerkbaits can be more effective at triggering reaction strikes.

Fishing Conditions

Matching the jerkbait type to the specific fishing conditions is crucial for maximizing your success on the water. For example, when fishing around heavy cover or vegetation, weedless soft jerkbaits may be the best option to avoid snags and allow for a more natural presentation. In open water or along deep structure, hard-bodied jerkbaits with a longer casting distance and more erratic action can be more effective at covering water and enticing strikes from suspended fish.


Jerkbait Fishing Techniques

The Right Rod and Reel Setup

To effectively fish with jerkbaits, it's essential to have the right rod and reel setup. A medium to medium-heavy power rod with a fast or extra-fast action tip is ideal for imparting the necessary twitching and jerking motions to the lure. Pair this with a high-quality baitcasting reel or a spinning reel with a smooth drag system to ensure optimal performance and control.

The Jerking Technique

Mastering the proper jerking technique is crucial for success with jerkbaits. Begin by snapping the rod tip downward in a quick, sharp motion to create an erratic, side-to-side movement in the lure. This action mimics the behavior of a wounded or panicked baitfish, which can trigger aggressive strikes from nearby predators. Experiment with various retrieves, including alternating between short and long jerks, as well as incorporating pauses between twitches to allow the jerkbait to suspend or slowly rise in the water column.

Maintaining Line Tension and Hook Setting

Maintaining a tight line throughout the retrieve is essential for detecting subtle bites and setting the hook effectively. Keep the rod tip pointed down and maintain constant contact with the lure, feeling for any changes in tension or movement that may indicate a strike. When a fish hits, set the hook swiftly and firmly by snapping the rod tip upward and reeling in any slack line.

Pause and Twitch Retrieve

In addition to the standard jerking technique, employing a pause and twitch retrieve can be highly effective at triggering reaction bites. After casting the jerkbait, allow it to sink to the desired depth before beginning a series of short, sharp twitches followed by a brief pause. During the pause, the jerkbait will suspend or slowly rise in the water column, mimicking a disoriented or vulnerable baitfish. This technique can be particularly useful when fish are less active or in pressured fishing situations, as the added time between movements allows fish to closely inspect and commit to striking the lure.

Jerkbait vs Crankbait

While jerkbaits and crankbaits share some similarities as hard plastic lures, which can lead to confusion among anglers, there are several key differences between them:

Body Shape

Jerkbaits have an elongated, minnow-shaped body with flattened sides, while crankbaits have a deeper, tear-drop shaped body with a rounder cross-section.

Lip Size

Jerkbaits have smaller lips and rely on a combination of density and lip design for diving depth, while crankbaits have larger, more varied lips that allow them to dive deeper.

Size and Hooks

Jerkbaits are thin and long with three treble hooks, whereas crankbaits are typically short and fat with two treble hooks.

Suitable Conditions

Jerkbaits are more adaptable across different seasons, water temperatures, and depths, while crankbaits are best suited for deep water fishing.

Retrieval Action

When retrieved, jerkbaits display a side-to-side swimming action that mimics an injured or disoriented baitfish, while crankbaits exhibit an aggressive, wriggling action that mimics baitfish movement.


Jerkbait fishing is an exciting and effective way to catch many types of predatory fish. By learning about the different jerkbaits, picking the right one for the conditions, and practicing the proper techniques for retrieving the lure, you can greatly improve your chances of success. Don't be afraid to try different jerkbaits, colors, and sizes, and pay attention to how the fish react throughout the seasons. Jerkbait fishing is fun and addictive, and it will keep you wanting to go fishing again and again, no matter your skill level.

Stay up to date with the latest fishing techniques, news, and insider tips by visiting the Baitium blog.



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