Lots of Jerks!
Guest Blog by: Neal Wilkinson 3/18/2017
Spring is jerk bait time? Of course. But so is the rest of the open water season! Because jerk baits are such an effective cold water presentation, we walleye and wiper fisherman tend to forget that bass fisherman utilize them with deadly results all year long. Today we have an amazing selection of different style baits to choose from. No predator fish is immune to the seductive distress signals a properly presented jerk bait emits!
The gateway drug to jerk bait fishing for me was the Rapala Floating Minnow. This bait, while not technically a jerk bait, has probably caught more game fish than any stick bait ever. What I will attempt to do here is cover the main ones I use and the three categories I group them in. This is by no means the end all, be all list but this will be a good guideline as to which style of baits you should consider putting in your arsenal. Or, pick a few of each style and learn how to fish them.
My first category is floating stick baits that dive anywhere from 2-4 feet deep depending on the model. These are not suspending baits, but they perform a very important task after walleye spawn and the water warms up into the low 50s. I use these baits at night to cast shallow parallel to shore. We used to jokingly call this throwing sparks, every once in a while we would bounce one off the rocks and you would see a spark. After the bait lands, I start reeling slowly to get it tracking right along the rocks. Then, every once in a while, I give it a couple of pops with my rod. This is when they usually bite. No matter what people may tell you, there are lots of big fish in shallow water at night! If you are not getting bit casting out from shore, make sure you cover your flanks. The two baits I use for this situation are the old reliable floating rap and the BPS floater. Sometimes the rattles in the BPS bait really draws them in. Donít be surprised either if a big wiper crashes the party. Wipers love rattling baits at night, especially once you get to the end of May and into June.
The second category is the bait class that everyone is familiar with and is what most people generically refer to as jerkbaits. This broad category includes the classic Rouge, X-Rap, Husky Jerks, Bomber Long A, BPS baits, Lucky Craft Pointers, etc. They all catch fish and everyone has their favorite. When the water is still very cold in March, you canít go wrong with the Rouge or the X-Rap. I am more of an X-Rap guy, but they both suspend reliably right out of the box in cold water. I am not a very patient guy when it comes to the pause. That may be one argument that will never be universally proven or agreed upon? Experiment and find what works for you.
Letís discuss size for a minute. Most of these standard baits come in at 4 to 4 Ĺ inches long. While fishing during daylight in the spring for walleye and wiper, the smaller sizes are fine. My three favorite daytime baits are the #10 X-rap and the Pointer 68 and 100. At night, forget everything you think you know about jerk baits. Size really does matter! I actually prefer six inch baits. I would not hesitate to throw bigger baits if they were easier to cast. I feel walleyes especially, feel your bait long before they ever see it. Move water and it simulates what these big female walleye are looking to eat, namely big shad, perch and trout. Big and loud is good! I have also found that at night, wiper like rattles. Maybe the extra sensory stimulation makes up for the night time sight advantage that the walleyes possess that wipers donít? If you fish a water with both species, a five inch rattling stick is a good compromise.
As far as color goes, I honestly donít worry as much about that anymore at night. I think difference in vibration is much more important! I want to move water and stimulate the predator instinct of the biggest fish available. That said, I love Purple Ghost, LOL. I also like Chrome sides during a full moon. During the day, choose jerk bait colors just like you would with any crank bait. Any flavor of trout is an excellent choice for wiper.
The third category is the deep divers. This category is best represented by Deep Husky Jerks, Deep Thundersticks, Pointer Staysee, etc. I use these during the day from my boat. While this is the category I have the least experience with, I am learning. Itís important to continue to experiment. I especially like them when fish are neither shallow nor deep. Letís say you have fish in 8-12 feet of water, but you are reluctant to pass over them with your boat for fear of spooking them. But, they are not responding to more aggressive lures. Recently I have started throwing them as a follow-up after a fish follows when snap jigging or when I just know there are fish that havenít responded to anything else. You can also fish these very aggressively and fast as the water warms. I call this a suspended walk the dog. Smallmouths also really like this.
Most of my jerkbaiting is done with a 7í medium heavy spinning rod, Shimano Stradic ci4 and 17 lb Nano Thread. My leaders range from 10 to 15lb fluorocarbon depending on where I am fishing. I always go heavy at night. Even with that setup, I have been broken off by big wipers! Some guys prefer baitcasting and that is just a personal preference thing. For me spinning always works better at night and it also lets me cover a lot of water during the day.
Blog content © Neal Wilkinson
Whiskerhunter, CO 3/18/2017 9:59:54 AM
Good stuff Neal
cookster, CO 3/18/2017 12:25:09 PM
Great blog Neal, I'v been wanting to try jerk baits more this year and now I have a starting point. Thanks
D-Zilla, CO 3/18/2017 2:46:24 PM
I love jerk baits, but I am still learning to use them. Even I can get lucky some days though and the fish like what I'm doing. (even though it's probably wrong)
The key is to experiment though, and that's pretty much all I do.
FISHRANGLER, CO 3/18/2017 4:33:18 PM
FlyFishingJoe, CO 3/19/2017 9:34:05 AM
Great read Neal!
opencage, CO 3/21/2017 12:56:30 PM
One of my favorite techniques is trolling with a 4 inch floating rapala (usually just the regular silver/black one) a couple feet behind a bottom bouncer and paying close attention to my fish finder. I've had a lot of success with a number of different species this way.
WhoBear, CO 3/21/2017 1:28:41 PM
Good writing Neal
spicyhombre, CO 3/22/2017 8:42:49 PM
I love jerk baits. They are fun to work and they catch fish. Good intro on the subject! Like you mentioned you need to experiment with cadence and pauses. It key to pay attention to what you are doing so you can do it again when successful.