Jerkbait Fishing Tips: Techniques, Seasonal Favorites

Twitch-Twitch-Pause, Twitch-Twitch-Pause, does that sound all too familiar.  Every jerkbait fisherman will inevitably develop their own cadence. Finding the perfect pattern that works all season long is what jerkbait fishing is all about.

You can throw jerkbaits all year long.  Doesn’t matter if your fishing the shallows in the early spring or fishing those hot summer lulls, you’ll be able to bring in a ton of bass.  

Throughout the years I’ve developed my technique and figured out a few simple tips to bring your jerkbait game up to the next level.  So continue reading so you can learn a few of my favorite jerkbait tips.

A Few of My Favorite Jerkbaits

  • Rapala X-Rap: Rapala’s X-Rap is a nice budget jerkbait perfect for all around bass fishing. You can either cast or troll the X-Rap for extra versatility. It’s nose forward bill allows it to quickly dive into position and really slash from side to side as you jerk.
  • Smithwick Rattlin Rogue: This is one of the original suspending jerkbaits with a cult-like following. Go with the larger 5 1/2 inch model that allows for longer casts. The rattle really helps when fishing murky/muddy water.
  • Rapala Husky Jerk: A classic design that works well in shallow applications(4-6 feet of water). It suspends well and works perfectly during the spawn.

Jerkbait Fishing Tips

Jerkbaits aren’t just for pre-spawn cold water fishing.  They’re deadly effective all year round. Doesn’t matter what kind of mood bass are in, if you know how to efficiantly cover water you’ll get a ton of bites.

Find The Right Pause

Figuring out the right fishing cadence will make or break your day.  In general terms your cadence is the rhythm you choose to fish on any given day.  Basically it all comes down to the way your lures designed and the manner in which you fish it.

When fishing a jerkbait it’s all about those rips, twitches and cranks between each and every pause.  Remember that your trying to mimic baitfish so try to find something natural. Do baitfish always swim in a straight line or do wounded fish swim erratically?

Shad casually foraging around weeds will look different than one evading predators.  Match what’s naturally occuring in the wild. When bass are actively feeding, fast erratic movements work best.  On those slow fishing days you’ll want to throw in a long lingering pause.

How Long Should Your Pause Be?

Fishing a jerkbait in cold water is going to take a lot of patience.  We often forget that we need to match our presentation to the bass’ mood.  In colder water where bass are lazy/lethargic you need long drawn out pauses.  On warmer days your pause can be short and aggressive.

Since fish are cold blooded their metabolism is going to slow down when the temperature drops.  Forcing yourself to slow down is the only way to catch cold water bass. I always use a counting method when figuring out my pause.  

Figure out how long it takes until you get your first bite and repeat the process a little bit slower.  Before long you should know exactly what’s working and what’s not.

Understand the Water Temperature

Before settling on any one single technique it’s nice to know the water temperature.  When the temperature dips down low you’ll have to slow everything down.

  • 55+ Degrees:  When the water temperature is above 55 degrees they are going to be fairly active.  Depending on the season they’ll either be going into their spring or fall transition.  This is when bass are going to be actively feeding so fast presentations are best.
  • 50 Degrees:  Most fish are going to be fairly active and willing to bite faster moving prey.  A solid 3-5 count should bring in the most bites. Start with a shorter pause and increase if you’re not getting any bites.
  • 45-50 Degrees:  Once the temps drop into the 40’s everything starts to slow down.  Some of the bigger bass that retain body heat will still actively feed, but you’ll want to extend your pause.  Go with a minimum of 5 seconds and work your way up to 10 second pauses. Avoid the urge to speed up your retrieve, because these are the days when jerkbaits really shine.
  • 45 and Below:  Now we’re approaching cold water territory where you really have to wait.  Focus on long 10+ second pauses between jerks. Going any longer than 15 seconds will quickly drive you crazy.  At that point you’ll want to try out another lure.

Fall on a Slack Line

Jerkbait action is entirely dependent on the way you move your rod tip.  They aren’t designed like crankbaits and other lures. To improve your action introduce a little bit of slack in your line.  Only use your reel to reel in the excess slack limiting your movement.

That little bit of slack is what really sends your jerkbait on those erratic jumps.  Allow the bait to glide naturally and fully settle as you pause. Before you make that next jerk drop the tip of your rod creating a little more jerk.  

Jerking on a tight line really limits the way your lure is going to move. It’s that crazy action that really draws in all those strikes.  

Fish Those Deep Water Drop-Offs

When the water starts to get cold bass tend to head for those steep drop-offs.  As the surface water starts to cool they head towards deep water, but they still like easy access to the shallows.  Vertical drops allow them to quickly head towards the shallows to feed without wasting extra energy on the transition.

I always look for large vertical drops right near the edge of spring bedding areas.  Just keep an eye out fro shallow water bait in the colder months. When there’s bait you’ll always find bass nearby.

Choosing Your Lure Color

Don’t get all caught up when choosing the right lure color.  Focus on keeping things simple using a few basic color patterns.  If you match the forage species you’ll always get bites. Everything else is just a matter of personal preference.

Take a look at the sky so you can get an idea of the underwater visibility.  On bright and sunny days you’ll want metallic and clear lures so you don’t stand out.  When it’s cloudy and overcast dull colors are going to offer a much better presentation.  

Try Fishing Nearby Cover

You don’t want to completely avoid underwater cover.  On those cold winter days bass head for anything that will give them a little more heat.  Since wood retains heat throughout the day those are natural targets.

They head towards nearby docks, laydowns and brush piles looking for that 1-2 degree heat advantage over their prey.  While you’ll probably get snagged working directly over brush you can always work parallel to it.

Don’t be afraid to cast towards visible cover trying to draw out fish.  It’ll probably take a little practice, but once you regularly get close you’re sure to catch a few monsters.

Chase The Wind

I can’t count the number of time I’ve been told to chase the wind when jerkbait fishing.  Honestly it’s hard to say why windy days are so great. Probably has something to do with surface visibility.  

Those ripples and waves break up the sunlight making your lure just a little less visible.  In clear water lakes that slight change in visibility might just be enough to lure in that wairy bass.

Don’t Fish Extremely Dirty Water

Just remember that jerkbait fishing is all about visibility.  There’s not going to be any vibration to attract a strike and less water displacement so they need to be able to see your lure.  All jerkbaits have going for them is their natural movement.

You need at least 1.5-2 feet of visibility to effectively work a jerkbait.  Any less than that and you’re better off working a lure with more water displacement.

Keep an Eye Out For Dying Shad

Late in the year you should start to see schools of dead shad floating on the water.  This is the perfect time to bring out your jerkbaits. Since you’re trying to mimic the twitch of a dying shad anyway you can’t go wrong.  

Go with a slow drawn out cadence of 3-4 jerks followed by a long drawn out pause. Considering the water temperature is close to 40 degrees you want a long 10+ second pause.  Most of the time you’ll get a strike a few seconds after the pause.

Fishing Different Seasons

The bad news is you can’t use the same technique all year long. However, you can fish a jerkbait throughout all 4 seasons. You just need to make a few changes to your approach.


Spring is by far my favorite time to fish a jerkbait, but you need a different technique between the pre-spawn,spawn and post-spawn periods. Temperatures quickly change throughout the spring so you’ll have to adapt fast.

Prespawn: During the pre-spawn phasse focus on deep water locations. While fishing cold water you’ll use the same basic techniques that you use throughout winter.

The water temperature is still cold so fish hold in deep water close to their shallow spawning beds.  Try to key on those staging areas between winter and spawn locations. Look for those areas that offer quick transitions from deep to shallow water.

Spawn: When the water reaches that magic 60 degree mark bass head towards the spawning areas. They swarm to the shallow water flats, creeks and bays.

During the spawn focus on suspending and floating jerkbaits. Rapala’s X-Rap Jerkbait really cleans up in 3-8 feet of water.

Post-Spawn: Post spawn bass are going to hang around the shallows for a while before heading off to deeper water. They’ll be looking for an easy meal so longer pauses work well.

During this phase go with a slow floating jerkbait like the Rapala Shadow Rap Shad. It’s a slow-riser on the pause perfect for 3-4 feet of water.


Most people don’t like fishing jerkbaits during the summer months. I’ll still use jerkbaits, but only on those rare occasions when nothing else seems to work.

During the summer you have to go deep or around cover which normally means out of effective jerkbait range. Your best bet is to fish flats in the early mornings and late evenings when bass are actively feeding.

This is the only times they’ll go shallow enough to effectively work a jerkbait. You’d probably be better off working a faster moving lure like a squarebill crankbait.


Bring out your jerkbaits after the first two cold fronts come along towards the end of summer. Bass start heading into their fall patterns which means they’re actively feeding for winter.

They start thinking “Bait,Bait,Bait,Bait,Bait”. As long as you match the forage you should have success during the fall.

Look for those big balls of shad on your fish finder and work a floating or suspending models nearby. Target the backs of creeks nearby windy banks where bait naturally schools.


You can even fish a jerkbait during the cold winter period if you know where to look.  Fish are going to be much less active staying near deeper water.

Focus on large dropoffs that offer quick access to shallow water.  Switch between sinking, suspending and suspending spoonbill models so you can work down 10-15 feet.

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