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Jerkbait Tactics ...by David (Chonger) Chong

Chonger

There is probably no better way to cover water, find fish, and cause a reaction bite than well executed jerk bait techniques. Most experienced anglers and tournament pros would feel naked leaving the launch without an array of their favorite search and chase baits. The results they produce become addicting very quickly as a single day on the water whipping smallmouth into a frenzy and having them crush these sub surface dart baits is a feeling not easily forgotten.  Once hooked, anglers will spare no expense to find that perfect jerk bait and for many it is the single largest investment in their tackle bag.  

There is certainly no shortage of supply and variation of size and colour with price ranging from a few dollars to upwards of $60. Even after spending a small fortune on a lure, some professional anglers spend hours fine tuning these tools by modifying lips, adding weight strips, changing hooks, all to perfect the bait to act exactly as they want it to in a particular situation.  For some it becomes an obsession and for most there are results to justify the obsession.

Jerk baits are a good example of “you get what you pay for” and as you perfect the techniques it becomes painfully obvious that research and quality will cost you and produce for you. One of the leading manufacturer of high end hard baits is Lucky Craft. Lucky Craft evolved in 1992 out of a Japanese manufacturing company that specialized in popular toy robots. After a few years of research, Lucky Craft produced one of the most popular lures on the pro tours.

I purchased my first Lucky Craft jerkbait 16 years ago. I was on a trip to California to attend my cousin’s wedding! While we were there I took the opportunity to fish Lake Casitas. I had the pleasure of fishing  with local guide and tournament angler, Dana Rosen. The year prior, Dana and his tournament partner, Daren Tokihara, had won a tournament on Casitas with a 5 fish limit weighing in at 63.26 lbs. As luck would have it, after being sunny and warm for two weeks previous, a cold front rolled in and the temperatures dropped fifteen degrees Fahrenheit. It also started raining and did so for the two days straight. Of course we still went out one day but the results reflected the weather.

Succumbing to the disappointment of not being able to fish due to the weather, I’d thought a good way to scratch my itch would be to visit a few local tackle shops. My treasure hunt proved to be very fruitful as I found all kinds of cool stuff that I had never seen back home. One of the treasures that I discovered was a Lucky Craft Pointer 100 jerkbait which was priced like gold. I do believe that I paid $30 for a lure that would eventually revolutionize the way that I fish and how I would look at high end lures. Keep in mind that this was 16 years ago so $30 was worth quite a bit more than it is today. When I arrived home and showed off my trophy purchase, not surprisingly I was mocked for having wasted that much money on “just another jerkbait”!

The months rolled by and bass season finally arrived. My tournament partner at that time, Rob Lee, was usually the one in our boat who would be throwing a jerkbait. Throwing a jerkbait on a casting combo was very hard on my arm, especially my elbow which had suffered many injuries in the past. I wanted to try my new Pointer 100 out and rigged it up on a 6’5” medium action spinning rod with a fast tip. We were out on Lake Simcoe practicing for an up-coming event and the Smallies were just crushing my Pointer. Rob was throwing his favorite  J-bait and I was out fishing him at least 10 to 1. Although we were tournament partners, there was always a level of friendly competitiveness between us.

“Ahhh, you just got lucky!” lamented Rob at the end of the day. I was so elated with my “Lucky” that I called a friend of mine in California and had him track down a few more Pointer 100’s for me. I received them just before the tournament and the rest is history. Oh, by the way, all those guys who made fun of me weren't’t exactly laughing as my tournament partners and I took their money. Today most tournament anglers don’t blink an eye at dropping $20, $30 even $40 on a lure and like me they will go to no ends to make sure they have baits they are confident in.

Presentation
The way that you present your jerkbait can vary dependent on the mood of the fish that day. If the fish are feeding aggressively, you can work your bait hard and fast. One technique that delivers good results for me is “walking the dog”.  It is important to allow slack in your line between jerks in order to build the proper cadence. Once you obtain the proper cadence your bait will perform a “Walk the Dog” action beneath the water surface. Giant Smallies cannot resist this action. It almost seems like it makes them mad and they want to kill your lure. There is a great deal of detail that needs attention to become a good jerkbaiter!  walking the dog

Walking the Dog is often thought to be a technique for top water baits. With baits like Zara Spooks or Lucky Craft Sammy, you can see the bait working. This might be the best way to perfect the action while it’s visible. You will notice that the longer the pause and slacker the line, the wider the walking pattern will be. Once you have several patterns together, try using a jerk bait at various speeds.

How a fish that you catch on a jerkbait is hooked can tell you a great deal about the mood of the fish. If it is hooked on the front hook, then it was very aggressive. If it is hooked on the back hook then it was interested enough to bite but not with much enthusiasm. The way a fish follows a jerkbait, even if it doesn’t strike can give you clues as to how to get it to bite! The sooner that you are able to spot a following fish, the better your chances of catching it are! Here is where a top notch quality pair of polarized sun glasses is invaluable! I always used good glasses and now I use Maui Jims because they are designed for water and have exceptional optics. There are several quality brands on the market and some even have built in magnifiers for tying knots with older eyes.

Tackle

Rods - The length of rod you use may depend on how tall you are or the most comfortable way to get the required action, or even what type of rod, spinning or casting you like to use. The traditional jerk style many die hard jerkbaiters have adapted is to have the rod in front of them jerking the tip down towards the water. Because of my height it’s difficult to use all my techniques using a longer rod so I have adapted my style to using a side motion. I use a 6’6” – 6’ 10”, medium action with a fast tip. You can use a short more flexible rod if you want to perfect traditional motion. Another reason I like to use a longer rod is the sweep motion during hook set is much longer taking up more line and avoiding being handcuffed. Many of the techniques require periods where the line is slack and if the line is not tight when the tip is high in the air, you have nowhere to go shy of running down the boat to set the hook.

Reels - Once again this is where quality pays off. An ultra smooth drag is an absolute most. This is also where practice makes perfect because you either have to have the patience to wait for a fish to turn when it strikes, or you will have to adjust your drag to compensate for the required delay. Years of experience have taught me to wait for the turn but I still use a lighter than normal drag setting, particularly on larger baits or a soft bite. I use a Daiwa 2500 sized spinning reel. Daiwa produce some of the smoothest and most consistent drag systems in the business.  

Line - For bass or walleye rigs I like to throw my jerks on 14 lbs. test Berkley Fireline. New micro braids have an extremely thin diameter so I can use a higher test rating than I would be able to with mono. I add a 15 lbs. test Stren 100% Fluorocarbon leader when met with extreme water clarity. The leader serves a dual purpose. First it makes the line invisible and second it keeps the vary limp braid line from catching in the hooks if the line is slack.

Jerkbaiting is a presentation that can trigger a reaction bite when the fish really don’t want to bite. Jerkbaits can also cover a tremendous amount of water. We’ll delve into the finer points about jerkbaiting including tournament secrets from some of Canada’s best jerkbait anglers in a future article. In the meantime, if you enjoy an exciting style of fishing that catches big fish, try throwing a jerkbait and see if you don’t get “LUCKY”!

 

David Chong is a seasoned professional tournament angler with multiple tournament and AOY titles for bass and multi spices tours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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