Having grown up in Oklahoma, where the off-colored conditions typically dominate bass waters in the state, it is hard to separate Jeff Reynolds from his trusty spinnerbait. But during the postspawn, the Bassmaster Elite Series pro is quick to tie on a jerkbait.
These days, that is most likely a Yo-Zuri Jerk-O suspending version designed to finesse suspended bass (and others) into committing a big mistake.
"Prime time for a bait like this is in the postspawn," the four-time Bassmaster Classic contender says. "You know, when bass come off the beds, they move off and suspend. That's a great time to fish a jerkbait.
"On lakes that have boathouses, you'll catch them suspended underneath them. On lakes like Table Rock during the postspawn, you can catch bass out of treetops with this sort of bait."
The Jerk-O, which is 3 5/8 inches in length and weighs 3/8 ounce, has an aerodynamic design that enables it to be cast surprising distances. That is partially due to the internal tungsten magnetic weight-transfer system found in all Yo-Zuri jerkbaits.
Unlike most jerkbaits, the Jerk-O does not have a lip, so it will dive to only about 4 or 5 feet deep. Reynolds theorizes that its allure is most closely associated with its distinctive rattle; it features a "hard-knocking rattle" instead of the multiple internal BBs found in most diving minnow baits.
"The sound was the first thing that caught my attention," he notes. "When I picked it up and shook it, the real deep hard-knocking sound that it has is not like anything else that I've heard.
"It has a lot of action, too. It's not something that's got a real, real tight wobble. It has a lot of wiggle to it and a lot of noise. And this bait does suspend, so you can keep it down there where you want to work it a little bit longer. The bass will definitely be able to find it from a long way away."
Reynolds believes the diminutive jerkbait will produce throughout much of the year. In addition to postspawn, he has enjoyed success with such shallow divers in the summertime when bass are holding on points or running the bank. It is a hard plastic bait he throws in similar situations where a soft plastic Zoom Fluke would likely prevail — retrieving it briskly through the water.
The Jerk-O is just one part of Reynolds' jerkbait arsenal.
For clear conditions during the spring, his choice might be a Yo-Zuri Hardcore Minnow SH-70, which runs down to 6 feet; the Hardcore Minnow SH-90 to reach the 9-foot mark; or a 3D Minnow 100 or 70, which reach a depth of 6 feet. The 3D Minnows are suspending jerkbaits. For the shallowest bass in clear water, his choice is often a Live Bait Minnow, which bottoms out at 3 feet but has a holographic finish that gives it a realistic flash.
The deepest jerkbait fish call for the Crystal Minnow Deep Diver, which can approach 20 feet with the right cast and proper tackle.
"In really clear water, you're trying to draw fish from a long way away," Reynolds explains. "A lot of times, that's when you want something that will suspend, something that doesn't have as much noise and maybe not quite as much action."
Reynolds throws a fairly small (4 1/2-inch) jerkbait throughout most of the year, including during the actual spawn —a period when most anglers rarely throw a jerkbait. He has learned that bass that aren't locked onto the bed tend to roam in slightly deeper water where they are vulnerable to a minnow-shaped lure that comes ripping past them.
What are the ideal types of cover for jerkbait fishing?
"It depends on what lake you're on," he replies. "On a lake like Table Rock if it's prespawn and early spring, I like bluff ends. These are great places because the fish will be suspended off of them. Areas where you have short drops are the easiest places for fish to suspend. They don't have to go far to change depths."
But Reynolds doesn't discount the presence of cover. "If you've got trees out there, they will move to trees (in postspawn). Rising water and falling water don't affect their location. They can move just a little bit and be in shallow water, or move 10 feet and be sitting over 100 feet of water."
For Reynolds, gearing up for this kind of fishing begins with Vicious fluorocarbon line —10-pound test for small jerkbaits and 12- to 15-pound for larger models.
"The fluorocarbon sinks, allowing you to get your bait deeper," he says. "In most instances, you're trying to get that jerkbait down as far as you can, and I think it allows you to get an extra foot-and-a-half or 2 feet out of a bait. A lot of times with suspending jerkbaits you're fishing with slack line. You jerk them down and you pause them, and the slightest bite makes your line jump 2 feet with that fluorocarbon. You really pick up those bites a lot quicker."
His rod choice is a 6 1/2-foot medium action All Star SBM (spinnerbait model), which has a flexible enough tip to cast lightweight jerkbaits. He teams it with an Okuma B200 baitcast reel.
Subtle is not a term that describes his color choices when it comes to jerkbait selection. Chartreuse with a purple back and firetiger are his staples, but shad patterns and clear with a black or blue back sometime come into play on especially sunny days.
Unlike some pros, Reynolds isn't much on modifying this category of baits. Although he once added stick-on weights to the belly or wrapped lead wire around the hook shanks to get more depth, these days he simply chooses between various sizes of suspending or floating models.
"I always throw a suspender when the bass are deep," he says. "Because if you are fishing deep you want to keep it down, and a suspender is going to run deeper than a floater. I'll throw a floater closer to the spawn when the fish are already getting into the shallow waters — throwing it around laydowns or timber, or where you want it to move slowly and float up to the top to keep it out of the trees."
THE JERKBAIT CADENCE
Top pro Jeff Reynolds recognizes that there is a variety of ways to retrieve a jerkbait. But he always starts with one tried-and-true proven method.
"I usually do the jerk, jerk, pause and then let it sit for a couple of seconds," he says. "There are all kinds of different retrieves, though.
"There have been times when the fish wouldn't bite if you jerked it hard. It seems like when it's real cold, they want more of a drag-type motion. Drag it and stop it, drag it and stop it. All you're doing is keeping your bait at a certain depth and moving it as little as possible.
"Sometimes when water starts warming up a little bit or when you're in the cold months and you have a warmer day, they might want it fast. You might be jerking it as fast as you can. A good example of this was at Lake Champlain this summer, where I caught all my fish on a jerkbait. I was jerking it as hard as I could, and I never thought a fish would hit something moving like that. But that's how they wanted it."