Jerkbait madness

It’s jerkbait madness time in most parts of smallmouth country right now. The water’s warm enough to get the smallies moving but still cold enough that spinnerbaits and crankbaits — most models anyway — are not very good. They move too fast, and you can’t stop them.

That’s what’s so great about jerkbaits. You can work them slow, medium or fast but stop them for as long as you want to give the smallmouth a chance to check them out before they attack. At this time of the year the stopping part is much more important than the moving part. You can make mistakes by pulling your bait too far or too fast and still catch a few. But if you stop it for too long or for not long enough, you’re done.

The length of the stop is important but so is the way the bait suspends after you stop it. It needs to sit exactly where you stopped it and it needs to be perfectly still and perfectly level. That means it doesn’t rise or fall slowly, and the tail isn’t any higher than the nose or the nose any higher than the tail. Everything needs to be just right.

That can be difficult. There are several good jerkbaits on the market. They sort of do this, but not always. It’s common to have one that’s perfect and another that isn’t. If you have one that won’t hold still and level, you can fix it with some common and inexpensive products.

The best is ordinary weighted tape. It’s available at any good tackle shop. Some if it is made from lead, but nowadays a lot of it is made from other stuff. It comes in strips, circles and squares. Pick one and put it on the belly of your lure. Move it around until you get what you want. If necessary, you can trim the pieces down with common household scissors to make it lighter.

You need to do this every time you go out, and a couple of times during the day if the water temperature is changing. Baits suspend differently as water temperatures drop or increase. I know that this can be time consuming and a hassle. The results are worth it, though. Take the time to do it right.

Why it’s so important for a jerkbait to suspend perfectly is a mystery to me. The only thing I can figure is that real baitfish rarely suspend and then rise or fall, and it’s even more rare to see one stopped with one end higher or lower than the other. I’m guessing that the stop gives the smallie enough time to shy away if things don’t look right.

You’ll notice I haven’t said anything about color or size. That’s because, compared to the pause, neither one of those things amount to all that much. If you disagree, throw a natural or light color if the water’s clear. Throw something chartreuse or yellow if it’s stained. And try as best you can to match the size of the local forage.

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