Fishing jerkbaits in cold water

After almost three winters experimenting, Ike has come to the conclusion that cold water jerkbaits fall into three categories.

We all hear about jerkbaits when the water’s cold in the winter and then again later as it warms up going into the spawn. I like to fish them too under those conditions, but I put something different into my presentations.

I first noticed something during the 2013 Classic on Grand Lake. It seemed like whenever I let my bait sit perfectly still in the water and suspend with no vertical movement, I struggled. But, when I modified my jerkbait just a little so it would slowly sink nose down, I was able to catch them.

That wasn’t the first time I’d done that, but it was the first time that I made up my mind to experiment with it. After almost three winters I’ve come to the conclusion that cold water jerkbaits fall into three categories.

The first is the slow fall, nose down. This is good in water from the low 40s all the way down to freezing. And, when I say slow fall I mean really, really slow with the nose just barely pointing down. Think about it this way — you don’t see real minnows drop through the water like a rock with their nose pointed down like a missile.

I call the next group true suspending jerkbaits. These are the ones that’ll sit perfectly still in the water without any vertical movement whatsoever. These baits are good when the water’s between 45 and 50 degrees.

The third group will rise ever so slightly with their nose barely pointed up towards the surface. This is a more aggressive presentation that’s usually at its best in water 50 degrees or warmer.

Any decent jerkbait — and I do mean almost any jerkbait made by almost any company — can be customized to fit into any of my three categories. It’s simply a matter of taking the time to make it happen. I prefer Rapala jerkbaits.

The first, and maybe the best, way to customize your lure is to swap out the hooks. Size, style and make are all important here. I test mine at home in a tub of water so I don’t have to waste fishing time when I’m in the boat. Actually, I do this no matter how I modify them.

The next best way to change the performance characteristics of your jerkbaits is with SuspenDots or SuspenStrips. They’re made by Storm and are available at any quality tackle shop or online. Golf Tape will do a surprisingly good job too, although I much prefer the Storm stickers.

Another way to create subtle changes in a jerkbait’s performance is with line choice. Mono tends to float. Fluorocarbon tends to sink. Thicker line doesn’t sink as fast as thin line. This is a pretty good way to do it. I put it last, however, because I realize that a lot of recreational anglers don’t have six or eight types of line spooled up when they go fishing.

Next time we’ll talk about how to fish each of these baits and I’ll give you a couple of tricks that I use with jerkbaits to coax bites from lethargic bass.Mike Iaconelli’s column appears weekly on You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter or visit his website,