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Year-round jerkbaits

North Carolina pro Hank Cherry says the only time he abandons a jerkbait is briefly during the spawn.

Throughout the winter and into the early spring, two time Academy Bassmaster Classic Champ Hank Cherry relies heavily on a jerkbait for all species of bass. Then, like most of his Bassmaster Elite Series peers, he tends to put them on the back burner when bass head to the beds. His competitors might bring them back out on Northern smallmouth waters, but when it comes to largemouth, they are largely ignored.

That’s where Cherry differs from many of his counterparts. His jerkbaits may hibernate temporarily, but they’re never far out of sight or reach. Once the fish have completed the spawning ritual, jerkbaits are right back on the deck of his boat, and they’ve led to some of his best mid- and late-season finishes on tour, like his fifth-place finish last May at the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest. He used both his signature Berkley Stunna 112 and a Lucky Craft Pointer 128 to pluck nearly 80 pounds of bass from the drains running through Sam Rayburn’s prolific grass.

“At Rayburn, there were guys all around me fishing lures like ChatterBaits and swim jigs,” he recalled. “In my travels to Florida, I’ve learned that in that situation, it often pays to give them a different offering. With the jerkbait, I know they’re probably not seeing it from the other fishermen. I feel confident that I can pick an area
apart and maximize it.”

Rayburn isn’t the only place where he’s made the slender minnow work “out of season.” In fact, the pattern that he used last year in Texas was almost identical to the one that he rode to a 12th-place finish in the 2014 BASSfest on Chickamauga, 750 miles to the northeast. Even that success, for a confirmed jerkbait junkie like Cherry, was a bit of an accident.

“I cast it out over the grass and got a backlash,” he said. “As I was reeling the slack up, I caught a 4-pounder. Then, on the next cast doing the same thing, I caught a 3-pounder.” Indeed, he said that one of his favorite conditions for the lure is when he experiences slick, calm water in the summertime, after the shad spawn, when the fish “get kind of funky. I just bomb it out there and use a slow retrieve, like you would with a Redfin. It makes no sense.”