From right about now (late summer) on into late fall one of my favorite and most productive lures is a soft plastic jerkbait. They’re perfectly suited to take advantage of what the bass are doing.
The importance of running depth and color can’t be overemphasized. They’re critical. Do them right and they’ll put tons of bass in your livewell. Do them wrong and all you’ll get is exercise with sweat and frustration.
I don’t like heavy, weighted hooks. After some trial and error I realized I could control how deep these baits ran with my hook placement. I start with a 4/0 or a 5/0 EWG style of hook. The extra wide gap is important because most of these lures have a fat belly. You need the extra distance between the shank and the point to get a good hookset.
After that, it’s all about where you place the eye. If you run the point deep into the nose of the bait, the eye will be back a little ways into the plastic. All you’ll see when you look at everything straight on is your fishing line going into the plastic. This will cause the nose to catch water and force the bait up as you twitch and pause during your retrieve.
If you want the bait to run down a couple of feet under the surface, run the point of the hook in just a little ways. That’ll keep the eye out in front of the nose. This forces the lure down and keeps it from wanting to ride up towards the surface.
Fishing these lures shallow works best for me when the fish are out in open water busting schools of shad that are just starting to form as the days get short and everything starts to cool. Pushing them down is better when the bass are around cover and more or less holding in ambush spots.
Those are just general rules, though. You have to pay attention to what’s going on around you and fish the moment. There’s no other way to be successful.
The same thing applies to matching the hatch with color. There are no shortcuts here. Take the time to look and see what’s swimming around in the water you’re fishing and then take the time to doctor your lures so they look natural.
I fish with a Havoc, The Jerk, most of the time, but I also fish Berkley’s Powerbait Jerk Shad and their Gulp Minnow. In my opinion we have some of the best and most natural looking colors around. Still, they’re not perfect. I always have several bottles of dye on my deck along with a handful of marking pens.
The details matter. If there’s a little blue or black on the tails of the forage minnows that you’re seeing you should put exactly the same thing on your plastic. It’s the same with tiny spots of color around their gills or on their bellies. Pay attention.
I always carry several colors of lures with me at all times, but you can’t go wrong with white or something close to it. Obviously, it’s the easiest color to customize. If you don’t know your primary colors and how to mix them to make secondary colors, print a chart off the Internet and carry it with you.
In Part 2 we’ll talk about how I rig my plastic jerkbaits.