Watching pro Gerald Swindle work a jerkbait is like watching a master play chess. From the time the bait hits the water, the G-Man’s approach is methodical and precise, his eyes glued to the line as he awaits his opponent’s move during agonizingly long pauses.
Case in point, Day 2 of the 2013 Bassmaster Classic on Grand Lake in Oklahoma, when the G-Man turned to jerkbaits as part of a one-two punch to turn largely inactive cold-water bass into reaction biters. Given water temps in the low 40s, Swindle emphasized the importance of fishing jerkbaits even slower than what may seem slow enough to maximize the amount of time baits stay in cold-water strike windows.
Swindle agrees that while there’s a place for jerkbaits all year long, there is no better time than the cold-waters of pre-spawn.
“That’s probably the biggest mistake anglers make—overworking jerkbaits. You’ve gotta slow down, otherwise you miss the whole point of the approach,” he explains.
Swindle says a good jerkbait rule-of-thumb is to slow down for largemouths and speed up for smallmouths.
“The second biggest mistake anglers make is focusing too much on the twitch. The pause is far more important than the jerk,” he says. But just how long is long enough? Swindle says it really depends on the bait itself, water temperature and target depth.
“Let the bass tell you what they want. Sometimes it’ll be a few seconds, sometimes that pause can be up to a minute long,” he continues.
Eight Second 522
During Day 2 of the Classic, Swindle used what he calls the “eight second 522,” and that amounts to first twitching the bait five times to get it to depth, followed by an eight second pause, two twitches, eight second pause, two twitches, eight second pause, cast and repeat ad infinitum.
Whether the G-Man was fishing inside creek channel turns, steep breaks in coves or deeper main lake bluffs, the magic depth seems to be about 10 feet. He’d use the initial five twitches to get the Lucky Craft Slender Pointer 112 down to its running depth and then work the bait systematically toward the boat, often over water as deep as 20 feet.
Depending on the size of the bait, a baitcaster might be your best bet, but spinning gear also has a place when casting lighter versions.
Fluoro Vs Mono
Although the G-Man says he fished jerkbaits on fluoro for years, these days he’s a big fan of monofilament, joining other pros like Mike McClelland and Mike Iaconelli who favor the stuff for getting jerky.
“Mono helps keep the bait oriented in a horizontal position so it looks more natural. Fluoro’s weight causes baits to nose dip, which bass just don’t seem to like,” he explains. “Second, because mono rides high, I can watch it like you do when you’re fishing a jig. There are a lot of times when a fish will grab that bait and the only way you can tell is by watching your line, something a lot of anglers forget to do.”
When and Where
“We all know jerkbaits are great cold-water bass baits, fantastic for pre-spawn, but they they’re also deadly on post-spawn fish, throughout the summer and fished again later in the fall,” he says.
And, with so many different types of jerkbaits on tackle shop shelves, from floaters to suspending models and countdowns to big, deep reaching spoonbills, these days there’s a bait for every application.
One last piece of advice: he recommends fishing jerkbaits in areas where you might normally reach for swim jigs and spinnerbaits, like suspended fish around docks, grasslines and over the tops of vegetation.
“Get out there and fish,” he urges. “Find out where and what the bass are eating and put a jerkbait in front of ‘em. They’ll smack it.”