The most common jerkbait mistakes | Are they topwater? crankbaits?

Jerkbaits are one of those baits I see a lot of fisherman fishing incorrectly. They aren’t the hardest lure to work, but to get the most bites you do need to have the correct retrieve.

A jerkbait is not a topwater lure. It also can’t be just reeled back to the boat like a crankbait. It has its own specific retrieve that you have to do while it’s under the water with your rod. 

So if you want to try topwater fishing, go on to another bait like the whopper plopper. But if you want to try a jerkbait, read on to learn how you should be fishing it.

How to work a jerkbait

A jerkbait is named so because you “jerk” the rod to the side in order to make the bait dart side to side in the water. This is really important – the action of the lure should be imparted by the rod solely. Not the reel.

So when you cast a jerkbait out, you only reel it enough to get it to the correct depth. Usually about 10 cranks will get it several feet under the water where it should be.

Then, pull sideways with your rod for about 3 feet quickly. That will make the bait dart to the side of the water. Do it again 2 or 3 times. This will make the bait dart erratically several times. See the video below for visual information.

You will have pulled your bait about 4 feet or so by now, so you need to reel in the slack line. Once you’ve reeled up all the line see if you feel tension of a fish on the end of the line. If not, repeat the jerking motion again.

Then simply do this all the way into the bank or boat. Fishing a jerkbait really is that simple. It should just look like a baitfish dancing side to side a few quick times. Then slowly sitting for a minute to do it all over again. 

And usually, a fish can’t help but bite it after it’s jerked and got their attention and just sits there in the water like easy prey.

Where you should fish a jerkbait

People also don’t always use jerkbaits in the ideal locations. And using it in places where it shouldn’t be used can lead to some real headaches.

Most jerkbaits have three treble hooks on them – which makes them really easy to catch bass. Or a tree. Or grass. Or… you get the picture.

Jerkbaits are an ideal open water bait. If you’re around trees, grass, boat docks, or really anything in the water you will easily get snatched on them with a jerkbait. And I don’t know about you, but nothing makes me angrier than losing a good $10 to the lake bottom.

So don’t fish jerkbaits around cover (or basically anything natural or manmade existing in the water). It’s not meant for that.

But it is meant for fishing in open water where bass are feeding. So if you have any open area of water and see bass on a fishfinder or feeding on bait then it is an ideal bait to throw.

I love throwing jerkbaits across points. A point is simply an area where land comes out into the water more than what surrounds it, making a spot with shallow water and two sides that fall off dramatically. You’ll see an example of this below.

point jerkbait topwater crankbait tips mistakes

Throwing a jerkbait right over the top of a point is a great way to catch active bass feeding on minnows, shad, or other small fish in your fishery.

What type of rod, reel, and line for jerkbaits

Another thing many fisherman get wrong with jerkbait fishing is using the incorrect rod, reel, or line. So lets go into each!

Fishing Rod for Jerkbaits

The main aspect you want a jerkbait fishing rod to have is a moderate action. Almost any rod you pick out at a store is likely to have a fast action tip. This means that it only has a slight bend in the tip of the rod before creating pressure on the lure or potential fish you’re catching. 

But a moderate action rod has much more bend further down the rod before creating pressure. Why is this so good for jerkbait fishing?

As mentioned previously, the action of a jerkbait comes completely from the rod pulling the lure quickly. The issue with a fast action rod is that it doesn’t allow for a good long pull that makes the bait dart from side to side. Often times it’s too forceful and flips a bait sideways instead.

Plus, a moderate action rod is going to help you cast your jerkbait a good bit further which is really ideal when fishing open water as you want to cover as much as you possibly can as quickly as you can. Less casts are good for that.

So if you only have a fast action rod, consider a moderate action if you’re serious about jerkbait fishing. 

Fishing Reel for Jerkbaits

The fishing reel you pair with a jerkbait is not as important, but still something you should think about.

You will be jerking the bait several times and then reeling in slack to see if you have a fish. So this means there is a half second where your line is loose and you could have a fish on – but don’t know it.

The best way to combat this is getting a high gear ratio reel. This simply means it takes in more line per crank – therefore taking in more line more quickly. So when you fish a jerkbait, a high gear ratio reel is really helpful in not wasting time where you could have a fish and not feel it. Giving them more time to get away.

For baitcasters, gear ratio is represented by three numbers. The larger the first number the quicker it will pull in line. So a reel like a 7:1:1 is a good option for jerkbaits.

In spinning reels, the larger the reel the more line it will pull in. So simply go with one of the bigger size spinning reels to get the best effect.

Or use whatever reel you’re comfortable with and just work on quickly reeling in your slack to avoid any wasted time where a fish could bite your lure and get away. It’s just more work on you.

Fishing Line for Jerkbaits

Everyone thinks that fluorocarbon line is always the best option available. Or if it’s not fluoro, it’s braid. Well for jerkbaits – the cheap monofilament line is actually your number 1 option.

Why? Because monofilament line has stretch. And stretch is really important for giving a jerkbait a good action.

Remember how we discussed a moderate action rod is good for jerkbaits because it gives flex? Well mono line is important for the same reason. It does not quickly pull on the jerkbait and cause it to flip or have an overly erratic retrieve. 

Instead, when you pull with a rod some of that stretch is taken by the line and then the rest is given to the lure, ensuring that it is worked properly and darts without being too hard on the lure. 

So go for a 10 or 12 pound test monofilament line like Trilene XL for your jerkbait setup.

The best jerkbaits to buy

Picking the best jerkbait to buy is an extremely complicated endeavor. Depending on water temperature, lake depth, and a variety of other factors there are multiple “best” options.

Plus jerkbaits vary in price A LOT. The Megabass Vision 110 is universally recognized as a top of the line jerkbait that can flat out catch fish. But it’s also $25… which is a little steep for my wallet.

But almost any jerkbait well below $10 is just not going to work well enough to consistently catch fish. Instead, I recommend you hang our right at that $10 range to get your best bang for buck performance.

With that in mind, I have had success with the KVD Strike King Jerkbait and Rapala Shadow Rap. But the best bang for buck option in my book is the Smithwick Rogue which comes in at just below $8 and gives the same performance as the ones $10 and up.

But if you really want the best of best options – Megabass takes the cake with the Lucky Craft Vision Pointer in a close second. They give extra performance, but just aren’t worth double (or triple) the money in my opinion.

jerkbait topwater crankbait tips tricks jerkbait


Jerkbaits are a great bait that should be in your arsenal. But don’t fish them like a topwater bait. And definitely don’t just reel them in like a crankbait.

Instead follow the tips above and you’ll be catching lunkers in no time!

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