For tournament pro Cliff Crochet, jerkbaits offer the best of both worlds for pre-spawn bass because he can fish them in both shallow and deep water and fish hit them in both areas. In fact, laughs the Yamaha Pro, this is practically the only time of the year he uses the slender, minnow-imitation lures.
“Right now, the water is still cool in many areas of the country and bass are still staging on the deeper edges of the flats and on the ends of points as they wait for more favorable spawning conditions,” explains Crochet, a Bassmaster® Elite Series pro who competes throughout the United States. “They may not be very active, but they’ll go after a suspending jerkbait because it has such a tantalizing side-to-side action and you can keep the lure in front of them for a long time.
“At the same time, if bass are already in shallower water, I can use a floating jerkbait around visible cover like stumps or boat docks, and catch fish with the same wobbling, side-to-side retrieve. A floating jerkbait does not dive as deep, and it immediately comes back up to the surface instead of suspending in deeper water.”
Jerkbaits range in size from about three to as much as six inches in length, and Crochet normally starts fishing with a slightly larger four to five inch model. If bass are slow to react, he may down-size to a smaller lure, but he prefers a bigger model with larger hooks if he finds bass really aggressive.
“The best place to begin looking for pre-spawn bass is around visible points in the major tributaries,” the Yamaha Pro continues. “I like to start at either the first or second points near the mouth of the tributary and gradually work my way back. I don’t want to start in the very back of the creek because I’ll probably be ahead of the fish this time of year.
“I keep my boat in deeper water off the end of the point and cast shallow. That way, I can retrieve the jerkbait over any depth changes or breaklines into deeper water where the bass may be staging.”
In shallow water, jerkbaits can be effective lures even if bass don’t actually hit them, adds Crochet, because fish frequently “flash” or swim up to the lures for an instant to investigate. By giving away their location, the Yamaha Pro can easily throw a different type of lure, such as a slow-falling plastic worm, right to them.
Jerkbaits are worked by pointing the rod tip down and twitching it. Crochet usually begins with a twitch-twitch-pause cadence, but changes the cadence regularly until he begins getting strikes.
“The pauses, or the length of time you wait between the twitches, are the most important part of your retrieve,” he emphasizes. “The motion of the lure attracts the bass, but the strikes nearly always come during your pause when the lure is sitting still. This is how baitfish, especially injured ones, move through the water. They wobble and try to swim, then stop to rest for a few seconds, and this is when bass grab them.”
Because jerkbaits produce their best results in relatively clear water where bass can see them, the Yamaha Pro uses lure colors that closely resemble the dominant forage in the lake he’s fishing. Among his favorite colors are gold/black back, especially in shallow water; and chrome/black back or light gray/purple back in deeper water.
Crochet also believes line choice can be critical in jerkbait fishing. He prefers 12-pound monofilament when he’s fishing in shallow water because monofilament floats and thus does not pull a floating jerkbait down each time he twitches. In deeper depths he changes to 10 pound fluorocarbon line because it sinks and helps take the lure deeper. Fluorocarbon line has no stretch, either, which aids in Crochet’s hook-setting on longer casts.
“Pre-spawn bass can be extremely finicky fish because they haven’t quite committed themselves to shallow water and spawning,” concludes the Yamaha Pro, “which is why jerkbaits are among the best lure choices right now. Not only do these lures look and act like injured baitfish, you can also choose between floating and suspending models that allow you to cover different water depths.” Y