Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Jerkbaits For Largemouth Bass

Jerkbait Triple Play


The Early Largemouth Game



          You can throw curves, but it’s better to be on base and take a cautious lead early in the spring. You can’t steal without stop and go. Bass seem yet in training, warming muscles to allow them to give chase once water temperatures move well into the 50’s. Until then, you’re more likely to score by practicing patience. Three general types of hard-bodied jerkbaits or minnow lures serve as proven pitches as soon as bass begin to nose into shallows, and they score on through the prespawn period: suspending, floating, and sinking.

          Suspending plugs like the Rapala Husky Jerk, Daiwa TD Minnow, Smithwick Rattlin’ Rogue, and Jackal Squad Minnow, among many other brands, draw all the rage, applause dimming over the floating and sinking types of plugs. In cold water, you can tantalize bass by barely moving the lure, seeming to mesmerize bass into doing the obvious—sucking the plug down. Particularly in clear water, bass get drawn from a distance, but even stained water may result in hits, because a bass’s lateral line sensory organ detects subtle motion from yards away.

          This said, don’t rule out a floating jerkbait like the Rebel Minnow. Popularity cannot and never will mean everything. Especially so, since the Rebel Minnow is an old standby with a longer reputation than any Husky Jerk. Since this simple example of a highly effective plastic lure that rests on the surface at an angle is under the stadium lights, watch that it can be twitched with rod tip lowered to raise the rear to the surface, as the tail falls back with a little slack.

          This is a method every bit as subtle as barely moving a suspending jerkbait. It’s worked for me in water as cold as 47 degrees. But only during late afternoons or evenings after a sunlit, mild day has water temperature increased to 47 degrees or slightly higher, when will bass respond by taking the lure at the sunken end, making a surface dimple as slight as a trout’s sipping a fly.

          Most of the shallow flats and shoreline action happens after water temperatures hit 50, when bass get stirred into striking out after forage fish, and erratic jerkbaits spur reactions. Sinking plugs like the Rapala Countdown, Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow, and lipless varieties like the Old Faithful and Pesca do allow the option of fishing deeper, but you have to reel the plug at a fair clip or it loses depth. At minimal speed, you hang up on bottom. Nevertheless, even when water temperatures reach the 50’s, particularly the biggest bass may be staging at depths of six feet or more, and sinking plugs wobble along very effectively if not too much cover like residual weeds or timber is present, although fishing over the top reach of vegetation can break your rod—or shatter the bat, if you will—in low light with falling barometer. It just might take a big, bruising female to sock the plug hard enough, and the game isn't softball. 

          Impart action to that plug. A rod tip is not only there to set a hook or to just reel a lure back in a straight line. Fast action rods serve best, since the stiffness in the middle and lower sections gives you better power and control by letting the tip make the lure dance, the rest of the rod transmitting hand motion directly to the top. In turn, you can feel the lure’s action in your hand much better and enjoy a quick hookset.

          With warmer temperatures, crazy action is generally best with floating and suspending plugs. You can drive bass nuts jerking them around. Don’t throw them an easy pitch, get bass to swing wild, and they’ll swing again until they hit. Especially with increasing water temperature moving through the 50’s to around 60 on a warm day, bass may be powerfully motivated to feed, and a minnow lure behaving like wildly frantic forage attempting escape can result in jarring strikes.

          Why is this? No baitfish is so obvious as to behave like a wisecrack.

          A combination of two factors may be responsible. For one thing, bass become aware other bass swim nearby; each is competitive. Have you ever noticed—when fighting a bass—another attempt to steal the plug stuck in the hooked bass’s maw? I once landed a double header. When a jerkbait comes crazy, bass have no time to notice whether or not another is after it. They immediately react as if another might get it first.

          The second consideration is sheer aggression. A minnow plug is really far from an exact replica of a baitfish of any kind, although lures of all kinds especially resemble actions of forage to some degree far from perfect. Nonetheless, lures especially seem to trigger something like territorial aggression by which bass jolt into fierce desire to kill.

          For shallow water success, many companies make jerkbait floaters. Smithwick makes a floating Rogue, as well as the suspending version I’ve mentioned. Kevin VanDam won the 2005 Bassmaster Classic at Three Rivers, Pittsburgh, with this time-tested plug. Famous Rapalas feature balsa wood resulting in rapid, smooth pulsations and jerk responses unlike any other brand.

          It’s fun to experiment and develop preferences. I’ve used Rapalas for more than 40 years, and for a long time the #9 floater was my favorite lure. Lately I’ve appreciated the Rattlin’ Rogue because I can work it deeper, though without the instantaneous response to the rod tip as with the Rapala.

          Early spring is perhaps the best time of year to tempt a big female, not just because she’s full of eggs, but because she feeds a little more than she would with the same metabolic rate, as she would feed in the fall, so that those eggs grow before released.

Among lure choices you can employ April through May, jerkbaits can have you covered.

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