In the middle part of the country and some to be the case in the northern part of the country, jerkbaits for bass are about to be in their prime. Like we talked about in our bait selector article, you can catch bass much of the year on a variety of lures but there are small windows when certain baits excel. When the water has been ultra cold and just starts warming up, the jerkbait can be a real killer.
But it's one of those baits that a lot of guys won't throw because they feel like they are "fighting" with the bait all day. Not able to get enough distance on the bait, can't feel what the bait is doing, can't detect the strikes, lose fish that bite the bait. Much of this can be remedied with a good combo.
I have two combos that I use specifically for jerkbaits and towpater baits. One is a medium-action Kistler Micro Magnesium with micro guides matched with a Daiwa Steez reel. It's one of the most expensive combos I own. But I've not regretted that because I've had a lot of fun catches on jerkbaits and topwaters with the combo over the last few years.
There are a few things that make a good jerkbait rod. This rod is my deep jerkbait rod. Normally when I fish jerkbaits deep, I do more sweeping and hard snapping not a ton of light jerking. I want the bait to either duck and dart or I want it to slowly swim a little and stop. This rod has a medium action but a lot of backbone. So the rod loads well and gives me a good fire on the cast.
With the deeper jerkbaits I can load the rod on the back cast and then with an aggressive lob get a lot of distance as the bait is recoiled forward by the power of the rod. If your rod is too heavy, it can make throwing a jerkbait very cumbersome. The other thing is a fish that strikes a jerkbait often does it hesitantly and that can lead to a lot of bass having just one treble of a back hook in their mouth. Because of this you need some give in the rod to play down a fish.
Another aspect of a good jerkbait rod is length. Because a jerkbait is often fished with the rod tip pointed down towards the water and small jerks back towards the boat hull, a long rod can be very cumbersome to fish with. My Kistler / Steez combo is a little long at 7 feet for active quick jerks with a jerkbait. Hard snaps to the side or long sweeps are fine, but real aggressive jerks downward to the boat can be harder.
The rod I'm really hooked on now is the Denali Rosewood Shadow Series Michael Murphy Signature jerkbait rod. I've matched it with a Abu Garcia Revo STX. This rod is 6 feet, 8 inches with a medium action and moderate tip. While a 4-inch difference doesn't sound like much, it translates into a much more usable rod for lures you need to twitch quickly and sharply like is often the case with jerkbaits.
But the rod and reel combo is special because I've always felt like the Revo STX really excelled at casting diminutive baits a great distance. This reel with this rod gives me a great distance, a light small-profile combo that is a joy to fish with all day.
Regardless of what rod company or reel company you choose, look for a good medium action that has some back bone but a good loading bend and moderate tip. You don't want a spongy mushy rod like a glass crankbait rod because jerking the bait will wear you out all day. But you don't want to heavy an action in the rod because you'll lose castability and lose more fish in the fight that don't have a full mouth of hooks.
A high speed reel is an advantage because you work the bait with the rod, so reel speed is not a factor there. It is, however, a factor when you're talking about taking up slack and reeling into a fish when it bites. You've got to see or feel a bite and quickly react by taking up the line as fast as you can and leaning into the fish with your rod. A snapping hookset often results in missed fish with a jerkbait. Reel into them and lean, much like a carolina rig.
A low profile reel is often better so that you can palm the reel comfortably all day while jerking your bait. Plus if it is a bit lighter than your other reels, it can cut down the fatigue of jerking a jerkbait for a full day of fishing.
So the keys to a good jerkbait combo in our mind are as follows:
1) A shorter length that you can twitch easily downward.
2) A medium action with a moderate tip for casting and working the bait.
3) A low profile reel that you can grip easily while jerking all day.
4) A high-speed ratio reel that can take up slack quickly on a bite.
5) A light combo can alleviate fatigue when jerkbait fishing all day.
What jerkbait combos do you like? Any perfect rigs you've found?