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Updated Jan 27, 2022 4:16 PM

When I think of jerkbaits the first thing that comes to mind is giant smallmouths. In early spring, I often fish them around rocky points and drop-offs where bass should be hanging out. The erratic motion and flash of these bass fishing lures trigger big, aggressive bites. It is a very effective and exciting method of fishing. Like all other fishing lures for bass, jerkbaits are useful in certain conditions and situations. When you get on a good bite, the excitement is second to none. Get the best jerkbait for how you want to fish, fine-tune your retrieve, and you’ll hook into big bass.

Understand how to use the best jerkbait to increase bites

Jerkbaits are a popular prespawn lure for many bass anglers looking to target fish in and around the structure. I like to throw them in early pre spawn when the fish haven’t moved into super shallow water yet. The ideal strike zone is 6 to 8 feet of water, but bass in clear water will come up from 10- to 15-foot depths to hit a bait. 

One of the biggest benefits is the ability to make casts and cover water quickly, let the lure drop to the desired level, and rip it forward quickly. Pause, then rip again. It’s best to mix up your pause times, give slight occasional twitches, and vary your forward rips. 

The color of the lure can make a significant impact and sometimes be the difference between hooking fish and getting skunked. Match your lure to a predominant baitfish to produce the best results. 

Big bronzebacks aren’t the only fish that will crush moving baits. Largemouth bass will also enthusiastically smash them. (And the West Virginia state record muskie fell to a big jerkbait.) Some crucial factors to generating bites are the time of year, structure, and water depth. If you home in on these conditions, you will catch fish.

What to consider before buying jerkbaits

When adding jerkbaits to your tackle box, there are few things to consider, mainly design, size, and color. 

You can buy a traditional hard-bodied, a jointed, or a soft-bodied jerkbait. Jointed baits have a wider wiggle, while soft-bodied baits can be rigged weedless. I like to keep a variety of styles in my box for different situations on the water. 

Match the color and size of the lure with baitfish in your area. Check out these picks below for some of the best lures you can find.

Best All-Around Jerkbait: Rapala X-Rap Jerkbait XR10 Fishing Lure

A simple and effective lure that always gets the job done.

The Rapala X-Rap is a trusted and productive lure that has fooled countless bass. It gives off an aggressive darting action and casts easily. The bait runs from 3 to 8 feet deep and generates fast reactionary bites.

Best Soft-Bodied Jerkbait: Bass Assassin 5” Shad Assassin

Change it up with a soft plastic bait for more options on the water.
Bass Assassin

This Bass Assassin shad jerkbait is extremely versatile. Work it back erratically or rig it weedless for use in areas with a lot of vegetation.

Best Jointed Jerkbait: Rapala Jointed Minnow

The jointed design increases movement to trigger more bites.

This classic minnow profile comes in various colors and creates a unique action that bass can’t resist. The jointed construction imitates a wounded baitfish in distress. It has a maximum diving depth of 8 feet and works well with slow retrieves.

Best Deep Diving Jerkbait: Strike King KVD Deep Jerkbait

Extended diving lip to get your lure into the strike zone.
Strike King

Don’t miss fish because you can’t get to where they are. This deep-diving bait will get down in the water column and give a realistic presentation. The extended lip allows for the bait to get down to 11 feet, and lure construction makes for long, accurate casts.

Best Budget Jerkbait: Bass Pro Shops XPS Suspending Minnow

Save some money and still catch bass with a classic-looking bait.
Bass Pro Shops

Sometimes fishing jerkbaits can get expensive, especially if you want to keep a variety of sizes and patterns on hand. This classic minnow design is affordable, suspends nicely in the water column, and has rattles to trigger more bites.


Q: What’s the difference between jerkbait and crankbait?

Crankbaits usually have a shorter and broader body shape, while jerkbaits tend to be a thinner and longer design. Jerkbaits can have up to three treble hooks, while crankbaits usually only have two. Generally, crankbaits are fished in deeper water because of their longer diving bills, while jerkbaits suspend higher up in the water column. Jerkbaits are also usually fished with a pull-and-pause technique, while a crankbait typically is worked with a steady retrieve.

Q: What are jerkbaits good for?

Jerkbaits are excellent bass lures and very popular for both smallmouths and largemouths. They can also be very effective for saltwater fish like striped bass, snook, redfish, and sea trout. Any area where your target species feeds on smaller baitfish is a great opportunity to try a one.

Q: What makes a good jerkbait lure?

A good jerkbait lure moves erratically throughout the water column. It should give an attractive presentation that entices a reaction bite. The angler’s retrieve also plays a significant role in how the bait moves. Make sure to pause and jerk the lure as you bring it through the water column. This will imitate a wounded baitfish—an easy target for bass looking for a quick meal.

A Final Word on Jerkbaits

Jerkbaits are exciting to fish, and are excellent for finding fish in the middle of the water column. Make sure to jerk, twitch, and pause when you retrieve your bait to get the most aggressive bites from hungry bass.