How To Use Jerkbait - The Ultimate Fishing Bait Guide!

Jerkbait is one of the most popular baits to use and requires its own technique.  Jerkbait gets its name because the angler must jerk the rod for the bait to resemble a dying or injured fish.  Jerkbaits are very versatile, coming in a variety of colors, sizes, and styles and is useful in different water depths and conditions.

Many young fishermen and women are taught to fish using jerkbait and it is commonly used by fishing guides and trainers. However, jerkbait fishing can also offer a challenge to the more seasoned angler because there are lots of techniques and tricks that can be done with jerkbait.

Since there are so many different tricks to do with a jerkbait, we will focus only on the most common jerkbait techniques and jerkbait fishing tips in this article. Before we dive into techniques, let’s take a look at the equipment needed for jerkbait fishing.

how to use jerkbait

Hard Vs. Soft Jerkbaits

Jerkbaits come in two different styles.

  • Soft jerkbaits are good to use if fishing in a grassy area because of the weedless tips and their ability to maneuver more efficiently through the brush.
  • Hard jerkbaits are better to use if fishing in an open, deep area where the chances of snagging are fewer. Also, most hard jerkbaits have a larger front bill for deep diving.

If you are using a soft bait, but need to go deeper, the best jerkbait rigs to use are the Texas rig or a Carolina rig. For more information on how to create a Texas or Carolina rig, click here.

Many outdoor subscription boxes contain both soft and hard jerkbaits.

Bait Color

Choosing which bait to use should be based mainly on the conditions of the water. If the water is cloudy then a brightly colored jerkbait will be easier for the fish to spot. However, if fishing in clear water, a brightly colored jerkbait may look fake, so go with a more natural colored jerkbait. You can find a number of different colors of jerkbait in Mystery Tackle Box.

Depending on the season and location of the water, take into consideration what the fish may be eating and try to choose a jerkbait that resembles that food. For example, if the fish you are angling for are feeding on perch, choose a jerkbait with yellow, orange and green colors with dark lines.

Jerkbait Line

Using the correct fishing line for jerkbait fishing is essential. Fluorocarbon line is awesome for jerkbait fishing because it is nearly invisible, it is heavier than other lines so it sinks easier, and it is stronger so the fish do not get tangled in the line as easily.

Another consideration to be made with your fishing line is slack. Once you have cast out, you should have some slack in your line. If there is slack in the line, it will allow for the bait to move more realistically. Jerkbait is meant to mimic a wounded or sick baitfish, and if the line is too taught then the movements will appear jerky and unnatural.

Also, many times a bite will take place during a pause in motion, so make sure to watch your line closely because a strike may not be overly noticeable.

Choosing a Rod

Choosing the best rod for jerkbait fishing is all about personal preference. The most common type of rod used in jerkbait fishing is a medium length rod measuring 6-10 feet long. A medium length rod is what Bassmaster angler Kevin VanDam uses. Based on your height and the size of the boat, choose a rod that is long enough to downstroke without getting the tip of the rod wet.

How to Work a Jerkbait

Now that you know what supplies are best for jerkbait fishing, let’s look at some techniques on how to use jerkbait.

Think Down

It is called “jerk” bait because of the jerking motion used by the angler. It is essential to keep in mind how you are jerking the rod though. Many fishermen and women tend to move the rod and bait in a vertical motion which takes longer for the bait to reach the desired depth and gives an unnatural appearance.

The way you should be moving your rod is in a downward curve. Steve Pennaz suggests imagining you are moving your rod from 3 o’clock to 5 o’clock. The deeper you are needing the bait to go, the larger the swoop can be.


If you are wondering how to work a jerkbait, jerkbait fishing is all about rhythm and timing. You may have to try several different patterns to see what works best for you and the area in which you are fishing. Sometimes sudden jerks work best, while other times a slower swoop is most effective.

Pausing is key to keeping a good rhythm. A general rule of thumb is: the colder the water, the longer the pause. A fish’s metabolism slows down in colder water, and therefore the fish are not as active. An injured fish (aka food) in cold water will be moving very slowly. Taking long pauses between jerks makes for a more realistic look.

Other times, fish may be more interested in a challenge, so experimenting with your movements and pause lengths are key.

The Wrap Up

To become a great jerkbait angler you must get out on the water and give it a try. Choose a few jerkbaits at a time and focus on trying only those for a few days, and then rotate until you find the best matches for you.

Just remember that taking pauses, often very long ones, is key to jerkbait fishing. You will begin to discover your signature pattern and rhythm the more you are out on the water.

We have provided you with the basics of how to use jerkbait, but nothing can compare to personal experience.

Just remember what Herbert Hoover once said, “Be patient and calm - for no one can catch fish in anger.”

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