Winning tournaments and guiding anglers have taught Adam Riser about using a jerkbait when he’s struggling to catch bass. Hailing from Knoxville, Tennessee, Riser uses the classic slow-retrieve, twitch-twitch pause to spark a bite from finicky fish. He shares his secrets on which lures to choose, when they work best, and how to really nail that enticing action. Read on for everything you need to master this fine art.

Best Bass Fishing Baits and Lures: Jerkbaits

As the name says, a jerkbait is designed to be jerked through the water. By snapping the rod tip, the angler makes the fish-shaped lure zig and zag. Between jerks, the angler pauses the retrieve to let the lure suspend in the water, enticing a picky fish to bite.

More than almost any other lure, jerkbaits require careful action: the rate of jerks and length of pauses can mean the difference between bites and blanks. The best practice is to count aloud the seconds between jerks. Anglers with the right touch will catch the most fish.

When the bass turn down everything else, go with a jerkbait. | Photo: Adam Riser
When the bass turn down everything else, go with a jerkbait. | Feature photo: Adam Riser

“Overwhelmingly, a jerkbait is a clear water lure,” Riser says. But he also likes the tactic when the fish are pressured, the wind is blowing, or any other challenge that makes bass turn down every other lure. Fish can see a jerkbait from a long distance, and the lure triggers a reaction strike, making it perfect for when the pressure is on and the fish are off.

Jerkbait Tackle Box

Rod: 6’11” Megabass OROCHI XX Jerkbait Special medium-action casting rod. The rod is stiff to jerk the lure with some bend to absorb headshakes and prevent pulling the hooks. I like a rod with a shorter handle that won’t snag my clothes when I jerk the rod tip.

Reel: 8.2:1 Shimano SLX 150 DC baitcasting reel. The faster gear ratio quickly picks up line between twitches or to set the hook. The SLX DC digital cast control allows me to cast a light jerkbait without backlashing.

Line: 10-pound, 100-percent fluorocarbon which sinks and is more sensitive than monofilament.

Rigging: Change the hooks on jerkbaits to keep the points sharp. Adding a larger or smaller hook will affect how the lure sinks and suspends.

Best Jerkbaits for Bass

Megabass Vision 110 Sexy French Pearl jerkbait

Megabass Vision 110+2 Elegy Bone jerkbait for bass fishing

Megabass Vision 110 Silent GP Stain Reaction jerkbait for bass fishing

Shop jerkbaits on:


When to Use a Jerkbait

If visibility is greater than two feet, a jerkbait will outshine any other lure, especially in cold water. A jerkbait certainly delivers year-round, but the best results are in water temperatures below 60 degrees to near freezing. Sun or clouds, a jerkbait can be productive. I really like the lure on a windy day. The wind blows around algae and bait, and waves break up the light, encouraging the bass to eat prey with less visual discretion.

Twitch, twitch, pause. | Photo: Adam Riser

How to Choose a Jerkbait

Smallmouth and spotted bass are happy to react to brighter colors such as chartreuse, orange and gold. Largemouth tend to favor natural shad and baitfish colors. Most jerkbaits have a rattle or other noisemaker. But I’ve had best results using silent jerkbaits around pressured bass. In overcast conditions, I choose a darker, matte-colored lure. On sunny days, I pick a lure with more shine.

How to Use a Jerkbait

As the name says, a jerkbait is worked with snaps, twitches and jerks of the rod tip. The most common cadence is twitch, twitch, pause. Warmer water calls for three twitches before the pause. Although, in colder water, I use a single twitch. I also lengthen the pause in colder water. I move the jerkbait with the rod tip, not the reel. It’s essential to leave slack in the line during the pause. Then, quickly crank in the slack and jerk the rod tip to move the lure again.

Working a jerkbait while seated in a kayak offers a few challenges. Ideally, I stand up to fish the jerkbait to keep the rod tip low for better line control. To work the lure from a seated position, I move the rod tip horizontally.

Jerkbait Memories

I can remember many winter days when my friends were freezing and shivering while slowly dragging a jig through a small strike zone. I stayed warm by covering more water working a jerkbait. A jerkbait is often the only lure that can trigger a bite from a lockjaw bass. And I love the violent strike of a big bass hitting the lure.

This article was first published in Kayak Angler Issue 46. Subscribe to Kayak Angler and get the magazine delivered to your front door. Download the Kayak Angler Magazine+ app to seamlessly glide between the digital archives, the latest articles and videos.


When the bass turn down everything else, go with a jerkbait. | Feature photo: Adam Riser



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