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How to Fish with Jerkbaits in Salt Water

When you’re tired of relying on spoons, sinking baits, and soft plastics, jerkbaits are very effective saltwater fishing lures. And although jerk bait fishing requires more skill and effort than with other baits, they can be one of the most exciting and productive lures for catching trophy- worthy Zander, sea bass, trout, and other saltwater predators.

If you’d like to try a few jerkbaits on your next saltwater fishing excursion, these tips should provide more hookups regardless of the game fish species you’re after.  

What is a Jerkbait?

Jerkbaits are long and slender lures that perform a very erratic action when jerked sharply. Like most tried-and-true saltwater lures, jerkbaits were first used by freshwater anglers to catch walleye, bass, and other species.

The average jerkbait floats on the surface and then dives down several feet when retrieved. A lip on the lure’s plug, along with the design and shape of the body, influence the diving action. Jerkbaits also feature multiple treble hooks, allowing for a great hookup ratio even when you wait for your prey to take a full bite before leaning into them.

Choosing Your Jerk Bait Tackle

To fish with a jerk bait, you’ll need a durable, lightweight fishing rod and baitcasting reel paired with a 10 lb. to 20 lb. monofilament or fluorocarbon line. When pitching hardbody jerkbaits, most experienced saltwater anglers go with a 6-foot to 7-foot baitcasting rod. Because jerkbait angling is all about the “twitch and pause,” shorter rods like a 6 1/2- foot medium or medium-heavy option from the Bulldawg Rods Trophy Series work well.

It’s also a good idea to use a leader when fishing in saltwater. However, when the water is clear, avoid a heavy wire leader because it will drastically diminish your reaction strikes. A 24-inch stretch of 30 lb. to 50 lb. fluorocarbon leader is an excellent all-around choice even when going after “toothy” predators like mackerel and bluefish.

Where to Fish Jerkbaits

Some of the best places to toss a jerk bait include shallow hideouts where vegetation creeps up near the surface or docks offer shade. Also try covering large stretches of water by drifting your boat through a channel and pitching your jerkbait anywhere that fish might be congregating.

Other places to fish jerkbaits may include those where water levels change noticeably near the mouth of a bay or a steep drop-off beneath the surface. For one, saltwater trout tend to suspend in those spots year-round. Pitching along the edge of a drop-off will attract curious fish from great distances, especially when using a “noisy” jerkbait that causes vibrations in the water column.

Jerkbait Fishing Techniques

Once you’ve found your spot, it’ll be time to deploy the best jerkbait fishing methods. When fishing any jerk bait, the retrieve cadence should be twitch, twitch, pause. During the pause, reel in the slack and watch for a reaction strike. Depending on the day, try varying your pause until you’ve had a chance to see what works.

You should also adjust your cadence based on water temperature. A slow action works best

while jerkbait fishing in cooler water, while a quick action is recommended for angling in warm,

tropical waters when most species are actively feeding.

Cast your lure out towards structure, over submerged vegetation or bars, or towards breaking fish. While holding the end of the rod low, jerk your lure sharply using the rod tip. Quickly point the rod tip back towards the plug, which will allow slack in the line. The slack causes the bait to suspend motionless in the water for a second or two, giving your unsuspecting prey an opportunity to strike.

Best Jerkbait Lures for Saltwater Angling

Choosing the right jerkbait depends on many factors, most importantly matching the size and color of the forage that the game fish are actively feeding on. There will be times when the size of the lure will also be a key factor, for example, when predators are keying in on baitfish that are of a specific size. A lure that is significantly larger or smaller than the forage will usually get ignored.

Concerning color, white is a great all-around choice for a saltwater jerkbait. White lures work well in clear water or any time that light-colored bait fish are in an area. In most saltwater environments where herring and sardines are present, white will produce plenty of hookups.

Darker colors yield better results in dark or stained water and when baitfish with a darker profile are present. Olive and gold are also good color patterns, along with lures that mimic small mackerel when striped bass and bluefish are actively feeding on them.

These durable jerkbaits from Reaction Strike should be included in any serious saltwater angler’s tackle box:

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