By Bob "Lucky" Lechel
June 8, 2012
The jerkbait, rip bait, twitch bait (pick your nomenclature based on your region) got its humble beginnings back in 1936 when Laurie Rapala designed the first hard minnow type lure that mimicked a wounded baitfish. Enter the jerkbait. This design concept, shape, and action are the basis for all modern jerkbaits produced today.
More recently the addition of mass produced jerkbaits that suspend are common. No longer did anglers have to add weight to the belly, bill, or hooks to get their floating jerkbaits to suspend when paused during a retrieve. Of course, the suspending model opened up a whole new way to catch fish on a jerkbait. Turns out prespawn fish can’t stand it when wounded looking bait (caused by the twitching/jerking) suddenly stop and suspend above them.
Even with the addition of the great suspending models there were still times that the fish wouldn’t commit to the shallow running suspending jerkbaits. They might show themselves for a moment with a quick flash, up and back down, or follow several feet under the bait without committing, only to disappear back to the depths. This can be attributed to several causes: cadence, color/size of the bait, mood of the fish, or depth of bait. Depending on the day/hour, bass have a different size strike zone. Days/hours where anything in their zip code gets crushed, days/hours where a bait in the neighborhood is in trouble, and days/hours where anything that saunters by the end of the drive way may or may not have anything to worry about. The days where you can bring your jerkbait bait up the driveway to their doorstep often pays dividends, and a deep diving jerkbait is often the vehicle I employ to knock on their door.
Just like crankbaits, the size and shape of the bill as well as the shape/length of the bait will dictate how a deep diving jerkbait will react under different retrieves and conditions. I’ll review the Lucky Craft line of deep divers in my arsenal and when I use them. As in all of fishing, these are general rules and there are always exceptions to the rule.
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Don’t call me Shirley!
Lucky Craft Staysee SP: Staysees are very popular deep diving jerkbaits, especially for ultra clear water and winter/prespawn conditions. They come in a variety of sizes (2.5” to 4.75”) with the most popular being the Staysee 90 at 3.5”, 1/2oz with ultra sharp #6 VMC black nickel hooks. The Staysee, with the long rounded bill and slender design, is one of the deepest Lucky Craft jerkbaits marketed. The Staysee 90, Ver 2 is a suspending model with good wobble/shimmy action on the pump/pull. The Ver 3 Gary Dobyns model maintains the same shimmy/wobble as the Ver 2 but is weighted slightly heavier toward the nose of the bait, which produces a more pronounced nose down attitude during the retrieve as well as helps the bait dive slightly deeper than the Ver 2 model. The Ver3 model also has a very slow sink rate versus the suspending of the Ver 2.
The Staysee is designed to be fished with more of a pull/pump of the rod versus the quick snapping/darting action you might employ on shallow running models. The Ver 2 is capable of reaching 9-10ft depths on a long cast with 10lb fluorocarbon line. The Ver 3 is capable of reaching 10ft + depths. The internal weighting system allows for ultra long casts with the weights settling back to the forward position during the retrieve to achieve the nose down (Ver 3) or suspending (Ver 2) action.
It really excels in clear cold water (40 to 50 degrees) where prespawn bass are staging along points, ledges or drop-offs. A “pull, pull, pause” is a standard retrieve during this time, with longer pauses (5 seconds is a good starting point) being more productive typically. However, they can be affective any time bass suspend off deeper structure such as post spawn, cold fronts, and fall/winter transition.
It IS polite to Point(er)
Pointer DD: The Pointer SP series of jerkbaits was Lucky Craft’s coming out party. Most anglers, pro or Joe, have some pointers in their box and for good reason. They started the deeper, wider and more realistic body style and ultra realistic finishes. They cast a mile due to their weighting, suspend extremely well, have a myriad of top quality eye -catching finishes , include an oval split ring to prevent the knot from sliding into the split, are equipped with the same sharp VMC black nickel hooks, and provide a very erratic darting/side to side action when worked with a snapping retrieve with slack in the line.Additionally, during the pause of the retrieve, the bait creates a slight vibration all while remaining suspended.
The Pointer DD models come in a variety of size (2”-4”) with my favorites being the Pointer 100DD and Pointer 78 DD. All “DD” models of Pointers run an extra 2-3 feet deeper than their Pointer SP (shallow running) cousins, which is generally in the 6-7 foot range. They also attain the maximum depth very early in the retrieve which is key around more vertical structure like drop offs and bluffs.
Don’t Be So Shallow
Pointer XD: The Pointer XD or extra deep is one of the latest additions to the deep diving Lucky Craft arsenal. It comes in 2” and 3” models (65 and 78mm). It has the same bait profile (size/shape) as the Pointer SP and DD models but due to its extra long lip, it can reach down deeper than the DD at 8+ft. Also the bill shape/design (elongated with a tapered bill) allows the bait to be worked aggressively during the initial part of the retrieve and still maintain its maximum depth profile and classic Pointer side-to-side slashing characteristics.
Both the Pointer DD and XD can be used when there is clear to slightly stained water and water temps are in the mid 50 degrees to 60+ degrees F. It seems like this is the magical temperature range when a more aggressive ripping, snapping, darting from side to side action is effective. Pauses are a must and the length of pause will have to be experimented with. I’m not saying that these don’t work in colder temperatures as I’ve used them many times where I want a more realistic bait profile or size for the lake I’m fishing and the water is in the upper 40 degrees or low 50 degrees . Having said that, the way you retrieve Pointer DD and XD models in the colder temperatures should be adapted to a less aggressive ripping action with much longer pauses, more akin to the Staysee (see above).
Tools of the Trade
A 6’6” or 7’ medium action baitcasting or spinning rod in a fast or extra fast action is typical for jerkbaits and works equally as well on deeper diving models. A 6:1 gear ratio reel seems about perfect for me but the ratio isn’t as critical as YOU do all the action with the rod. I normally use 10-12 lb fluorocarbon or copolymer line for jerkbaits around cover and more precise casting. Rods like the St Croix Legend Tournament Bass 6’8” medium (fast or extra fast) models do an excellent job on all of the jerkbaits mentioned above (78 models and up). You can use a spinning road with 6-10lb fluorocarbon to get the extra distance on the cast (and extra depth out of the bait) and it works equally well when throwing the smaller models (65 models and down).
Work It, Own It
Successful jerkbait fishing is all about the action YOU impart in the lure.
Early/Late Season/Prespawn: When the water is cold (40-50 degrees), the rule of thumb is to slow waaaay down. I will also impart less side-to-side darting action in the baits. This is the time of year getting the maximum depth out of the bait can be crucial. I typically cast as far as possible (normally beyond the strike zone/target). I then give the reel 5-6 full cranks to start the deep diver heading down to the max depth. This will get the bait down quicker than starting the jerking retrieve right off the bat. Once it’s down, I use more of a pull, pull, pause motion with the rod tip down. The pause is generally in the 5 second range to start with, but you will need to experiment to figure out the mood of the fish and how long to leave it there.
Spawn/Postspawn/Early Fall: When water temps are in the upper 50s-to 60s, I usually cast to the structure, cover or point and generally do not employ the 5-6 cranks before starting the retrieve. I get much more aggressive with the ripping and jerking to impart the side-to-side darting action in the bait. To do this, the jerks or rips are with much more force and need to be on a slack or semi-slack line to get the bait moving back and forth. Slight twitches on a complete slack line will make the bait slide side-to-side with very little forward movement toward the boat. I use this next to hard wood or right on the edge of weeds or a very pronounced drop off or ledge. Typical cadence for me is a jerk, jerk, short pause, jerk, jerk, jerk, longer pause. Again, pay attention to what the fish are telling you. The first bite is often key to determining the cadence and pause necessary to reproduce the results. As the water warms during the day you might find that the pause time can decrease and still elicit the strike.
Schooling and Smallies: There are times when fish are schooling or when on smallmouth fisheries that you can’t move the bait fast enough. A constant ripping/jerking with taught/semi taught line will keep the bait moving towards the boat. Little to no pause is required. Just keep it moving and “getting away” and the results will follow.
Grass Trick: I stumbled on this trick a few years back. Deep diving jerkbaits can be incredibly effective on emergent grass, normally very early in the year prior to the grass really growing vertically. It’s effective even when the grass is only 2-3ft below the surface. I figured this out while fishing an event where lipless crankbaits were being thrown on every boat on a very well known grass flat. It sounded like it was raining and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. I threw my Pointer 100DD up on a shallow grass flat and began working it. Due to the nose down retrieve attitude with the DD, the bill would bury in the grass, but the hooks would remain weed free. Once buried, I’d reel down and give two violent vertical jerks on the line without taking up slack with the reel between jerks. The bait would rip free of the grass, do a side to side dart, it was clean as can be and just sat there suspended. It proved to be deadly in that situation and since then I’ve used it numerous times successfully on emergency grass situations in the spring. A regular jerkbait fished in the same conditions would bury in the grass and because it had a shorter lip and less of a nose-down presentation the hooks would collect grass, effectively ending the potential for a bite.
The deep diving suspending jerkbaits have been an incredible addition to the jerkbait family. It opened up several more strike zone depths that were previously untouchable with a jerkbait. So the next time you find yourself looking at suspended fish off points , cover or drop offs, tie one on and see if you can’t get down and knock on some unsuspecting bass’s door. They may not answer immediately, but if you’re patient and wait for them, they will. Tell them Lucky sent ya.