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Soft Jerkbaits

By Russ Bassdozer

There are many good soft jerkbaits out there. Practically every manufacture makes one. Here are some that I always carry with me:

* Yamamoto Senko: One of the newest soft jerkbaits on the market. It come in 4", 5", 6" a big 7" size that appeals to bass weighing in the double digits! The Senko does one thing better than any other jerkbait on the market - it sinks more rapidly, and it's easier to keep it a few feet deep below the surface.

* 4" Zoom Fluke, 5" Super Fluke, 5" Bass Assassin Shad, and 5" Venom Skip Shads are all sway-bellied jerkbaits that imitate shad and alewives. They are quite bulky in appearance, and the belly is usually molded with a hook slot to limit the amount of plastic in which the hook is buried.

* Lunker City Slug-go and Fin-S-Fish. No other manufacturer produces injection-molded baits with the lustrous semi-translucent sheen and ultra-realistic natural baitfish patterns of Lunker City. I am convinced that the Lunker City color patterns matter to my success at times. There are always a few ultra-realistic colors of Slug-Gos and Fin-S-Fish in my bag for this reason.

On the Slug-go, which has a thin baitfish profile, I use the 6" size quite a bit. I also favor the 4" Fin-S-Fish which has a sway belly. Lunker City's got a tiny 3" Slug-Go and teeny 2-1/2" Fin-S-Fish that both work well. Not too many other soft jerkbaits come in these smaller sizes.

* Bobby Garland's BG Custom Minnow: I added this 4" jerkbait to my bag last fall. Why? The BG is sway-bellied like many, but whereas most others (Zoom Flukes, Bass Assassins, Venoms, etc.) imitate bulky baits like shad, the 4" BG has a thinner shape and you can use a thinner wire hook -- both thinner shape and thinner hook work much better when it's time to "match the hatch" of skinny native minnows in rivers and streams. Plus, the BG's have realistic eyes molded onto them, and I'll tell you those eyes caught me before they ever caught the first fish!

Gambler 7" Floating Wirm* Floating Worms/Trick Worms. These are specialized buoyant models of soft jerkbaits. They look like worms (so does a Senko). They float right ON the surface. Look for reeds, tules, cattails. Look for points and bends in the reed banks...where the reeds form a pocket or point that extends a few feet further out or further in than the rest of the reed bank.

Rig your trick worms on a hook that is light enough so the worm will float. A regular shank hook is often lighter and floats better than an offset shank. Start in the nose and thread the hook towards the middle of the bait for balance. Make sure the entire hook eye and hook point are buried.  Cast that trick worm right into the reeds. Let it sit and float a long time, then twitch it out of that point or pocket ever so slowly. The take is often a slow, simple swirl as the bass sips in the worm. White is a good color.

So you see, soft jerkbaits either work subsurface (Senko), on the surface (floating worms), or most models are constantly wanting to rise from one (subsurface) to the other (surface) then back again. One's not right or wrong, just different.

Surface Kiting. I love to Texas rig soft jerk baits UNWEIGHTED on offset hooks. With no weight at all, the Zoom, Bass Assassin, BG Minnow, Slug-go, Fin-S-Fish and most other soft jerkbaits tend to kite towards the surface on the retrieve. I find them much more difficult to keep a few feet under the surface like a Senko. So, I do not try to fight this natural tendency in them. I will use them when I want to fish close to the surface (or even breaking through it). Twitch a few times, then kill the retrieve and let them fall down a few feet down. Soft jerkbaits make wavering erratic body movements as they sink on a semi-slack line, which is when bass hit them.

Weighting it. If you want to weight it, stick strips of solder or pieces of nail weights into the bait to suspend it deeper into the water. Try to put the weight in the center so the jerkbait neither tail dives nor nose dives when it sinks on a semi-slack line. I prefer this to putting a split shot or weight on the line ahead of the jerkbait. This is for actively jerking or ripping the bait. You can "rip" it viciously, like you would a hard plastic jerkbait! Hold the rod tip down to the side and reel slowly. After a few turns of the reel handle, snap the rod tip back and to the side.

Rig the jerkbait tex-posed or tex-skinned on the hook. Just rip it through weeds or on flats in 4 to 6 depths same as you would rip a hard plastic jerk bait such as a Rapala or Smithwick Rogue. Also, parallel cast and rip it fast along bare banks and rocky rip-rap banks.

Just develop a cadence of reeling in a few turns, then jerking or "ripping" the lure with the rod tip, and then pausing. Bass will often strike as the lure pauses after you rip it or when it tears off weeds. Occasionally, just let it drop dead to the bottom. Bass will follow it down and suck it up as it lies motionless! If not, just let it lie still for a while, then rip it good - and brace your feet for what happens next! Sounds easy, but there are infinite variations on this technique -- how fast to reel, how hard to jerk, how long to pause, and how to mend SLACK in the line right after you rip -- that makes it a true art!

Texas Jigs. Importantly, Bass Assassin makes a Texas jig head that has a long-shanked offset Texas style hook molded into it. It comes in 1/16, 1/8 and 1/4 oz. sizes. You can rig a soft jerkbait "texposed" or "tex-skin" style to make it weedless and snagless. Because of the lead head (superglue it on), this rig holds up in the grass better than an unweighted soft jerkbait, and you can more easily control it at mid-depths or work it just above deeply submerged weedtops.

Also, Charlie Brewer makes a light weight, thin wire offset Texas jig head called the SNAGLESS Spider Head (Model WSH). It comes in 1/16, 1/8, 1/4 with a needle thin 3/0 hook that penetrates easily. These are great heads for soft jerks on light lines. The lead is soft and flattened so you can easily clip the weight down with cutters. Because the WSH weighs so little and the hook is so thin, soft jerkbaits retain a lot of their erratic action and wobble on the sink which is when to expect to get bit!

Jig heads for jerks. Bass Assassin also makes some specially-designed jig heads for soft jerkbaits. They come in 1/16, 1/8 and 1/4 oz, sizes. The head shape, weight distribution, and light sizes ensure that soft plastic bodies still produce unpredictable, fluid natural movement, convincing fish that your jerkbait is for real! Lifelike features - the head shape, eyes, gill plates and scales - enhance the illusion. They come with either a double barb collar...or a wire screw lock that holds the bait well. Mustad Needlepoint Wide Gap hooks are heavy duty. These jigs are for getting jerkbaits far down in deep impoundments or for fishing soft jerkbaits in currents. Just remember to always use the lightest jig head for the job at hand. With a light jighead, just reel in straight - the dynamics of the soft jerkbait's body shape will create a hesitant, gliding, lazy action. Occasionally jig with the rod tip, thereby inducing a darting, faltering dance, with frequent pauses. Expect to get hit when the lure pauses between jig strokes.

Sometimes it's smart to be a jerk.

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