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Bass Crash Course: How to Work a Soft Jerkbait

Depending how you rig it, this classic bass lure will catch fish throughout the water column.

An erratic action, a natural profile and weedless rigging are just some of the traits that make the soft jerkbait such a great bass lure. When these baits were introduced back in the late 1980s, the world of bass fishing had never seen anything like it before and it accounted for a lot of bass in the shallows. This style of lure still puts fish in the boat when fishing five feet of water or less and is a great search tool when trying to cover vast expanses of shallow water.

Versatility is the other attribute that makes the soft jerkbait so effective. You can fish it fast just below the surface during low-light conditions or let it settle into the three- to five-foot zone when the sun is out. The bait will perform differently to match the conditions you encounter depending on how you rig the hook.

Running Shallow

The soft jerkbait is best fished on a 3/0 to 4/0 extra-wide-gap hook and rigged like any other Texas-rigged worm. To get the jerkbait to run shallower in the water, bring the hook point out about 1/2 to 3/8 of an inch into the nose of the soft plastic, burying the eye of the hook deeper into the plastic. Mark where the plastic body meets the bend of the hook to determine your entry point back into the plastic.

This rigging method places the hook more central into the soft plastic, causing the bait to glide and plane shallower when paused and works great when bass are aggressive and chasing bait. This is also a great tactic for schooling bass.

Running Deep

Bring the hook point out of the nose of the soft jerkbait about 1/4 inch down, and leave the eye of the hook exposed just outside of the plastic body. This will place more weight toward the front of the lure, causing it to nose down slightly when paused. This perfectly mimics an injured baitfish, and the bass will often eat the soft jerkbait when they won’t eat faster moving lures.

Allow the bait to fall into that 3- to 5-foot zone or pause it next to shady cover when the sun is out. Between twitches of the rod tip, allow 3 to 4 seconds for the lure to get to its depth. You’ll likely notice most of the bites come as the lure falls on semi-slack line. As you lift the rod tip to twitch the bait again, you’ll often feel the tension from the bass swimming with it.

Finally, color can play a big role in getting bass to commit to eating the lure. I typically start with a white or bubblegum color because bass will often respond to those brighter colors, and I can see the bait easily on a long cast. If the bass are flashing on the bait but not eating it, I know it’s time to tone down the color scheme to a more natural color, such as watermelon.

Under bright skies or in extremely clear water, the translucent colors will blend well into the background and give the bass less of a chance to reject the lure. Ultimately, experimentation is often the key to finding the magic color.

The soft jerkbait is an all-time classic bass lure and one of the best for new anglers. There is simply no "wrong" way to fish it.

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