Suspending hard-bodied jerkbaits is a consistently productive tactic for Lake Erie smallmouth bass.
Oh, there will be days when you catch more bass dragging a tube along the bottom, or on a goby imitation fished on a drop-shot rig.
But baitfish make up a large portion of an Erie smallmouth’s diet, and bass are programmed to look up. This, combined with water that’s often clear — providing a large feeding window — and the vulnerable look of a suspending jerkbait will often call in biting bass from a distance.
Suspending jerkbaits are most effective in shallower water, most commonly around 10 feet or less, though on Erie I’ve taken bass on them from water in the 15-foot range. Shoreline flats, shoals associated with incoming streams and off-shore humps, points extending from islands: These are all prime areas to target with a suspending jerkbait.
The key to working a suspending jerkbait, particularly when the water is relatively cold, is to fish it slow: subtle stitches, with lengthy pauses of several seconds.
Most hits will come when the bait hangs relatively motionless. The twitch gets their attention, the pause provides the helpless look that often triggers a strike.
Long casts with a quality no-stretch line like Gamma Torque or Sufix 832 equates into more solidly hooked fish. A 4- to 6-foot leader of premier fluorocarbon line such as Gamma Edge or Sufix Invisline keeps the visible braid away from the lure and provides a bit of shock cushioning.
On days when the wind blows parallel to structure it’s often possible to catch smallmouth on suspending jerkbaits by simply trailing them behind the drifting boat. Give the bait periodic twitches along with a “drop back” with the rod tip to get the jerk/pause action. It’s a good tactic when the breeze interferes with the feel needed to properly work cast lures.