2 Jerkbait Retrieves for Late Season Bass

Working a jerkbait along main channel rock on the Mississippi River.  Photo:  Jack Gavin

The jerkbait is a great lure choice to target late season bass, including suspended bass. The simple, but very effective lure, effectively mimics a minnow in the water and varying the retrieve can cater to a bass’ activity level.

Choosing a jerkbait that dives to your intended depth will allow you to keep your bait in the effective strike zone for an extended period of time, which is a key element for trigging a sluggish bass into biting.

In the fall you can fish a jerkbait in two ways.


The first shines when the water temps are dropping and the bass are actively feeding on baitfish.  By casting the bait out and working it back by twitching your rod tip and reeling up the slack in your line, you are imparting an erratic action to the bait.

This retrieve allows the angler to experiment and see exactly what the bass want in terms of how hard a jerk, how many jerks in a row and how long of a pause to give the bait.  Once you dial in the exact jerkbait presentation the bass want, you’ll be able to load the boat!


Once the water temps have dropped and the bass are inactive, the retrieve will most likely slow down. Casting the jerkbait out and dead sticking it is a great way to keep your rod loaded up when other presentations have failed.  The length of time that you should let your bait suspend in front of the bass will be dictated by the bass and paying close attention to this is critical.

There are numerous jerkbait options and experimentation is key to determine what the bass want on any given day.  I keep my selection simple with these three jerkbaits, as each have a time and place.

Rapala X-Rap:  The first jerkbait I’ll tie on, as its erratic darting action, can be altered by the cadence the angler imparts
Rapala Shadow Rap:  A unique slow, side-to-side sway and vertical fade when paused keep the bait in front of the bass’s face and in the strike zone longer.  This bait has become my go-to jerkbait over the past few seasons on the water. 
Rapala Shadow Rap Shad:  This bait works in opposite of its twin and will slowly rise on the pause and with a sharp snap and slack in the line will spin around and look backwards…this drives the bass wild!

The color patterns that are available in jerkbaits is never-ending, which is why it is important to select a few color patterns and stick to those. 


My top colors for fishing jerkbaits include:  Clown, Table Rock Shad, White Pearl, Shad and a Perch imitating pattern.  The water clarity and the forage will dictate what color bait you tie on.


Line size for jerkbaits depends on the situation. If I want to achieve greater depths or a more subtle presentation with my bait, I’ll use 12-pound-test. If I want to keep my bait up in the water column or fishing around heavier cover, I’ll use 15-pound. 

I prefer to use Seaguar TATSU, which is a Double Structured Fluorocarbon (DSF). This means two different fluorocarbon resins have been blended together for a line that delivers the ultimate in castability, sensitivity and abrasion resistance.


Regardless of what jerkbaits I use, I always swap out the stock treble hooks that come on the bait. By using premium hooks, you can increase your hook up ratio on these fish, especially in the fall when many times a bass, smallmouth especially, will just swat at your bait.  I myself like to use the Lazer TroKar Extra Wide Gap Trebles hooks.

As those water temperatures begin to drop this fall on your favorite lake or river, be sure to rig up some jerkbaits and go out looking for points and steep banks that will have bass setting up on to feed as the shad are schooling up.


I go with a casting rod when fishing jerkbaits, as it is comfortable for me to use and I have more confidence in fighting bigger bass with a casting setup, over a spinning rod set up. 

I’ve found a jerkbait rod will typically be 6’6” to 7’ in length.  I like to use a rod with a medium power and moderate-fast action as it will allow me to toss jerkbaits of all sizes.  I use the Witch Doctor Tackle Voodoo (VDC70P3) Rod with a Wright & McGill Victory II Casting Reel.