Fishing Jerk baits

I love going back through old Muskie magazines and articles looking for “new” ideas.  This isn’t rocket science.  The tools we use now are radically different and better than they were 20 years ago, but we’re still trying to fool an animal with a brain the size of a pea and get it to attack our bait.

I found this article in the Muskies Canada Release Journal  – April 1986.  I’ve always struggled with jerk baits and as a result, I don’t fish them that often.  The article is 30 years old, but I’m hoping it pays dividends next season …..


By John Parry – From Muskies Canada Release Journal April 1986

What kind of a person hurls a piece of wood on a line into the water, reels it in and does it again and again – all day long?

Well, if you’re not a muskie angler I think I would call you a jerk, however if you are a muskie angler you’re definitely a jerkbaiter.

Using a jerkbait is hard work if you do it all day but there are some ways to make it easier.

Rule number one is pace, think of how long you plan to be on the water then work the biat with the appropriate  vigor.

Rule number two is to not overwork your baits but to develop a consistent pattern with moderate pulls.

The moderation of the extent of the pulls will allow your bait to work well, help you keep control over the bait, make it easier to maintain your balance and will keep you from feeling like your arms and back had been run over by a freight train by the end of the day.


I mentioned the word consistent when I spoke on how to work the bait, this can mean different things but in this case it was directed at the setting of a specific pattern and following it.  If you do a pull, pull, pull, twitch, twitch, pull, pull, pull pattern follow it and build a rhythm with it and after a while you will find it quite easy.

I have also found gliders are the easiest type to work because they have virtually no water resistance and like their name glide through the water.




In contrast, the diving baits such as the Suick and Bobby baits have to be pumped down with very rapid pulls and quick reeling.

The vertical movement of these lures causes quite a bit more resistance in the water and can tire you quicker than the gliders.


The two lures have their own place in your arsenal and if used properly they can be very productive.  The diving baits are best utilized in areas where you want to get down to the fish such as at drop offs or over deep weeds.  In contrast, the gliders perform much better over shallow rocks and weed beds where their tantalizing side to side action can be effective without hanging up.

The understanding of why these lures work is extremely important to the way they are worked.

These lures are representing the muskies favorite snack, that is a wounded bait fish and must somewhere along the line give a reasonable imitation of them.

Injured bait fish do very strange things because in most cases they can predict their own future, such as someone’s dinner, therefore they give their last ounce of strength to get out of dangers way.


I have personally witnessed many injured perch, bass and sunfish on their sides attempting to dive to the safety of the weed bed below and after a very short period of time they mystically disappear.  These fish have all but lost control of their bodies, as they seem to gain buoyancy and lose their equilibrium.

This is what your jerkbait is attempting to duplicate, and that is why I have found an erratic retrieve in most cases will interest more fish.

The next problem we fact after getting them interested enough to take a good shot at trying to inhale your offering is how to keep her on.

This year I have been a good example of what not to do, because I ended the season 0 for 5.  All of these fish I had on and had hooks into, so call it what you want but let’s be kind and say I’m a very good sportsman involved in long distance release.

The truth of the matter is that the problem I experienced last year is a common one for Jerkbait anglers, because the weight of the lure combined with the problems of getting really good hook sets leaves the greatest odds of the fish escaping.

There are ways of getting around these odds, the first being the use of extra sharp hooks, these will make it much easier to penetrate the extremely hard bony mouth of the lunge with a good hook set.  The second is with tackle, a relatively stiff muskie rod combined with heavy dacron fishing line gives you that no-stretch and power combination required to drive home those sharp hooks.  I also use a good quality heavy bait casting reel, and this is a must, because a light reel will virtually fall apart internally when attempting to handle these big baits.

The grip of the rod is very important if you want to obtain the maximum leverage during the hook set.  A very good friend of mine, and might I say one of the best muskie men I know, converted me from the standard grip of cupping the reel to holding onto the top grip of the rod.


The new method of holding on to the rod felt very strange to me, but after a while it was quite natural and I really can feel the added pressure I am able to exert through the rod.

The playing of the fish is really no different than if you were fighting any muskie, only you must realize that if the fish jumps the odds seem to be much greater on you losing the fish, (I know that’s how I lost most of mine this year).

The next topic that I feel that I should mention is when and where to use these baits.  These lures can produce fish all year, but I have a particular preference for using them in the fall season.  This time of year is when the truly large fish become relatively easy to locate and are really hungry.

The way I discover these locations is first by marking on my hydrographic map the fastest breaking shorelines and then picking out the best areas to concentrate my efforts.


The inside turn on this shoreline is a prime fall muskie spot, as it is close to deep water and is not far from a large week flat area which draws these fish during the summer season.




The very fast drop off helps these large fish fee effectively at a time of year when weather conditions change very quickly.




In the summer with the more stable weather conditions, the muskie can travel further because once she gets to the feeding area the chances are that the conditions will not change radically and therefore she will not be in constant motion without feeding.  With this increase in the distance she is willing to travel, so increases the locations where you might find her and makes it a more time consuming process.

In the fall I have found that either the fish is in a location or she isn’t and within a few casts you will find this out and you can eliminate a lot of water very quickly.

These are but a few suggestions to make it easier to use these lures productively, but the main point is you must use the bait.  To gain confidence in it you will need to work it properly and you must feel comfortable with it on your line.  After you see the first lunge take a shot at it I’m sure you’ll be like me, hooked on Jerkbaits !








Mike Mitchell