They can be worked fast and aggressive for when fish really put the feed on. They can be worked painstakingly slow or suspend completely still in the water column when fish become lethargic in cold winter waters. Almost every predatory fish can’t resist them. Plain and simple: If you have not added suspending jerk baits to your fall arsenal, you are missing out.
Ever since I first started using these incredible baits, they had become one of my all time favorites, and rarely do I leave home for a fishing trip without them. For one, they make for a whole lot of fun. To me, nothing compares to the excitement of a fish whacking a completely still jerkbait so hard it almost knocks the pole out of your hand. Or when I make that last twitch of the bait, inches from my feet and watch as a giant rises from the depth and crushes it with fury. If that doesn’t get your blood pumping, I don’t know what will. These are the things that make fishing so exciting. Also, expect your stringers to get heavier. These baits are a real producer and many trophy fish have been caught with them.
For walleyes and saugeyes, you want these baits to work close to bottom, and in most cases over rocky structure. To accomplish this, work them in waters no deeper than 8 feet unless fish are suspending. These baits really shine during low light periods and at night. I prefer the bait to rise very slowly when sitting still. By slow I’m talking maybe a rise of 1 foot every 10 seconds. With a slow rise I can hover the bait over any rocks or snags. Plus the slow rise imitates a baitfish slowly rising out of danger which can trigger a strike. This retrieve works excellent in early fall. I normally start with a steady retrieve, twitching it in all the way with no pauses. If this does not produce, I will allow the bait to pause for a couple of seconds in between twitches. As fall progresses and water temperatures sink, I will let the bait pause for as long as 20 seconds. Also at this time, some tuning may be required. When temps sink below 55 degrees, these fish may require the bait to suspend completely still. This is accomplished by tuning. For the more common 3 treble 4 ¾ inch baits, some lead tape on the middle treble does the trick. It will take some experimenting to get the amount of tape right. Lead tape on the belly works great for the smaller baits. Use a container of water at home to test the baits suspending ability, then fine tune on the body of water you choose to fish. Tiny chunks removed from the tape makes a huge difference. Also, although the 4 ¾ inch size is an all time favorite, don’t be afraid to try the larger sizes as they produce as well.
I like a medium action spinning rod in 6’6 to 7 size, with a good quality spinning reel. A sensitive rod and reel makes a huge difference. A good drag is also important. When a trophy walleye or saugeye is hooked close to your feet, they can take off with a vengeance and without a good quality drag that is properly set, all you’ll have is the memory of that big fish swimming away with your favorite jerkbait. The key is to keep a loose drag that is still tight enough for a good hook set. Also, if you find yourself missing a lot of fish, the drag may be too tight or the hooks may have become dull. This can happen over time if a jerkbait has seen a lot of use. Replace it with a new bait, or to get even more involved, you can replace the trebles using an o ring remover. Just make sure you use the same size hook that originally came with the bait. There are some great hooks out there that are extremely sharp.
In conclusion, there are some great baits out there. However, I could never imagine a fall bite without a jerkbait being in the picture. I’ve laid out some basics on getting the retrieve right, but when it comes to being on the water, you have to experiment and let the fish tell you what they want. Good luck and may your fall season be plentiful!