jerkbait techniques: understanding cadenceSome of you are probably aware that advanced jerkbait techniques are kind of a specialty of mine. And recently I’ve had a few questions about cadence and what it is, so rather than keep replying to individuals I decided a post would be a good idea.

Put in simple terms, cadence refers to the rhythmic beat of a lure and it affects the vibration that the lure emits and that fish home in on.

There are two ways in which your lures gets cadence. The first is built into the design of the lure. It’s the rhythmic side to side action of a crankbait, the hum of a propbait, the wiggle of a surface crawler and so on. In lure making our aim is often to create perfect cadence in our finished lures. In other words, we often strive to get the action uniform so that when we crank at constant speed the lure tracks straight and has a predictable action.

The second form of cadence is determined by the way the manner in which we fish the lure, which is why the most successful stickbait and jerkbait techniques require a little more effort than a simple cast and retrieve. Fished on a steady retrieve, most jerkbaits and stickbaits don’t have much of a rhythm. It’s side-side or up-down actions imparted with the rod tip, combined with variations in cranking speed.

For these lures cadence is all about how many rips, twitches or cranks you impart before you pause for a second or two (or even more).

Jerkbait Techniques: The “Right” Cadence Is The One That Works!

Keep in mind that jerkbait techniques are intended to impart baitfish-like qualities to your lures, right?

How often do baitfish swim in a straight line at constant speed? Never. So don’t expect to get the best results by just casting your jerkbait out and retrieving it at constant speed!

Wounded or scared baitfish swim erratically, so you need to use your rod and cranking speed to imitate that. But keep in mind that wounded bait fish only go nuts in short bursts, then they tend to pause and suspend as they go into their death throes. So leave plenty of pauses in your retrieve (this is why so many jerkbaits are designed to suspend).

When baitfish are casually foraging around a weed bed then the cadence you impart should be a series of short, relatively gentle twitches interspersed with lots of long pauses. Conversely, baitfish that are being hammered by hungry predators move fast and erratically with very short pauses, so that’s the action to impart to your jerkbait when the the fish are active and aggressive.

The trick is to vary your retrieve until you find what’s working on the day and under the circumstances in which you are fishing. That means being aware of what you are doing when a fish takes your lure so you can repeat the pattern, so stay focused and stay alert at all times!


Find out more about making jerkbaits in my Crankbait Masterclass!


Jerkbait Techniques: Crankbait Masterclass