Making Jerkbaits: Tips For Making Deadly Lures For All Seasons
There is nothing quite like making jerkbaits. When it comes to pinning finicky fish that aren’t actively feeding, they’re “da bomb”! The ability to intersperse subtle twitches, long pauses and quick, pulsing movements can sometimes turn a fishless day into a memorable event.
In this article I give a quick overview of designing and making jerkbaits of the lipped variety. But, the term “jerkbait” can also refer to a lipless hard body lure (see jerkbait types for a full explanation). And it’s also used to refer to a style of soft plastic lure, to get even more confusing!
Making Jerkbaits Vs Crankbaits ……
Many people ask the difference between a crankbait and a jerkbait….. and to be honest it’s a gray area. Crankbaits are a very diverse group. In my view lipped jerkbaits are actually a style of crankbait rather than a different category altogether. Plus, there are slashbaits and ripbaits, which are kind of like sub-styles of jerkbaits design. I’ve talked about the various types of hard body lures elsewhere.
Jerkbaits are clearly distinguished from other styles of crankbaits by the way they are fished. The most important thing when jerkbait fishing is to maximize the use of slack line. That’s what gives the lure amazing side to side action with minimum forward movement. Most crankbaits float on a slack line, though some sink. Good jerkbaits do neither. Between twitches they should instead dart erratically to one side or other.
With that in mind, making jerkbaits isn’t that much different from making more typical crankbaits. In fact, much of what you need to know is covered in my free eBook “Wooden Lure Making 101“. The real difference is learning to weight your jerkbaits so that they suspend…. simple enough?
What You Must Know About Making Jerkbaits Suspend
So the key requirement for making jerkbaits is that they “suspend”. This allows the fisherman to include some long pauses in a retrieve. As a result the lure stays in “the zone” longer, darting enticingly.
Proper weighting is the key to achieving this, but it’s a little more complex than you might think:
- Fresh water is less dense than salt water, so lures that suspend in fresh will slowly float in salt. And vice versa – lures that suspend in salt water can often sink in fresh.
- Cold water is more dense than warm water, so lures that suspend in cold water tend to sink in warmer waters.
So actually, making jerkbaits that suspend perfectly is a complete waste of time! Water temperature changes by location and season, and so does the buoyancy of your jerkbaits. There’s even greater variability for those like me who regularly switch between fishing the fresh and the salt.
The truth is, suspending jerkbaits need fine tuning during fishing. So the the best option is to weight your jerkbaits so that they slowly float in the conditions you’ll be using them. It’s much easier to make field adjustments to a slightly buoyant jerkbait than one that sinks. Just switch to heavier hooks and rings, wrap a little lead wire around the hooks or stick an adhesive suspendot to the lure body.
5 More Tips For Making Jerkbaits
- A head up or head down orientation looks unnatural to fish – you want your lure to be horizontal on slack line. I find 3 sets of slightly smaller trebles works better than 2 sets o larger ones. This distributes the weight more evenly and reduces the amount of internal weight needed.
- During the prototype phase of making jerkbaits, I first complete a lure without any internal weight at all. Then I drop it into a bucket of fresh or salt water, depending where intend using the final lure. Attaching small pieces of lead using tape allows me to figure out the weighting. I then know how much lead is needed, and where to put it, when I make the lure for real.
- Narrow diving lips tend to work best for most jerkbait styles. For more info, refer to my article on understanding lure bibs.
- Making jerkbaits dart about on slack line requires finesse, so light lines are often the rule. Lightweight and ultra sharp hooks are best when this is the case. Trying to set heavy or dull hooks on light lines is a recipe for disaster.
- Most jerkbaits have relatively slender, narrow body shapes. Chunky, thick lure bodies don’t get the side to side movement we need from a jerkbait. Minnow styles tend to work best.
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