What Is A Jerkbait?

What Is A Jerkbait? Exactly what is a jerkbait? I’m glad you asked! It’s a question that causes plenty of confusion, so I’ll give my version of the story. Hopefully it helps!

One reason for the confusion is that there are two very different and unrelated groups of hard body lures that both go by the name “Jerkbait”. And there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme, reason or pattern as to who calls what which, but I’ve covered both styles in this article about the various types of fishing lures!

Even major lure manufactures are all over the place when it comes to deciding what is a jerkbait and what is some other style. So lets pull on the boxing gloves and slug out what’s what!

In The Red Corner Of The “What Is A Jerkbait?” Debate: Lipped Jerkbaits

Weighing in at thousands of pounds (of bass and other gamefish)….. we have the lipped jerkbaits. So if the term “Jerkbait” conjures up images of slender, minnow style crankbaits for you, this is where you belong. You’re in good company, too. Rapala, Luckycraft, Smithwick and plenty of other major brands also call this style of lure a jerkbait.

So this style of jerkbait is definitely in the crankbait family, but the distinction between jerkbaits and other crankbait styles is quite blurry! It used to be that jerkbaits were recognizable for their small, narrow diving lip, usually angled downwards. But these days lots of lure makers churn out medium to deep diving lures with longer diving lips – and still call them jerkbaits.

Likewise, once upon a time, pretty much all jerkbaits suspended – meaning that they hung motionless in the water if you stopped retrieving them. That used to be a distinguishing factor, but these days lots of other lures suspend too.

So we’re not getting any closer to answering our question. What is a jerkbait?

Well, for the Red Corner, things are about to get even a little more confusing. Lure manufacturers in their wisdom,  started creating sub-sets of the already poorly defined lipped jerkbaits:

  • Slashbaits tend to have minnow shaped bodies and short diving lips angled close to horizontal. They tend to get worked a little faster and with more enthusiastic rod action than other jerkbait styles.
  • Ripbaits are medium to deep diving, minnow or shad shaped jerkbaits that suspend. They’re worked much the same way as standard jerkbaits, but they get a little deeper in the water.

So slashbaits and ripbaits are styles of jerkbait. And jerkbaits are a type of crankbait. Cool. Clear as crystal……

And In The Blue Corner

But maybe the question “What is a Jerkbait?” doesn’t conjure an image of a lipped minnow style lure. Maybe it conjures up images of a more shad-shaped lure body -one without a diving lip at all. Well, then you my friend are in the blue corner with Sebile, Strike Pro and Bomber!

And before you get all smug about what a basket case the Red Corner is, there’s plenty to be confused about in the blue corner too…….

What is a jerkbait - glidebait

This style of jerkbait is a little easier to define. They’re generally shad or minnow shaped, usually suspending or slow sinking. They can look a little like a lipless crankbait, only the tow point on a lipless jerkbait is on the nose, while on the lipless crankbait it’s on the nose.

The lipless jerkbaits are similar in many ways to stickbaits, except lipless jerkbaits are usually sub-surface lures while most stickbaits are topwater lures.

Now, here’s where is gets confusing! Once again, lure manufacturers have come up with some names for specialized lipless jerkbaits:

  • Twitchbaits are usually shad-shaped and can be suspending, slow or medium sinking. They are fished in much the same way as a walk-the-dog topwater lure, but beneath the surface.
  • Glide baits tend to be fairly long and can be minnow or shad shaped. They are usually worked in longer jerks and then allowed to glide momentarily on a semi-taut line. Well balanced and weighted glide baits, especially those with flat sides, will tend to glide randomly to either side.

What’s The Verdict?

For me, jerkbaits will always be the lipped variety. Not for any reason other than that’s what I grew up with. From the research I’ve done the split is about 75:25 in favor of lipped lures being the “real” jerkbaits.

But let’s face it, what does it really matter? There are some subtle variations, but essentially both lipped and lipless jerkbaits are used in much the same way. No matter what name you choose to apply, both styles are awesome fish catchers.


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What Is A Jerkbait? was last modified: May 29th, 2016 by Greg Vinall
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