What is a jerkbait? I’m glad you asked!
There are 2 completely different hard body lures styles that get referred to as jerkbaits – plus some soft plastic ones too. So the types of lures you refer to as jerkbaits can depend a lot on where you live and the style of fishing you do.
I cover the difference between the hard body jerkbait styles in my article about types of fishing lures.
What A Jerkbait Is To The Lipped Lure Enthusiast
Does the term “Jerkbait” conjure up images of slender, minnow style crankbaits that suspend when you stop retrieving?
Well, that’s what a jerkbait is to Rapala, Luckycraft, Smithwick and lots of other major brands. And it’s where the whole crankbait vs jerkbait confusion begins – I’ll get to that shortly.
For me, this type of jerkbait is characterized by a small diving lip that is angled well down, rather than horizontally. But the most distinguishing factor is that most of them “suspend”. In other words, they tend to hang motionless in the water when you stop retrieving – neither sinking or floating.
And in fact the key to fishing this style of jerkbait is to let it do just that. It takes a fair bit of self control to pause your retrieve for 10, 15 or 20 seconds on a semi-slack line. But master it and you’ll see some stunning results with jerkbaits.
The Great “Jerkbait Vs Crankbait” Debate
OK, hopefully I’m not biting off more than I can chew with this…… but there is always plenty of debate about the difference between crankbaits vs jerkbaits. So let’s try and address it, huh?
When I get the question “what is a jerkbait?”, my answer is always the same. I jerkbait is a style of crankbait that’s designed to be fished slowly, with plenty of rod tip action and to suspend when the retrieve is paused.
It’s not a perfect answer, I know. There’s plenty of gray areas when you’re trying to distinguish hard body lure styles. And to make it even more confusing, some manufacturers like to try and break down the already poorly defined lipped jerkbaits into sub-sets:
- Slashbaits have minnow shaped bodies and short diving lips. Unlike shallow running crankbaits, these lures have the diving lip angled closer to horizontal. This allows them to be worked briskly and with more enthusiastic “slashing” rod action.
- Ripbaits are medium to deep diving, minnow or shad shaped jerkbaits that suspend. They’re definitely on the cusp of being classed as crankbaits but are worked much the same way as standard jerkbaits, just deeper.
So slashbaits and ripbaits are styles of jerkbait. And jerkbaits are a type of crankbait. Cool? Clear as crystal……
So….. What Is A Jerkbait To The Lipless Lure Fan?
OK! So maybe when I asked “What is a Jerkbait?” you pictured a sinking or suspending shad-shaped lure without a diving lip. Then you, my friend, in the same camp as Sebile, Strike Pro, Bomber and numerous other major lure manufacturers!
Lipless jerkbaits are a little easier to define than their lipped cousins. As I’ve already said, 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. On a lipless crankbait it’s always on top of the head.
This type of jerkbait is similar to stickbaits, except stickbaits are topwater lures. That said, there are also some “sinking stickbaits” out there – and it’s a very grey area as to what’s a jerk and what’s a stick!
Now, here’s where is gets even more 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 slender. They can be minnow or shad shaped and are 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.
Tips For Fishing With Jerkbaits
The good news is that while we might fight about what a jerkbait is (and is not), we can all agree on how they should be used……. and that’s because both types of jerkbait can be fished in much the same way. Here are a few tips for using jerkbaits really well:
- First – and most importantly for those using lipped jerkbaits -don’t fall into the trap of using them the same was as when you’re fishing with other crankbait styles. Jerkbaits need to be fished much more slowly and with a much more varied retrieve.
- Take advantage of the suspending qualities of jerkbaits. Pause the retrieve frequently and allow the lure a semi-slack line. This lets your jerkbait glide a little, then “hang”. The trick is not to allow just enough slack line to get action, but not so much that you miss strikes.
- Fish as light as possible. Jerkbaits are generally designed for fishing open water, so heavy tackle is not usually required. A stiff, heavy leader can spoil the action and cost you fish.
- Because you’re fishing slowly, fish have lots of time to inspect your lure. Jerkbaits in clear water are one time when lure color and paint design can make a real difference.
- Be prepared to adjust the weighting of your jerkbaits to keep them suspending. Their buoyancy varies with water temperature, salt content and so on.
What’s The Verdict? What Is A Jerkbait, Really?
For me personally, jerkbaits will always be the lipped suspending subset of crankbaits – for no other reason than it’s what I grew up with. But as you’ve seen, even major lure manufacturers have agreed to disagree on what they’ll call a jerkbait.
It guess it doesn’t matter that much- as long as you have both these styles in your fishing kit! After all, both lures can be fished in much the same way and for basically the same species. Bottom line? Get a few jerkbaits in your fishing box and go hit the water!
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