As the water temperature declines and gets to a point that moves those bass out of shallow water, do you have a plan to seek out and find them somewhere else? Shallow water is easy to fish, but finding bass in a feeding mood when the water gets chilly isn’t quite so simple.
The metabolism of a bass will slow down as the water temperature hits some of its coolest points during the year. It doesn’t mean they stop feeding. It simply means they don’t feed as often or as aggressively as they do when the water temp is higher. During this time, bass can be difficult to locate.
One bait that I have rediscovered is the hard-bodied suspending jerkbait. Rapala makes one that I really like called the X-Rap. They offer them in different sizes and color patterns. After fishing a lot of the competition, I think these are the best hard-bodied baits on the water.
A good hard jerkbait has distinct characteristics in the water. It’s designed to get down to a certain depth as you twitch or jerk it back to the boat, and then stay there during the retrieve (as opposed to floating lures, which bob back up to the top when they stop moving). When you pause the bait after a series of sharp jerks, the bait will actually turn 90 or even 180 degrees — almost like it’s looking to see if anything is following it. If you get a chance to cast this bait in a swimming pool or clear water to actually see how they work, the action is pretty amazing.
These baits allow you to cover a lot of water quickly. I like to find the deepest cover I can and then look for even deeper water close to it. Depending on the size of the bait you are casting, you can get it down anywhere from 4 to 10 feet deep — as deep as a crankbait, but with a totally different action.
In deeper water, you need to do more than twitch it. The harder you jerk that bait, the deeper it will dive. I’ll move the rodtip about 4 feet with each jerk. And I vary up the number of jerks that I use to retrieve it. Once I have it down to the depth I want, I then alternate between three jerks, a long pause, one jerk, a shorter pause, then two jerks and a longer pause. What you will find is that bass will usually hit it on the pause. The trick is to find out how long that pause needs to be to get them to strike, so alternating your pause length is key.
Getting that bait down to the depth you want is also important. When I fish these baits, I like to use a medium action rod, or maybe a medium heavy if it has a really fast tip on it. Always retrieve the bait with jerks or snaps of the rod tip. That is how these baits have their best action. Don’t just reel it like a crankbait. I’m only reeling to pick up the slack line.
I used this bait often fishing for smallmouth bass in Wisconsin. When the water cools down, nothing is better than a jerkbait to get bass in the boat. I had almost forgotten about them here in Florida. With so much vegetation, a bait with treble hooks all over it seemed like a bad plan.
But I was wrong. I started using this bait again on a small lake somewhere northeast of Orlando and the bass absolutely creamed it. I have also used it in some deep holes on Lake Okeechobee, Lake Parker, and the Winter Haven chain of lakes with some pretty good success.
The one thing that always stands out to me is trying to find a technique that not everyone else is using. I can guarantee you that most bass anglers in Florida don’t even consider a hard jerkbait as a method for catching bass here in Florida. I have to say, I am glad I rediscovered this bait. It is a look that the bass have not seen much of in this state, and that alone makes it special.
So if you have not tried hard jerkbaits, you may want to consider picking up one or two of them and giving them a try. The water temperature is dropping, and when it hits the coolest point that it can get to, this bait is one that can put bass in the boat for you. I know I’ll keep one tied on all winter. Even in Florida, it can be a deadly bait.
Greg Bartz is a tournament bass fisherman based in Lakeland. Greg fishes lakes throughout Florida’s Heartland and enjoys RV travel around the Southeast with his wife and tournament partner, Missy. Contact him at Greg.Bartz@SummitHoldings.com.