(Editor's note: The following is the latest installment in a series of fishing tips presented by The Bass University. Check back each Friday for a new tip.)
It’s common knowledge that the elongated shape of a minnow-style hard bait is universally attractive to bass, which is why it’s such a surprise that many anglers don’t use a jerkbait throughout the seasons. They know it works on clear, highland lakes in the pre-spawn, but after that they put it away. That includes many fishermen in JT Kenney’s adopted home state of Florida.
“When you think of Florida, you always hear about guys punching,” he said. “You always hear about guys casting to isolated targets, throwing lipless crankbaits and topwaters, all kinds of stuff, but you very, very rarely ever hear about jerkbaits.”
It’s not a lure class that he uses every day, but when fish are in clear water over shallow grass, and particularly after a cold front, it has occasionally been the difference between a poor day and a full livewell.
There’s one lure in particular that he favors. “I’ve tried a million of them,” he said, but the old school Bomber Long A gets the call almost exclusively. It’s buoyant and extremely high-floating, which helps it stay above the grass. He works it slowly and it easily stays above the area where it would otherwise get fouled. In Florida, he favors combinations of gold and black to mimic golden shiners, but the lure comes in a variety of other patterns.
Because fish often slap at this lure and don’t get hooked, he works hard to keep it in place. Therefore, instead of throwing slack in the line on the pause, he holds his line tight, so it doesn’t float up so quickly.
One other way that this differs from jerkbait fishing in other parts of the country is the tackle that he uses. He starts with 17-pound fluorocarbon instead of the 8- or 10-pound line that gets the call in most other situations. That keeps it above the grass and puts him in control when a big fish strikes. He also uses a 7'3" medium-heavy Halo TI rod, definitely not a medium action. A 6.5:1 Ardent baitcasting reel gets the call most often, but he won’t hesitate to go up to 7:1 or even 8:1 if the fish are moving quickly once they strike. “I really don’t think that the reel ratio makes a whole lot of difference in this situation,” he said. Nevertheless, he never drops down to something in the 5:1 range.
This is not a technique he uses every day, but when it’s on it can be lights out, and there are likely not a lot of other people employing it. Furthermore, it’s not a Florida-only presentation, either. Kenney said that anywhere you have finicky fish over grass, and at least 2 to 3 feet of visibility, it’s something you should keep in your back pocket – and probably on your front deck.
If you want to learn more about when, where and how Kenney maximizes his jerkbait effectiveness over grass, including his preferred knot and how he ties it, check out his full video, available only by subscribing to The Bass University TV.