When you talk to bass fishermen about fishing a jerkbait, they talk about the early spring, prespawn period when the water is cold. But not very many of those same fishermen will even think about fishing a jerkbait in the fall, and that’s their loss.
A jerkbait can be a very effective bait in the fall when bass are moving back into creeks, following baitfish. If you think about it, the water temperature is falling into the same range it is in the spring, the fish are moving into shallower water, and you’re looking for a good, reaction bite. Those three things are what makes a jerkbait effective in the spring, so why not in the fall, too?
Getting a reaction bite can be really important in the fall because a lot of the creeks you go into in our major reservoirs, they’re so many shad in there, it can be tough fishing. You feel like you’re outnumbered because anywhere you go, it seems like there are 10 million shad or herring around. And plenty of times, you find bass suspended over creek channels or some kind of vegetation, which is a perfect situation for a jerkbait.
Really, any way that you can get a fish to bite when it’s not actively feeding, that’s a big positive, and that’s why I fish a jerkbait a lot in October when I probably should be deer hunting.
I like to fish both soft-plastic and hard-plastic jerkbaits. For hard-plastic baits, I want to be casting into open water where those VMC treble hooks won’t get me in trouble. If I’m targeting bass that are in about 5 feet of water, I’m going to be throwing a Rapala X-Rap. If they’re a little deeper, say, 6 to 10 feet, I’ll throw a Shadow Rap. If I’m going to throw a soft-plastic jerkbait with a single hook because I’m fishing around some kind of vegetation or around standing timber, I’ll fish a Yamamoto D-Shad.
I like all my baits this time of year to be some kind of shad pattern. You can mess around with them a little bit as far as the particular color goes. I know with an X-Rap, you can get one with a chartreuse belly and one with an orange belly, and those are things you can play around with from day to day.
If we’ve had a lot of warm weather on into fall, the shad and bass may be in deeper water, and I’ll have a Shadow Rap tied on. If they’re shallower, it will be either an X-Rap or a D-Shad.
It’s not difficult to find bait this time of year, because there is so much of it. Most of the time, it’s going to be up flipping around the surface. If it isn’t, it’s not hard to find it on my Humminbird electronics. Where the bait is will tell me how deep I need to get my jerkbait to get a reaction bite.
Now, here’s where fishing a jerkbait in the fall is different than in the spring. First and foremost, you don’t fish it as slowly as you do when the water’s cold in late February or March. You fish it faster, keep that bait moving. Bass are more active, and it’s easier to trigger them into biting. I’ll still fish it with a jerk-jerk-pause action — I’ll still pause it a little — but I’ll keep it moving more often; I speed everything up.
I’ll fish a hard jerkbait on a medium-action, 6-foot-9 BPS Carbonlite baitcasting rod with a BPS Johnny Morris signature series reel. When I’m fishing an X-Rap or Shadow Rap, I want 10-pound XPS fluorocarbon on the reel. If I’m fishing a soft jerkbait like a D-Shad, I want a medium-heavy rod with 12-pound XPS fluorocarbon tied to a 4/0 or 5/0 VMC worm hook. In either case, you want fluorcarbon because it’s heavier and will help you get the bait down a few more inches.
Here’s the reason I fish a 6-foot-9 rod, which is an unusual length. I want a rod that’s a little bit shorter than your normal 7-foot rod, because when I’m working a jerkbait with my rod, I’ve got the rod tip down, and I don’t want it slapping the surface of the water. I want to be able to work that bait with my rod tip, and not have to look down to make sure I don’t have the six inches at the tip of the rod in the water.
This time of year, if you get a bite, you are probably around quite a few fish. Bass are prone to be schooling up in small schools more often than not, so if you catch one, slow down and spend some time in that immediate area, because you may wind up with a nice limit without moving very far. If you’ve got bait, bass and a jerkbait, you’re in the right place with the right baits tied on.