Only trial and error can tell you what works best, but a handful of adjustment options will enable you to alter a jerkbait's fall rate.
• Add lead strips or dots to the bait's underside. Apply these adhesives to a jerkbait's bill, but keep them on the underside, so as not to impede the bait's action.
• Wrap lead wire, available through fly fishing retailers, around the base of the front or rear trebles.
• Upsize treble hooks. Go up one size at a time to avoid overdoing it.
• Hang extra split rings on the bait's front hook eyelet. (Jim Dillard keeps a selection of various sizes in a 35 mm film canister tucked in his tackle bag.)
These same techniques will turn floating baits into suspenders or slow sinkers. Just be sure to maintain realistic angles for your baits.
"You want to have your bait with the nose down just a little bit," Dillard said. "It's OK for it to sit level, but don't let it sit tail-down. I like my baits to sit nose down — it looks more natural that way."
Other enhancements include adding stripes, spots and color accents with permanent markers or airbrushing, and swapping out stock trebles for feathered hooks (rear position) like VMC's SureSet Dressed Trebles.
Bassmaster Elite Series pro Bernie Schultz said that these hooks accented with real feathers "breathe" when the bait pauses after a twitch, givong a lifelike appearance that often pushes a hesitant bass over the edge.
"When you pull the lure, the feathers become streamlined, and as soon as you pause, they flare," Schultz said. "Sometimes, that's all it takes. Feathers deliver another level of action that can close the deal when a bare treble hook has no appeal."
Whatever your adjustment preference, take time to observe the bait's before-and-after performance. Test your lures by hanging them next to the boat and watching how they sit in the water. Banish guesswork and tweak based on actual cause-and-effect modifications.
"Every day you hit the water with a suspending bait, it's essential to make sure the bait is doing what you want it to be doing," Elite pro Mike McClelland said. "You want to physically watch what that bait's doing before you starting casting and retrieving it. You're wasting your time if you don't."