Different jerkbaits work better when fished with different retrieves or techniques. Here are seven popular jerkbaits and techniques that match their strengths. These aren’t the only jerkbaits around, but they cover the range of styles and functions of jerkbaits regularly used.
Rapala X-Rap M08
The M08 is a 3 1/8-inch jerkbait that suspends and has a dive rating of 3 to 5 feet. It has a profile closely matching the inland silverside minnow or a bay anchovy but will catch trout weighing upwards of 4 pounds regularly. Work this lure with hard jerks and short pauses. It’s great in spring and fall, and especially when rapidly fishing a shoreline looking for scattered trout.
This is a suspending, lipped bait, 4 3/8 inches long, with a shallow diving depth of 2 to 4 feet. Because it’s a shallow diver, use it in warmer water around rock jetties and in shallow, marsh areas. It is best fished more slowly than an X-Rap, and the longer profile gives it big-meal appeal, like a medium-sized mullet.
Rapala Shadow Rap Shad Deep M09
This jerkbait is 3 1/2 inches long, with a 5- to 6-foot dive rating. This bait works on trout hanging in deeper water that will strike because of an aggressive bait presentation.
This is a lipless jerkbait, often called a twitch bait. Its 3 1/2-inch, full body gives it the profile of a meal-sized mullet. It’s labeled as suspending with a running depth of 2 feet, but it sinks readily, so it can be fished deep if a slower action is used. The SubWalk has a fluid movement when twitched; it will glide aimlessly when line tension is released. Fish the bait with a couple of twitches, followed by about 5 seconds of slack line.
The Fat Boy is a big-profile twitchbait, even though it’s only 3 1/2 inches long. It’s called “suspending,” but in brackish water, it’s slow sinking. Paul Browns have a semi-rigid rubber body that is soft to the touch. Some of these lures, including the Fat Boy, have a bendable tail feature, which allows the bait to be set to rise or dive when twitched. Bending the tail down causes a dive and up makes it rise. Another special feature is its wedge-shaped body that makes it wobble from side to side when falling. This feature puts extra action into the fall, which is great because the trout typically strike a falling or resting bait. Fish the Fat Boy relatively slowly and allowing plenty of fall time. The sinking characteristic, combined with excellent twitch action, make this bait an excellent cold-water alternative to jigging swimbaits.
The Soft-Dine is a small-profile twitchbait that is 3 inches long. There is also a larger, XL version that behaves similarly. It’s constructed like the Fat Boy, sinks readily and has the same wobble on the fall. It does not have the tail adjustment. Throw this bait up against rocks, like the MRGO rocks, and give the bait plenty of fall time. This bait is very productive when fished slowly, but it can also maintain good action when worked with hard jerks, making it a good choice for fast-paced fishing.
This is a floating twitchbait, that is 3 1/2 inches long, with a big profile. It will submerge to a few inches when worked. It has a nice, darting action, but the floating body makes the action more subdued as compared to suspending baits. Fish this bait over submerged grass beds, where it’s hard to keep a suspending jerkbait out of the grass.