How, Where & Why To Use Hard-Plastic Jerkbaits
By Marlin Stevens
Jerkbaits are without question the most underrated hard-plastic lure for inland saltwater fishing.
Topwaters, slow-sinkers, soft plastics and spoons get their due, but you do not hear much about jerkbaits. That is unless you are listening closely to a dedicated but often quiet core of anglers who really don’t want you to know their secrets to catching redfish, speckled trout and mackerel.
Jerkbaits, as the name implies, are made to be fished with a sort of herky-jerky motion. They are long, thin crankbaits that can be fished erratically and have a narrow zone of movement, which allows for precision fishing in tight spots.
The all-time classic jerkbait is the Long-A
, and Bomber Saltwater Grade has improved on that with the A-Salt
and the Deep Long A
, both rigged for specific locations and applications with components that can stand up to the most hardcore fish on the planet.
The A-Salt is a shallow-water fish-finder featuring a precision weighting system that allows for precision casts.
“One of the biggest problem anglers fishing over flats or marshes is that they can’t cover a lot of water with traditional soft plastic lures, or effectively work surface plugs without spooking fish. You need to be able tor reach out and find the fish and eliminate empty water, and that’s exactly what a jerkbait can do,” said longtime angler Stephen Schaffer.
Many areas, especially in Florida, where boat docks and other cover is located in skinny water, anglers can chunk an A-Salt and search out fish that spook from other presentations.
“You can start off simply by sort of jerking and reeling quickly, or spend a little more time throwing right where you think the strike zone will be and twitch it a couple of times and let it sit. Usually the fish will strike just about the time you are about to twitch again,” Schaffer said.
Jerkbaits are also great along shorelines featuring a moderate-to-steep drop-off. Start fishing parallel to the shore, but then move back so you can fish the plug from the shallows out past the drop-off. That is very often where trout are holding. This is typically what you find when you have water flow entering from a shoreline on the bay into a channel. Trout feed right along the edge of the deep water where they can attack baitfish.
Don’t think that these drop-offs have to be major, either. Some of the most productive are simply three feet of water dropping off to six. For much of the coast, that might not seem like much of a break, but for a fish it is a significant change -- even in the context of an area of nearby deep water like the Intracoastal Canal.
Points are also important targets. An ideal situation is a sharp point of an island located near a marsh lake, with strong current entering a channel or bay. The point itself may not be so important but the “secondary point” only be visible via your electronics is where the action occurs.
The main point might extend out to three feet of water, whereas the secondary point below it might be sitting out in 12 feet on a shelf. Baitfish will gather around these points, and so will reds and trout.
Throw the A-Salt in these zones and cover every angle. Sometimes fish will set up a certain way and only take plugs coming from a particular direction.
Jerkbaits like the Deep Long A also are potent trolling plugs and are a favorite for anglers seeking big Spanish mackerel around jetty systems and petroleum platforms in the Gulf.
“Jerkbaits are super for big Spanish mackerel and for kings as well. You can troll them tight around platform legs or just a few yards off jetties and usually pick up mackerel. The key is speed. You do best when you troll slowly, but sometimes they want it a little faster. Experimentation equals success,” said mackerel aficionado Bill Killian.
Another option is fishing deeper and hitting drop-offs in the shipping lanes and natural humps and ridges that tend to hold large concentrations of kings. The Deep Long A can hit those fish many anglers miss because they are not feeding on the surface.
According to Killian, one of the most overlooked areas for mackerel is the first mile past jetties. Most anglers move past them for distant waters but there are big fish to be caught closer in.
“Weedlines and current-lines are also great trolling areas. The good thing with trolling is you can cover a lot of water fast,” Killian said.
A wild card in the bunch is the CD (Certified Depth), which can hit depths of 20- to 30-feet. This has potential to catch big redfish when they are on deep rocks and reefs and will not move far to strike a lure. Being able to crank a lure down to that depth is an advantage most lures simply cannot offer.
Imagine cranking that down just past the fish, pausing and twitching it a couple times, and then letting it rise up a few inches. This often is the best way to catch these deeper fish.
Cast or trolled, hard-plastic jerkbaits are some of the most-effective, yet least discussed, lures you can use for many predator fish, from redfish to mackerel. There’s a reason the really good anglers don’t talk about them – they don’t want you to know their secrets!