Twitch, Jerk and Glide
By Al Denninger © 2006
Al Denninger Guide Service


Fall Muskie fishing and jerkbaits go hand in hand, but what style jerkbait to use and when to use it?

Make no mistake about it, jerkbaits can and do produce well all season long. When Fall comes round, they can really get hot.

Every tackle company seems to have one, Bobbie, Eddie, Teddie, Mikey…if you don’t have one named after you, hang in there…I am sure it won’t be long in coming.

With all of the different jerkbaits to pick from, just what do you look for before laying down your hard earned money?

Twitch Baits

Most have lips, like hard Lexan or metal, such as the Slammer Crane or Hi-Finn Sidewinder. You can use these baits two ways. Crank it in with a steady retrieve, or use it in a pull/rest method. This seems to work the best in September, when water temperatures are still in the 60° range

Using rapid pulls or jerks in quick succession all the way back to the boat is the best producing tactic for early fall Musky. As October rolls around, try slowing the bait speed way down.

I pull the bait down with a medium speed jerk, then I let the bait float up and break the surface. Then a pull down again makes a distinctive slap/gurgle that simulates a dying bait fish on the surface.

Jerk Baits

The name jerkbait really covers all three styles of these baits, but when you break them down, a jerkbait is a pull bait with a metal tail you can adjust to change the action and set the depth to which it dives.

A Bobbie, Fooler, and Suick are just three examples of a jerkbaits. I prefer using these type baits when the water temperature is in the upper 50° range and higher, as they usually need to be worked faster for the best action.

Glide Baits

These style baits have no adjustments. The action you get out of this bait is supplied by the angler himself. All glide style baits are not equal. Take two of the same baits that are new from the rack and one might work excellent, while the other may be a $15.00 piece of firewood. The density of the wood and its relationship to how the bait is assembled, determine how a glide bait will perform in the water.

The one thing I want out of a glide bait is when I pull or snap that bait, I want it to glide left, right, left, right. If I cannot get that action out of my bait, it is chalked off as a loss. No sense using a bait that does not give you the action that triggers fish.

If you have a glide style bait that is not performing with the correct action, try snapping your wrist fast with a little slack in the line. This is sometimes all that is needed to obtain the gliding sided to side action so deadly on Musky and Northerns.

Being the proud owner of a bait that does not work can be used to your advantage…try drilling and re-weighting the lure… you have nothing to lose. In tampering with the original design, you may now come up with a bait that runs deeper and gives you the desired action.

Another trick is to add a large heavy duty split ring to the eye of your bait. It not only gives the lure more action, it also helps keep the fish from getting leverage and popping open your snap swivel. Some fishermen like a leader attached to each bait. This ensures that no snap can open during a battle with a big fish… you must, however, check the leader regularly to be sure that it is in good condition. The Eddie Bait comes this way from the factory and is among the best glide baits on the market. Another is the Striker, a different looking bait than most jerk baits, but big fish love them.

One bait that I have trouble placing in a style category is the Banana Bait. It is not a glide bait, but it can be twitched or jerked with equal success. It is among the hottest jerkbait to come out in the past few years.

The award for the easiest glide bait to use has got to be the Manta. It produces a seductive darting motion with just a slight rod tip action that catches fish throughout the season.

Matching Tackle

Rod choice when using any of the three style jerkbaits should be one 6 to 6½ feet in length. The smaller and lighter baits can be used with your bucktail rod, but when tossing the bigger and heavier chunks of wood or plastic, a medium to heavy action rod is needed.

There are plenty of good fishing rods on the market today. Most match up well to the Abu Garcia 5500 or 6500 reels. I like to use 40lb. braided micron with the heavier jerkbaits. TUF Line is a good choice for the medium to light weight jerkbaits. I avoid using a monofilament line with jerkbaits because of the high stretch factor… it will cause you to lose a fish.

A leader is a must. Using one equal in length to the size of your lure will provide good results in most cases.

Jerkbaits have been catching fish for many years and will be around for many more to come. Get in on the action this fall or for that matter throughout the season.

Good luck and tight lines.