BASS TUTORIAL: Jerkbaits – What Bass See Underwater

Arguably one of the best fish catchers around, jerkbaits have become famous for their deadly side-to-side, strike-eliciting action. Today almost every large tackle company carries a few jerkbaits in their lineup, and all dart left to right on command, but how do bass perceive the profile, colour and action when at rest?

Legendary trophy bass hunter and bait designer Bill Siemantel has constantly questioned how big does a 10-inch swimbait really appear to a bass? They’re 10-inches in size, right? Not quite – it all depends from what angle the bass views the bait. From the side a 10-inch swimbait is massive, but viewed only from the front or back it appears as a bite-sized snack, and the theory applies to almost all baits we throw. 

When fishing a jerkbait the general rule of thumb is to match the size of the baitfish and predominant colour pattern of the species you are trying to imitate. That’s sound advice when bass are holding at the same depth as the bait, but in ultra-clear water bass will come up from the depths to strike the bait, and under low light conditions bass will swim downward to eat it if the bait runs deeper than the fish are holding at. Under either of these conditions the belly and the back colour patterns are key components of the bait’s profile. 

The side profile

On a jerkbait its flank is the most visible target bass will encounter. This feature is a combination of the colour of the bait, the profile it creates as well as its posture. Due to internal weight transfer systems that enable distance casting, the bait will float or suspend in three different postures, nose down, neutral(horizontal) and tail down. Each posture will affect how the bait starts up when twitched and generally nose down baits are the most aggressive of the three postures.

 What is extremely important is to note how a bass is hooked – if it is hooked on the front or middle treble it is striking the bait from the middle of the bait, and if it is hooked only on the back hook it is swiping it from the tail, a possible indication of the right action but not the right colour pattern.      

What bass see from above

It’s all about profile or how much the colour of the back of the bait contrasts against the bottom.  In deep, clear fisheries the bottom will appear mottled green to brown depending on the composition, and here the aim of your presentation is not to blend in but create flashes as the bait rolls from side to side so the colour of the flank of the bait becomes quite key in creating the flash. 

What they see from below

Suspended bass in clear water have a tendency to move up in the column to strike a jerkbait. Under low light conditions you want to take advantage of the fact that bass will get a better look at the profile of the belly, so the more natural it appears the better. As the sun rises and light penetration increases, the reflection off the side of the bait acts as a strike trigger, similar to light reflecting off the scales of a fleeing baitfish. White, chrome and gold are highly reflective strike inducing colours.

Front and Rear profile

When viewed at rest, from the front and back a jerkbait appears like a small, snack-sized prey item. Bass often attack prey head-first, a positive indication that the colour, profile, running depth and action are all correct, and you will easily be able to distinguish how bass are attacking the bait by the hook placement with more than one hookhold in the roof or tongue area.

Eyes and chin highlights are key triggering mechanisms as well as the colour of the back of the bait, especially when throwing deep diving suspending jerkbaits, which surge forward before moving from side to side, so it is important to take note if the bite occurs when being twitched, at rest or when the bait starts up after being paused.

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