By Mark Fong
Wintertime bass fishing can be a formidable endeavor for many reasons. Unstable weather, cold water, and low activity levels present a myriad of challenges for even the most ardent anglers. Lots of anglers believe that the only way to catch bass during this time of year is to fish super slow and to employ finesse techniques. This however is simply not true.
In the clear water reservoirs of Northern California, a suspending jerkbait is one of the best baits to fish. Bass have a tendency to suspend in the water column as they prey on bait fish such as shad or pond smelt. The stop and go erratic action of a jerkbait is the ideal baitfish imitator and it can get the bass to bite when not much else will.
Retrieve speed and cadence are key. Unlock the proper combination and you’ll be in business. I like to start with a simple cadence: jerk, jerk, jerk, pause. As a rule, the colder the water, the shorter the jerks and the longer the length of the pause. Don’t overpower the lure. While it may be difficult to be patient, sometimes super long pauses are needed to trigger the fish.
Some anglers claim they wait up to 60 seconds before moving the lure again. I don’t have that kind of patience or discipline, 15 seconds is about as long as I will let the bait soak. Remember, the fish almost always strike on the pause when the bait is sitting still. Experiment until you find the right cadence. Bluff walls, points, and rocky banks are good places to throw suspending jerkbaits.
Having the right equipment is very important for jerkbait success. I like to use 8-10lb Gamma Edge Fluorocarbon spooled on a lightweight 6:3:1 casting reel fastened to a 7’ medium power moderate action casting rod. My rod has a light tip which allows me to work the bait properly and has a softer action with good amount of backbone that helps me to keep lightly hooked attached to my bait. The light small diameter line enables the jerkbait to move with a very natural action and allows it to get deeper in the water column.
My favorite suspending jerkbait is the IMA Flit 120. It is very lifelike and can be worked in a random erratic manner or in a more controlled side to side fashion. The Flit 120 comes with a unique fish attracting rattle system and sticky sharp hooks. In clear water I like translucent colors like Ghost Minnow or Ghost Tennessee Shad. If the water has a little color you can’t go wrong with Chartreuse Shad and anytime I am fishing for smallmouth I really like Ghost Chartreuse Herring.