Most Florida fishing articles revolve around punching, fishing grass or dealing with cold fronts. There’s also plenty of talk about Junebug-colored plastics. Those are all fine topics, but a jerkbait should be in the conversation more, as it’s one of Florida’s most consistent fish catchers.
It’s been a big player for many years, specifically on the Harris and Kissimmee lake chains, which offer slightly deeper water than most fisheries in Florida. It was also a popular choice last week for Bass Pro Tour anglers fishing the B&W Trailer Hitches Stage One Presented by Grundéns as 118 jerkbait-caught fish were weighed in the first five days of competition (including a 7-pound, 4-ouncer caught by Mark Rose in the Knockout Round).
Among those working the jerkbait into the rotation on the Kissimmee Chain was BPT rookie Matt Becker, whose first day of competition included two fish that he caught jerking. The Mercury pro also spent one of his off days fishing a small lake not far from the Kissimmee Chain, catching them regularly on a jerkbait.
Becker admits that he loves throwing a jerkbait when his tournament travel takes him to Florida – especially after he slightly changed his approach to better fit the Sunshine State’s shallow waters.
Thanks to forward-facing sonar, jerkbaits are being used everywhere and in all seasons. They’re not just a winter and prespawn tactic anymore, but Becker says they’ve always been crucial to his Florida fishing, even before he started honing in on them with his electronics.
“It’s always been a good thing to do in Florida, even before everyone started using them with forward-facing sonar,” he said. “They work well here because Florida bass seem to feed (looking) up and they love jerkbaits. The other reason they always seem to come into play is the cold fronts that always come through early in the year. Vibrating jigs and lipless crankbaits are great, but they sometimes move too fast for the bass when the water is colder.”
Becker utilizes forward-facing sonar in Florida, but his approach to beaming is much different than it is in other states.
“I don’t chase single fish around as much in Florida as I do up north – I use it more to see fish and baitfish activity and where the grass is,” he said. “It points you in the right direction of where to cast so you can line up with grass edges and see how far the grass comes off the bottom.”
Becker spools up with heavier lines to alter the bait’s diving depth when he’s throwing a jerkbait in Florida. He opts for a 7.1:1 reel, a 6-foot, 10-inch, medium Favorite Fishing Brian Latimer Sick Stick rod and 12- to 20-pound Seaguar InvizX Fluorocarbon.
“The rod has a nice moderate action for working the bait and still enough power to handle big bass,” said Becker, who often has multiple jerkbait combos spooled with different line sizes to match different depths. “Your line can greatly affect how deep the bait dives. A jerkbait might get down around 3 feet deep with a 20-pound test and that same bait will dive 6 or 7 feet on a 10-pound test. Varying your line based on how thick and deep the grass is will ensure you keep your bait above it and not dig into it all day.”
Becker will fish the jerkbait with a typical twitching retrieve, alternating based on the conditions.
“The retrieve is pretty standard everywhere you go, but you need longer pauses in the middle of a Florida cold front,” he said.
His bait of choice is a Bill Lewis Scope Stik in the 100 size, in any color that will imitate a shiner or shad.
“Something with a little gold on it is always going to work in Florida,” he said. “I’m usually going to fish the suspending version, but they also make a floating version that is great for shallower grass, which is the best thing for these Florida bass – keeping it right above the grass.”