Deep jerkbait evolution
Jerkbaits are essential lures for every Bassmaster Elite Series pro, as they should be for any serious angler. Although short-billed jerkbaits are big hitters, deep jerkbaits have been slow to catch on. There are several reasons why.
Early deep jerkbaits cast poorly. They tumbled in the air and were impossible to cast for distance or accuracy in anything more than a mild breeze. Although long-billed jerkbaits get deeper than short-billed versions, some of them produce elbow-jolting resistance due to their long lips.
They also failed to respond with the quick, hard-cutting, strike-triggering action of their short-billed brethren when twitched. Despite these drawbacks, Joe Balog quietly began picking off heavyweight smallmouth bass several years ago with deep jerkbaits.
Before Balog recently moved to Florida, he was one of the most accomplished smallmouth anglers on the Great Lakes. He once won a Bassmaster Northern Open on Lake Erie and has finished near or at the top in many other Great Lakes tournaments.
“When I started fishing deep jerkbaits, there weren’t many on the market,” Balog said. “It was hard to get a lot of action out of them.”
The key to success with any jerkbait is its side-to-side action, he emphasized. He tried twitching his early deep jerkbaits with the same downward rod-snapping motion that imparted a lively dance to his short-billed jerkbaits. The deep jerkbaits responded as if they were sleepwalking.
Balog overcame this dilemma by first pulling a deep jerkbait down to its maximum depth with long, downward rod sweeps. Then he vigorously snapped his baitcasting rod up sharply over his opposing shoulder. This exhausting technique forced sluggish deep jerkbaits to spring into action.
The aggressive tactic generated so much stress that anything less than 12-pound fluorocarbon could not hold up to the punishment. It’s a wonder Balog didn’t suffer repetitive stress injuries.
There are two instances in which deep jerkbaits kick bass with Great Lakes smallies, he claimed. One is in the spring when the bass make the first move toward their spawning areas. He often finds them in 10 to 18 feet of water at this time. The bass aren’t inclined to come up for a short-billed jerkbait, but they will readily pounce on a deep jerkbait that dives closer to them.
The other situation is in the summertime on Lake St. Clair when the smallmouth suspend in deep water. Balog claimed that St. Clair’s smallmouth were dupes for diving crankbaits back when the big lake attracted few bass anglers.
“Once the word got out about St. Clair’s fantastic smallmouth fishing, the pressure went from a handful of bass fishermen to hundreds a day,” he said. “The bass got harder to catch on crankbaits, but they would still bite a deep jerkbait.”
Deep jerkbait evolution
Today there are deep jerkbaits that overcome many of the drawbacks with the earlier versions, but their number pales compared to what’s available in short-billed jerkbaits. One of the latest deep models, the Strike King KVD Deep Jerkbait designed by Kevin VanDam, was introduced at the 2015 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Hartwell, S.C.
“I had been fishing that bait for almost a year before we launched it at the Classic,” said VanDam. “I was hoping it would give me an edge at Hartwell.”
VanDam was unable to unleash his Deep Jerkbait at Hartwell because he failed to qualify for the Classic for the only time in his long and illustrious career. However, this lure has helped VanDam win a pile of cash in other tournaments across the country and at all times of the year.
Examples include when he won a summertime tournament on the Upper Mississippi River with largemouth bass, loading up on smallmouth from Lake St. Clair’s deep grass and blasting largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass by casting the deep jerker to windblown gravel points during a tournament at Table Rock.
“The KVD Deep Jerkbait is one of the most special baits I’ve ever designed,” he said. “As far as what I was looking for it to do, it’s the total package.”
What he was looking for it to do was to dive deeper than any other jerkbait with less resistance. It also had to cast well, even under breezy conditions. And most importantly, it had to perform with an erratic “slashing action” without wearing out your arms.
“This bait casts like a rocket and doesn’t pull hard,” VanDam said. “Every other deep jerkbait I’ve tried really works you.”
Although many anglers regard a deep jerkbait as a situational lure for cold water, he claimed that he has had more success with his Deep Jerkbait in the warmer months. He attributes this to the lure’s nasty action and to the depths he can reach with it.
“I’ve hung this bait up time and time again 12-feet deep on 10-pound line,” he said.
Bear in mind that several other companies also offer deep jerkbaits that are worthy of your consideration. The companies include, Damiki, Duo Realis, Duel, Jackall, Livingston Lures, Lucky Craft, Megabass, Rapala, Spro, Storm and Smithwick.