(Editor's note: The following is the latest installment in a series of fishing tips presented by The Bass University. Check back each Friday for a new tip.)
Throughout the course of his young career as an FLW Co-Angler of the Year, Bassmaster Elite Series pro and now on the FLW Tour, John Hunter of Kentucky has relied on a jerkbait to help him succeed. Unlike many anglers, who tie it on only in frigid conditions, Hunter has one tied on in every season, and on every kind of water.
“It’s a common misconception that it’s only a winter bait, that it’s only a pre-spawn tactic, it’s only something we can use in cold water,” he said. Even at the extreme opposite of winter, during the heat of a Southern summer, it’s a valuable tournament tool.
His favorite model throughout the year is a 6th Sense Provoke – the 106X when he’s plying the 2- to 5-foot range, and the 106DD when he wants to get down to 6 to 8 feet. Either way, the key when it’s cold is to get it to suspend. Some people accomplish that with lead wire. Hunter prefers to increase the size of his hooks. While he’ll normally use No. 5 models on the front and back, and a No. 6 in the middle, when he wants a little more depth, or is struggling to attain neutral buoyancy or a slight sink, he’ll upside to two No. 4 trebles and a No. 5 in the middle, over even three No. 4 hooks.
He’ll start the spring on flatter points and “lead-in” banks, especially those that are windy. “Covering water is a big deal in the spring,” he said.
In the summer, his approach will differ depending on where in the country he’s fishing, but the common denominator is baitfish location. Up north, on lakes like Champlain and Oneida, he’s targeting perch and bluegills around grass edges. In the South, particularly on highland reservoirs where there’s no grass, he’s looking for “tight contours and vertical drops” on places like bridge pilings and deeper docks.
In the fall, the bait is again a target, and he’ll seek out places where the bass have it cornered in the backs of creeks or pockets. Where others throw a lipless crank, he likes the jerkbait to “get ‘em looking up.” No matter when he’s fishing, the way the fish eat it influences his subsequent cadence. If they eat it well, there may be a lot of competition from other bass, so keep it moving. If the strikes are less aggressive, it often reflects a relative paucity of other fish in the area. “If there’s not a lot of fish in an area, you’re going to have to add in more pauses,” he explained.
Another misconception that he noted is the idea that jerkbaits are only effective in clear water. He called that idea “100-percent false.”
While he’ll use stock hooks during practice, he believes that replacement hooks are “by far the most important part of jerkbait fishing” and on game day he’ll be rigged up with fresh Gamakatsu Tournament Grade Finesse Trebles, which feature a coating that enhances penetration. He’ll fish his jerkbaits on 10-pound P-Line Tactical Fluorocarbon 90 percent of the time, but will bump it up to 12- or 15-pound fluoro if he wants his bait to run shallower over grass or brush.
Finally, he’s adamant about using the right rod to avoid losing fish. For that purpose, he designed a signature series stick for Cashion that has the “perfect amount of tip” to allow fish to get the bait, and also has sufficient bend to keep them buttoned after they get hooked.
If you want to learn some of Hunter's other jerkbait secrets, including his favorite colors of the Provoke 106 jerkbait and why he prefers an 8:1 gear ratio reel, check out his full video, available only by subscribing to The Bass University TV.