By Jonathan LePera
Special to BassFan

Seeing multiple-time Bassmaster Angler of the Year Brandon Palahniuk slinging a Bubba-sized glidebait or swimbait is no surprise. Time and again, he’s proven their effectiveness. But as viewers saw during this year's Bassmaster Elite Series event at Santee Cooper, where Palaniuk placed 5th, when bass won’t commit to bigger baits, he’s found the antidote.

Palaniuk's pattern developed by the hour and was a testament to his process of bait selection.

“Where I caught a 5-pounder, first thing on a MegaBass Vision 110 jerkbait, an hour later I had a glidebait bite and a couple of fish follow a glidebait. I was seeing a lot of fish; they were reacting to the bigger bait, so that’s when I meshed two together,” Palaniuk said. “You need a bait that is erratic and going to get those fish to fully trigger, get a good hook-up, and have a bigger presence to trigger those bigger fish.”

Palaniuk dug out a MegaBass Kanata jerkbait that weighs in at an ounce and measures 6 1/3 inches because it moves more water and has increased flash.

With a glidebait, his cadence represents the baitfish he is trying to emulate.

Courtesy of Brandon Palaniuk
Photo: Courtesy of Brandon Palaniuk

A big jerkbait can sometimes induce a strike from a fish that wouldn't close the deal on a glidebait.

“If it’s slow, it’s more dying and if it’s fast, it’s more fleeing," he said. "But it’s hard to get an erratic dying action. Even if you chop a glidebait hard, it is still a big side-to-side, but it doesn’t have the same dying action.”

He can quickly manipulate the intervals in his cadence and travel distance with each rod twitch to cover water, yet trick bass into believing they are attacking a wounded prey.

“It really is a 1-2 punch. They react to a big bait, they want a bigger bait, but they don’t fully commit. I feel like with the jerkbait, because you can create a much different action with that bait that you can’t create with a swimbait, you can get those fish to trigger more often,” he said.

When bass feed on smaller baitfish, the MegaBass Oneten Max LBO jerkbait is larger than a Vision 110 but doesn’t dive as deep as the Kanata or provide as much flash. He will rotate between the two until he finds which best compliments his glidebait approach.


Northern anglers have grown accustomed to working jerkbaits at blistering paces, often with a spinning rod, trying to get a smallmouth to strike. Rarely are larger jerkbaits in play that exceed the body profile of a Vision 110. Palaniuk doesn’t know who created that rule, but he doesn’t subscribe to it.

“A bass' metabolism is running at a higher speed during the summer, so they burn more calories," he said. "Since the water temp is warm, they have to eat more.If you can give them a bigger meal while exerting the same amount of effort, you will have a better chance to get those bigger fish to trigger.”

As for anglers resorting to golf gloves to protect their blistered, calloused and battered hands from the effects of extreme cadences, studying forward-facing sonar has taught Palaniuk differently. Ever the student, watching Humminbird MegaLive on his Solix 12 units has provided a good education for him.

“We are learning a lot more about the different pieces that make up your cadence and how fish react," he said. "All the things we thought were black-and-white rules about how to work a jerkbait during different times of the year are not always the case.

"It doesn’t always have to be a fast pace; you just have to be able to read each fish. If you don’t have forward-facing sonar, then the general rule of thumb is you are going to move the jerkbait faster."

Most important for Palaniuk is maintaining some form of consistent movement because that triggers bites more often than long pauses during a retrieve.

“It could be straight single twitch–twitch–twitch or a twitch-twitch-pause-twitch-twitch-pause. Those sorts of movements where the bait is constantly moving away from the fish generally trigger more bites,” he said. “They will track the jerkbait longer. If you pause for long periods of time, you see more fish turn away from it; they turn away and may come back. It seems like we are better off to have a longer interval between twitches, but it is constant."

Courtesy of Brandon Palaniuk
Photo: Courtesy of Brandon Palaniuk

Water clarity often dictates a bait's size and color.

There are those times when you run out of room on your retrieve and either risk spooking the fish at the boat or dead-stick the jerkbait for 30 seconds to see if it’ll fire.

“I would rather that fish turn away and return to where it was than see the boat and get spooked,” he said.

Palaniuk believes that the high-percentage area in which most bites will occur is within 10 feet of some piece of structure. That can include grass clumps, rock piles, brush piles or rock, but bass have also been known to strike just as the jerkbait rises toward the end of a retrieve.

Gear Up for Battle

Palaniuk fishes all of his jerkbaits on an Alpha Angler Slasher casting rod paired with a Daiwa Steez CT or Daiwa Tatula XP 70 reel spooled with 12-pound Seaguar Tatsu fluorocarbon. He likes the reel size because it palms well, reducing the forearm fatigue that often plagues avid jerkbait anglers.

“I understand what I'm feeling in that rod and how the bait is moving,” Palaniuk said.

To get the bait down, he’ll make a super long cast and pull hard three times. Some anglers try to reel the bait for that purpose, but Palaniuk cautions that at a certain point of that process, it can prevent it from reaching the maximum death.

Though he’s experimented with other hooks, Palaniuk returned to the stock hooks that MegaBass uses on its baits. They are thinner wire and can bend more easily, but they also are incredibly sharp and penetrate easier on the hookset.

“When you have light-wire hooks, you have better odds of them swinging around and catching them in the face,” Palaniuk said.

Look for Clues

A baitfish stuck in the gullet of a bass provides valuable information. Bait color and size are key factors when choosing jerkbaits and swimbaits.

Typically, mat shad is a color that has served Palaniuk well, especially targeting largemouth, but water clarity also dictates his lure size and color. Once the Elite Series swings north, jerkbaits with half-tone, translucent colors show out. Pro blue and HT Tennessee shad are good hues to start with.