Winter jerkbait fishing

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A common misconception is that fish don’t bite when it’s cold. That thought is very far from the truth.


Fish are strange creatures sometimes, and the fact that they are cold blooded can be difficult for us to understand, since their metabolism slows as the temperature falls. So they shouldn’t feed much at all when its bone chilling cold, right?

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Yes and no. They certainly don’t need to eat as much, but they also have to prepare for the spawn that’s not too far off in the future.


I have come to learn in over 35 years of fishing, that the more I think I understand fish, the more I realize I don’t. So with that in mind, I will speak, as usual, in generalities.


Wintertime fish still feed, and more than you may think, but their feeding times may be shorter, and the forage they feed on is smaller. Some of my best days have come in the cold of winter, and many of the biggest fish come in mid winter till early spring. The most difficult thing for me to overcome, especially in February and March, is the wide array of lures and techniques that may be working.


Sticking with the most common fish I talk about, bass, lets look at some of the most common techniques in the upcoming columns.


Suspending jerkbaits are one of the best lures in the winter months. The slow erratic action of a jerkbait can put numbers of fish in the boat. Fished with the quick jerk of the rod tip, and a pause of a few seconds and up to a minute between jerks, the technique can be really effective on fish that are suspended in open water. Fish will slowly move up to eat a jerkbait as it appears wounded, or dying as many baitfish do in cold water. And the slow pace fits right in with the lethargic pace of cold water. A bait zipping by just doesn’t fit in with the conditions.


Shad die after a sharp cold front and jerkbaits are a good choice. They tend to work better in clearer water, not really a good choice for muddy water. Points, bluff banks, and deeper 45-degree banks are good places to check, but if you think fish are shallow in creeks, they work there as well. Fish have a tendency to be schooled together in the winter, so if you catch one, you may want to stay put for a little while and see if there are more fish there.


Jerkbaits can be versatile, fished with a single twitch of the rod, or a cadence of 2 or 3 and a pause. They can be paused for 2 or 3 seconds, or for a minute or more (most folks can’t handle that slow of a pace).


Styles, colors and brands vary by the person you talk to. I like Smithwick and Rapala jerkbaits the best. Many people will tell you to go with the pricier Lucky Craft baits. I’ve got a whole box of ’em that I have never caught a fish on, but as I always say, “Whatever works for you!”