Read the following in your best Jeff Foxworthy voice:

You might be a master jerkbaiter if you were disappointed that the new Nissan Rogue doesn’t come in “Silver Sides/Blue Back/Orange Belly.”

You might be a master jerkbaiter if you replaced all of your wheel bearings with bigger, single tungsten versions for a more resonant “thump!”

You might be a master jerkbaiter if instead of tapping your foot to the beat of a catchy tune you silently count out, “twitch-twitch-pause-twitch-twitch-pause-twitch-twitch-pause…”

You might be a master jerkbaiter if you painted your pickup “Clown.”
You might be a master jerkbaiter if you’re a fierce competitor on highland lakes during winter and early prespawn tournaments. In fact, jerkbaits and early season victories go hand-in-hand. Few lures produce like a suspending jerkbait when the water is cold.

“I throw a Suspending Rattlin’ Rogue, Perfect 10 or Elite 8 any time the water temperature drops below 65 degrees, but prime temperatures are from 40- to 50-degrees," said B.A.S.S. Elite Series professional angler Jason Christie, who cut his professional teeth on classic jerkbait lakes like Oklahoma’s Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees and Arkansas’ Beaver.

Christie throws a jerkbait throughout winter, all the way up until the first waves of bass stage up for the spawn.

“It's not just the first wave, either,” he said. “I continue to throw it as other waves of bass migrate up.”

Jerkbaits are long, slender baits designed to represent a minnow, shad, sunfish or other baitfish. However, there is no built-in action enticing bass to strike it. Instead, the cadence and action comes from the angler twitching or “jerking” the rod tip. The most common retrieve is an erratic “twitch-twitch-pause, twitch-pause, twitch-twitch-twitch-pause,” which prompts the bait to dart first left, then right, then suspend motionless during the pause.

"Bass strike jerkbaits because they look like a dying shad. It's a reaction strike," said Christie. “On Ozark highland reservoirs like Beaver, Table Rock and Bull Shoals, winter and early spring is the best time to catch big bass. The fish are at their largest and they’re feeding on baitfish that are dying from the cold. Normally that starts once the water temperature drops below 40 degrees.”

When Christie twitches a jerkbait it sounds like a tiny whip crack. The twitch is not a “pull,” “yank” or broad, forceful jerk. Instead, imagine the motion your wrist performs when snapping a yo-yo back up – snap!

Further, the right amount of slack line determines how erratic the bait darts. While twitching the rod with his left hand, Christie’s right is unconsciously picking up excess slack with the reel.
Professional bass fishermen insist that there is no “right” cadence that works all of the time, although each has developed one they start with. Just make sure to keep it unpredictable and erratic, according to Christie, and give your pauses a little longer when the water is super-cold.

“Strikes often come when the lure is just sitting there, and you can see it when the line jumps,” he said. “Keep an eye on your line and set the hook when you see the ‘tic’ from a bass sucking the bait in. The other time they hit it is at the moment you twitch it after a pause. The bait’s there, then it’s getting away. The bass has to strike.

"I always keep the wind to my back when fishing a jerkbait,” he said. “This helps me control how much slack I have out, and for making longer casts. Also, I parallel the bank with my boat so I keep the Rogue in the strike zone for the entire cast.”

That strike zone often is over the first breakline off the bank – the one where the water drops from 4 feet to 9 feet, for example. Another zone he watches for is a shade line, such as one created by bluffs, ledges or boat docks. Bass often hold on the shady side and ambush prey that wanders too close.

Beaver Lake bass guide Brad Wiegmann is a longtime master jerkbaiter, too.

"Some of my best days ever were jerking on Beaver,” he said. “Some of the best areas are on bluff ends and spots where banks transition from bluff to 45-degree chunk rock, as long as they face the south. Rocks on southern facing banks will warm up around the middle of the day and bass move up on them and feed."   

Bait Choices and Instruction
This time of year Christie has three rods on his deck, all with a different Rogue tied on. Each version has a different application, so all three are needed to cover any tournament situation he faces.   
Of the three basic versions of Suspending Rogue, Christie probably throws the classic Suspending Rattlin’ Rogue the most. It dives to around 8 feet. The Perfect 10 and Elite 8 Rogues dive deeper, quicker, but Christie likes the classic version for shallower banks that drop-off quickly and feature sporadic submerged brush. Because it takes longer to get to its maximum diving depth, the classic Rogue lets him more-thoroughly work the water column and come over deeper brush without snagging.

After making a pass down a productive stretch of bank with his classic suspender, Christie repeats it with a Perfect 10. This bait is as big as the original, but dives quicker and goes deeper to thoroughly work the structure and cover.

Finally, he repeats that pass again and picks off a few more bass with the Elite 8. This bait is shorter and dives to just 8 feet. He also uses the Elite 8 when fishing specific pieces of cover or structure that top out at around 8- to 10-feet.

Jason Christie and Brad Wiegmann are master jerkbaiters, and you can be one, too.