Most pros are predicting the winning limits for the 2013 Bassmaster Classic to be caught on a jerkbait. Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees is a classic jerkbait lake – a highland-type lake with relatively clear water. Jerkbaits excel in cold water, and with the pros starting the day in air temperatures below freezing and daytime highs not reaching 50 degrees most times, it certainly does weigh in as a classic jerkbait tournament.

The only Bassmaster Classic tournament won on a jerkbait was back in 2005, described as the toughest Classic ever held. It was held at the end of July in the Pittsburg Three Rivers area. In that Classic, one of the world’s greatest anglers, Kevin VanDam, pulled out an old, original Floating Rogue and weighed in just 12 pounds, 14 ounces over the three days to win.

That event proved the jerkbait is not just a cold-water lure, but anglers still think of the jerkbait as a cold-water lure. No angler would compare this year’s event to that one, except for the commonality of the lure style. This year is traditional jerkbait time, at a traditional jerkbait lake, perfect for a Smithwick Suspending Rattlin' Rogue, new Perfect 10 Rogue or an XCalibur XEE4 Erratic Shad.

Of course, the water doesn’t have to be a highland-style lake for the Rogue to be productive. In late February 2011on Texas’ Lewisville Lake, Mark Tucker won a Central Open twitching a Suspending Rattlin’ Rogue. He fished the bait on monofilament line, which he felt kept the lure suspending at the right depth (actually rising in the water column in super-slow motion).

Tucker’s win was more of a traditional jerkbait situation, though, with cold water and lots of long pauses between twitches. Traditional retrieve with a Rogue or other jerkbait is to crank the lure down to its maximum depth, then use the rod tip to provide twitches that cause the lure to dart erratically one way or the other.  A typical cadence is “twitch-twitch-pause” and it’s often the duration of the pause that proves the difference between catching fish and simply standing in a boat freezing your tail off.

“The colder the water, the slower you want to fish it,” said former Classic Champion Alton Jones. “After you jerk it down four or five times, begin twitching it with long pauses between moves. Sometimes I may let it sit 15 to 20 seconds before twitching it again if the water is in the lower 40s. As the water warms up, you don’t need to let it pause that long.”

Before Smithwick designers perfected the art of near-neutral buoyancy, anglers would use all manner of tricks to get Rogues to suspend in the water column, from wrapping lead wire around the hooks to actually drilling holes in the body, inserting weights and sealing the holes. Now there’s no need to do anything except pull it out of the package and tie it on, but the knot you use can affect the action of the lure.

A loop knot allows for even more freedom for the bait to dart more erratically than with a knot that snugs up to the split ring. Line type also makes a difference. Topwater guru Zell Rowland says that when he wants his jerkbait to dig deeper, he goes to a lighter weight line.

“Lighter line also gives your lure more action,” he said. “If you want to fish the bait shallower, use a heavier line.”

The act of twitching a jerkbait can be an art. The angler needs the correct amount of slack in the line to get maximum erratic movement, and the actual twitch has been described as the motion used to snap a yo-yo back up. But maximum movement, however, may not be what the fish want. Most pros suggest experimenting with various twitch cadences and pause durations, and learning from each strike.

Jerkbait strikes can occur when the lure is paused or as it begins to dart away when twitched. This teasing action creates the ultimate reaction bite strike. The slender minnow is there, paused suspended right in front of the bass, then, “zip” it darts away to escape and the bass snaps it up. This reaction strike is key to the jerkbait’s success. Bass don’t feed heavily in cold water, and they certainly won’t chase down a lure. But one that hovers right in front, then gives a panicked escape attempt, triggers the fish to strike.

Alabama guide and tournament pro Jimmy Mason fishes jerk baits heavily during the winter and prespawn periods, and lists water temperatures of 45 to 55 degrees as prime time. He catches largemouth and smallmouth bass with jerk baits at this time, and noted that the best color pattern that he's found for Southern smallies is the Clown colored Rogue.