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Jason Christie's Best Jerkbait Advice

B.A.S.S. Elite and FLW Tour pro angler Jason Christie learned the magic of jerkbaiting bass long ago and has been perfecting the art since. Here he outlines the keys to selection and presentation to put the jerk to work for you.

“Yes, a jerkbait is a situational bait, a seasonal bait in my area (Oklahoma) where its peak time is November through April,” he said. “But I always have a jerkbait box and rod in the boat the rest of the year, too, in case conditions or the fish set up right.”

For Christie, the best time to fish a jerkbait is the coldwater period of winter and early spring. At the 2013 Classic when Christie finished seventh throwing a jerkbait, water temperatures ranged from 44 to 47 degrees, which is “almost prime time for the Rogue.”

“I have caught bass with the water at 37 degrees,” he says. “I’ve actually thrown one onto the ice, brought it off and started catching bass as soon as I started jerking. You can catch fish on the bait in warmer water temperatures, too, but I’m most-comfortable fishing a jerkbait until water temperatures reach about 55 degrees.”

Many regard Christie as the “Rogue Master,” a guy who has had such success and familiarity with Smithwick Rogue jerkbaits that he could teach a college course on everything from color and design to depth, retrieve and outside-the-box applications. He carries at least three jerkbait rods when conditions are right.

“I have a Perfect 10 on one and an original Smithwick 1200 Rogue on another,” he said. “On the third I’ll have either a smaller jerkbait or one in a different color.”

For years he tinkered and tampered with Rogues to perfect performance under a range of circumstances. Many of his modifications were attempts to get the Suspending Rattling Rogue deeper into the strike zone of deep-dwelling bass. He worked with Smithwick lure designers to help design the new Perfect 10 Rogue, which dives beyond 10-feet deep, but he stresses that it’s a tool for specific situations.

“It’s a different tool,” he said. “It’s not like you throw away all your old Rogues.”

In fact, at the 2013 Bassmaster Classic, Christie earned his seventh place finish fishing with both lure the Suspending Rattling Rogue and Perfect 10.

“I threw the original more than the ‘Perfect 10 because the water was colored and I found the fish in less than 10 feet of water,” he said. “But I found one creek with real clear water, and I was able to fish deeper there. That’s where I threw the Perfect 10.”

Unlike most deep-diving jerkbaits, the Perfect 10 achieves 10-foot-plus depths with a short lip that’s comparable to that of its predecessor. Other deep divers have long lips that change the bait’s performance characteristics. Christie wanted the Perfect 10 to retain the roll and action that made the original Rogue a bait for the ages.

Guidelines and Fine Lines
Guideline #1: Looking up! – The jerkbait is a “visual bait,” notes Christie, one that primarily attracts bass with visual cues such as action and flash. That’s an important point to keep in mind when fishing for bass in winter or early spring patterns.

“At this time of year, a bass wants to feed upward,” he says. “You can put the bait 5 or 10 feet above him and he will come up to get it, but he won’t usually go downward for it.”

Guideline #2: The Clarity Factor – Christie determines the areas he fishes, type of jerkbait and color selection based on water clarity. Prior to the 2013 Bassmaster Classic, Christie anticipated that he would be fishing deeper water with the Perfect 10 throughout the event.

“But the water color wasn’t conducive to calling them up from deep water because they weren’t able to see the bait,” he said. “My rule is, ‘the dirtier the water, the closer you want to put that jerkbait to the fish.’ If water is dirty, I move shallower. If I am fishing over structure and fish that are 8-feet deep, I will fish that Rogue as close as I can without getting hung up.”

Guideline #3: Coming from the depths in clear water – Conversely, cold water will not keep a bass from climbing the ladder for a well-presented jerkbait, as long as the water is clear enough.

“I can fish over a 20-foot brushpile with the Perfect 10,” says Christie. “I can get it down 12 or 13 feet and bass will have absolutely no problem coming up that 7 feet to get it. They’ll do that all day long as long as you have the right water conditions.”

Guideline #4: Visibility ratios – Christie says that bass can see about three times better than we can under water, and he uses that guideline when he considers color patterns.

“The perfect-case scenario for jerkbait fishing is when I can see a bait three to four feet under water. If I can see to three feet, a bass can see 10 feet,” he said. “At the Classic, we only had a foot to 18-inches of visibility. If we can see 18 inches, that bass can still only see four feet. That reduces the fish’s sight capability and the appeal of a jerkbait along with it.”

Guideline #5: Color selection…clear water naturals – Christie pushed hard for lifelike colors in the development of the Smithwick Perfect 10 Rogue. He was looking for translucent baits that look more realistic in clear water.

“If the water is really clear, as I prefer, you want transparent colors, as lifelike as you can, which is what we did with the 10. If I have 10-foot visibility, I pick natural colors with maybe a little chartreuse or baby blue added. Bass can see well in water like that. You want to fool him. Be as realistic as possible.”

Guideline #6: Color selection…bright and bold in dingy water -- Stained, dark and dirty water calls for bolder, brighter colors. In sunny conditions in dirty water, Christie opts for oranges, blue/chromes and fire tiger finishes.

“If it’s cloudy I like more of the darker colors, the black and gold,” he says. “I feel they can see those better on darker days.”

Guideline #7: The Pause – Conventional wisdom says that the colder the water, the longer your pauses between twitches should be, but Christie contests that notion.

“A lot of people think I cast, let the Rogue set and eat a sandwich before I move it, but that’s not the case,” he says. “The longest I let it sit normally is three or four seconds. I don’t have the patience to let it set for 30 seconds or a minute.”

Guideline #8: Cadence – Christie says to mix up your cadences, however he says the one that usually works for him consists of two jerks, a one- to two-second pause, a single jerk, a pause…then repeat.

“When it comes to cadences, I’m a ‘one…one-two’ kind of guy,” he says. “I catch them on that as much as anything else, but I do pay attention to how hard I’m twitching the rod. I vary the intensity until I get the fish figured out.”

Guideline #9: Slack-line jerks – Critical to working a jerkbait properly is keeping a slack line when imparting the wrist-snapping rod twitch. Twitching or jerking the rod when the line is too tight results in a slower bait movement that may move the lure too far, and lacks that strike-triggering, erratic darting action.

“You want the bait to sit motionless, then, all of a sudden it moves 12 inches and stops. You don’t want it to be swimming and then take off 4 feet!”

Guideline #10: Long casts wanted – Christie says that long casts are essential when fishing a jerkbait so the bait stays in the strike zone for the maximum time, but unlike a lot of jerkbait anglers, he doesn’t crank the lure down before starting the retrieve.

“I just start working it.”

Guideline #11: Change-up on the ledges – Christie always keeps a jerkbait box at hand even in the heat of summer. One of his best-kept secrets is (was) pulling out his Rogues to perform clean-up duty on mid-summer ledge fish on waters like Kentucky Lake. He says that after he’s caught fish on jigs and crankbaits, he hits the ledge again with a jerkbait and picks up a few more.