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The Floating Hard Jerkbait
by Massimo Zanetti

The overlooked lure. I believe that the hard jerkbait is actually one of the hottest lures and perhaps one of the best secrets of bass pros around the world. I don't know why, but this lure is seldom mentioned in the bass magazines. Even in Italy, in the high competitive ranks, I rarely see a jerkbait tied on a bass rod. Considering this, itís well worth the time to gain some skill and knowledge of the lure, at least to get one more edge up on the competition!

One of the big bass lures that the "Bass Professor" Doug Hannon has relied on most often to catch monster bass in clear spring waters in Florida is the Rapala Original Floating 11 and 13 in Gold or Silver colors. Hannon states that the Rapala, with its small profile and slender shape, presents very few negative cues to the eyes of a "smart" old big mouth and, a very interesting point, it is one of the few minnow-type lures that swims perfectly horizontally, just like a real fish does. If Hannon, with his great track record of more than 500 10+ pounders caught in the last 20 years, has some Rapalas in his tackle box, it means this is a great lure. But Rapala accomplishes only one of the several tasks a hard jerkbait has to accomplish. In fact, if you go back to the paragraph above, Hannon uses the Rapala mainly in clear waters.

I rely mostly on three jerkbait brands and models, and I'll tell you why.

1) Rapala Original Floating Model 11. At a little over 4", the Rapala is a light lure and I fish it mostly in calm water (a smooth surface is better) and CLEAR water. It is a lure which has few attracting qualities but high triggering qualities. It produces very few vibrations or flash in the water . It is a discrete lure that works the best in clear to moderately stained waters. Silver w/black back for sunny days and Gold w/black back for cloudy days or low light conditions. Because of its very light weight, I fish it on a 6'3" spinning outfit and 8 to 10 pound test clear mono.

2) Bomber Long A Model 14. .The second lure I love to fish is also about 4" long but heavier than the Rapala. It works very well in moderate windy conditions and dives a little deeper than the Rapala. My favourite color is Silver foil w/orange belly which produces a huge amount of flash and more often than not, triggers vicious reaction strikes from even the most finicky bass. I use this color mostly on bright sunny days but I've caught bass on it even at dawn or dusk in very poor light conditions. Other good colors I rely on for the Bomber Silver flash/blue back (also for sunny days) and chartruese flash/blue back/orange belly, excellent in stained waters/cloudy days. I fish the Bombers with a 5'6" pistol grip casting rod (with light tip but lots of backbone) and 12 lb. test mono.

3) Smithwick Rattlin' Rogue. The third lure you'll find in my jerkbait box is the 4-1/2" Rattlin' Rogue. This lure dives down to 4'. I use this lure in poor light conditions (e.g., dark water/cloudy skies) because of its bigger size and - very important - built-in loud rattlers. As Jim Porter has written in one of his articles: "I haven't seen a fish yet  that rattles." I agree with Jim on his statement but bass seems to love those Rattlin' Rogues and really blast them! As for the Rogue's colors, I use silver/black backs and gold ones, for the identical reasons that I fish the Rapalas in these colors (see above). I fish the Rogues on the same outfit that I fish the Bomber 14A.

Techniques. Now that I've told you about my favorite jerkbaits, let's look at my best techniques.

In clear, cold water and with suspicious fish I try to leave my jerkbait in a given spot the longest time I can and move it with short twitches of the rod tip, this usually aggravates the fish to strike.

When I don't know where the fish might be positioned, I "run and gun" by casting my lure at the most obvious and unobvious spots that I can. For this application I don't use any one of the lures I've mentioned before but a big Rapala Husky 13. I've caught tons of fish in the past retrieving them quickly with the rod tip pointed at it, just like a crankbait.

In every other condition, I usually cast the jerkbait parallel to an obstacle or shallow structure and retrieve it with sharp jerks of the rod. Itís very important changing the angle of your cast at the same obstacle. Normally I make a 6" jerk with the rod tip low on the water but sometimes you need to get a long jerk to make fish strike your jerkbait.

Modifications. A few tips on how I modify my hard jerkbaits before tying them to my line:

Hooks: First thing to do when you open the package of whatever jerkbait you buy in the tackle shop is to ALWAYS keep 'em sharp. Before casting a lure, I always check how sharp is the hook. If the hook is not sharp enough, I'll hone it with the sharpening stone I always keep in my tackle bag. Very often, I also change to bigger treble hooks to try to overcome the poor hooksetting ratios these lures normally have. Bigger and stouter hooks surely help you to land a few more fish and in a tournament situation one fish landed or lost often means the difference between getting a check or not. Some lures manufacturers say that putting a bigger set of treble hooks on their lures will alter their balance and swimming motion, but I have still to see this problem in actual use. Take care, of course, not to put treble hooks that are TOO big, otherwise youíll often find them tangled together.

Split Rings: I often replace the split rings with bigger ones, according to the treble hooks size and put one on the front-eye of the lures like the Rapala Floating model that comes without the ring. It adds a hell of lot more action to the jerkbait!

Weight: I usually wrap the treble hooks with some lead wire if I want to add weight to a floating jerkbait to get more castability, to get a deeper depth and to slow the rise (more suspending). It works like magic on finicky bass! Consider that most of the hits on your jerkbait will come when you make a pause between two jerks and youíll realize how important the speed of your lure is when it's rising to the surface. Sometimes the bass hit with lot of delicacy and you hardly feel the bite, just like the tick-tick on a plastic worm, other times the mighty little green fish will almost pull the rod out of your hands, talking about vicious strikes!

Well, that's it for now. No more modifications are required with the hard jerkbait. All you need to do is train your biceps with a jerk-pause, jerk-jerk-pause or similar retrieve. At the end of the day, you'll find your arm quite sore from fishing a jerkbait with sharp jerks, especially if big bass are on the mood to blast the minnow-shaped lures!

Author Information.

Massimo Zanetti is 33 years old, Italian by birth and bassman by choice! Massimo is married to his wife Annalisa since 1992 and they have two daughters, Paola and Chiara. Fishing since he was a kid, now Massimo fishes almost exclusively for bass since 1988. He started bass fishing competitively in late 1992. Massimo writes articles for a few Italian fishing magazines, club newsletters, and websites. Massimo has been a featured speaker at several seminars.

Massimo considers himself a versatile bass fisherman who always tries to adapt techniques and lures to weather/water conditions and to the bass metabolism. He loves to fish around shallow cover and visible targets, and he's mostly a river fisherman. In his opinion, this is the way to go!

He is a field tester for Shimano Italia/Rapala and he's sponsored by KeepAlive Oxygen Infusors, S.O.B. Fishing Products, Snakebite Custom Fishing Tackle and Scientific Bass Products.

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