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Jitterbugs at Night

By Russ Bassdozer

Click here to Buy Now Everyone loves to Jitterbug! The Arbogast Jitterbug has been around for over fifty years, and it is still going strong. Ask any night time bass angler if they carry a Jitterbug, and chances are you will hear that they do. Ask them what color they use, and you will no doubt hear that it is black. Yes indeed! Black Jitterbugs produce plenty of night bass. A Jitterbug is so easy to use, and fun too. In short, it is a winner - for night expert or beginner!

Basic Anatomy. It is an oddball kind of lure because of the oversized metal wobbleplate screwed into its nose. Only the Heddon Crazy Crawler, another surface wobbler, exceeds the Jitterbug in the odd appearance category. However, the Crazy Crawler never developed the fish-catching reputation of the Jitterbug.  The big Musky Jitterbug was the oddest and fiercest looking of all. It was festooned with treble hooks coming out its ears! Unfortunately, this legendary big bass lure is not available from the manufacturer right now.

Today, 10 models of Jitterbugs and two sizes of Jittersticks (with rear prop blades) are available in 15 colors under the Arbogast brand of the manufacturer, Pradco. Despite this seeming abundance of sizes and colors, the hooks in some of these models are too small for serious bass fishing at night. That's right, you can expect to catch a larger average size of fish at night than you do in the exact same spots by day. Therefore, due to hook size considerations for night fishing, we are only listing a few of the better-hung choices among the Jitterbugs:

G650 Jitterbug 3" 5/8oz Pair of #1 trebles (G655 with clicker)
G645 Jitterstick 4" 5/8oz Pair of #1 trebles
G690 Jitterbug Weedless 2 1/2" 5/8oz Long-shanked #1/0 double hook in tail
G650 Jitterbug JTD Jointed 3" 5/8oz Pair of #1 trebles

Let's Select Just One. Choosing and using the right lure - and the right color - out of the tens of thousands out there is an important part of being successful in bass fishing. You will rarely succeed by buying too many lures in too many colors. You will not learn how to fish well with any one of them, and you can go broke doing so. This is not necessary, and it is a trap fallen into by beginning and middleweight bass anglers alike. It is far better to work with and master a small group of reliable lures. Therefore, this article will only tell you about one size and one color of Jitterbug, but it is the best one in my opinion. That is the 3" long, 5/8 ounce model G650 in black (02). In my experience, the G650-02 is the best all-around fish catcher of the four models mentioned above. Not that the others don't have their time and place. Just that I choose to focus my skills and my tackle budget on this one Jitterbug that I know how to use and have confidence in it. You can easily master it too! It is an ideal choice for beginner and expert alike.

Best on Spinning Gear. Even still, take a look at the #1 treble that comes on a Jitterbug. It is not a heavy hook, is it? And the wobbleplate and bulbous body do not make for the most aerodynamic casting properties either, do they? Therefore, I like to fish Jitterbugs on a medium weight spinning rod with 15 pound test line. This range of spinning gear allows me to cast well, and spinning provides a cushion for fighting fish on the light treble hooks. The 15 pound test is good to cast to the outside edges of cover like fallen trees. Cast it parallel to the open water in front of long, straight reed berms and along the edges of dense weed beds. You must work the outside edges of cover, because you cannot easily use it by casting into grass at night, and you will get caught up far too often casting it directly into heavy wood cover. There are better lures than Jitterbugs for fishing in cover at night.

The 15 pound test is good to work the lure near cover, because you always run the risk that the fish will run into the cover. The 15 pound test helps you there. In my opinion, 20 is too heavy for jitterbugging near cover, because you will put too much pressure on the fish and straighten the light hooks. But you can and should use 12 pound test when you are tossing the lure into open water spots like dark, quiet shoreline flats, over shallow points, along rock walls and rip rap. The 12 pound test will allow the lure to wobble more freely.

What could be simpler? Just reel in straight and steady in order to get the best fish-enticing action out of a Jitterbug. If you are a beginning night fisherman, it's hard to go wrong here as long as you don't go too fast or too slow - and don't try to get too fancy. I always fish them by fine tuning the retrieve speed somewhere between a slow to moderate pace that generates the best gurgling sound from the wobbleplate. The right gurgling sound makes bass go off on it. You have to concentrate your hearing on the lure and the noise it makes as you retrieve it. Listen for the lure to make the most life-like sound possible. It's hard to describe, but you will recognize it when you hear it - and bass will also let you know they recognize it by blasting your Jitterbug out of the water at the correct retrieve. Some nights you have to go a little slower or a little faster, depending on wind and water surface conditions. So, always listen and use your ear to fine tune into that highly desirable life-imitating sound made by the wobbleplate.

Don't Blast Back. This isn't a gun fight. If a bass blasts you and misses, what will you accomplish by blasting back and also missing with a hook-setting effort? You'll accomplish nothing except blow your chances, so please don't do it. Just sharpen your hooks first. The ones that come on a Jitterbug aren't the sharpest in the world. Now when a bass blows up on you, just keep reeling steadily as if nothing ever happened. If she's got you, she isn't going to let go too quickly. Just wait until you feel the weight of the fish on the line. You don't need to be in any kind of rush here. You have a couple of seconds to play with here. If she is on, set the hook. If she missed completely, just continue reeling as if absolutely nothing happened and she'll come back to blast you again!

Advanced Line Control. This paragragh describes an advanced topic - talking about line control for topwater lures. It will help semi-experienced anglers more than beginners, but please read on and try to follow even if you are a beginner. It is not so much that a topwater lure itself has more freedom to move on a lighter line such as 12 pound test, it is the fact that a lighter line itself moves more freely in response to the lure's wobbling action. In the case of a Jitterbug, you ideally want all the line between the rod tip and the lure tie to be out of the water, swinging back and forth in the air in response to the lure's movement. There should be a little belly and slackness in the first ten feet of line closest to the lure. If you keep too much tension in the line, you will prevent this "slack zone" from appearing, and if you let too much looseness in the line, the belly will sag or appear mid-distance between the rod and the lure, therefore too far from the lure for the belly to really swing and have a positive influence on the lure action. But if you are doing it right, with the line's slack zone close to the lure, then you will see the line oscillating back and forth like crazy, throwing a rhythmical pendulum arc in the air as the lure action moves the line. If you keep the retrieve pace steady with no variation in line tension, the Jitterbug action will achieve, shall I say, a kind of equilibrium point where the lure is wobbling freely in perfect harmony with the side-to-side action in the the line. At that point, your Jitterbug is really moving freely, and you are generating the best, most life-like action you can get out of it. Now fine tune the pace with your ear to get the most life-like gurgling noise out of it. Practice makes perfect here fellows. All the more reason not to commit yourself to using too many lures. It takes time to master them.

That's all you need to know. There isn't much more to it. Really. Now go out and give those night bass the jitters!

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