by Juan Veruete, Kayak Fish PA, LLC
One of the most popular yet, maybe, least understood baits for smallmouth is the soft jerkbait. These little gems are among my go to baits for spring smallmouth bass. In addition, they see a lot of “water time” during the summer. As we head into spring full speed here in the north east, I thought I’d throw out a few brands of soft jerkbaits along with their strengths in terms of fish “attracting” and “catching” abilities. In a nutshell, this article is part instruction and part product review BUT all about catching more smallmouth!
Soft jerkbaits are most noted for their unpredictable and erratic action. Most likely they mimic a fleeing baitfish which triggers old mr. smallies instinct to attack. lets take a look at three different jerkbaits and the subtle differences that sometimes can make or break a day on the water.
3 inch Slug-Go
About the bait
The Slug-Go brand name and style of bait arrived on the scene during the mid 80’s and created the soft jerkbait craze. That craze is now a standard in bass fishing circles. The three inch model is the smallest in a line of baits offered by Lunker City LLC.
The extremely slender profile of the three inch Slug-Go is ideal for mimicking small minnows and other soft finned baitfish. The slender profile of this bait also creates a distinct “darting” action after a jerk. In addition, the bait offers a very slow fall rate that drives smallmouth crazy. A 3 inch Slug-Go is fairly light so lighter spinning tackle would be the best choice for tossing the bait.
The smallest Slug-Go is great for river and creek smallmouth. The bait offers a subtle slow fall presentation that is best suited for shallow water applications. It is also my bait of choice in very clear water conditions when a delicate presentation is necessary. The slow fall rate of this bait is a key strength. The fall rate can be slowed even more by using a light wire offset worm hook that Lunker City produces specifically for the Slug-Go.
Texposed is the most common rigging convention for this bait. Lunker City produces a light wire hook that has been designed specifically for the 3 inch Slug-go. My preference, however, is a size 1 offset extra wide gap worm hook. I find my hookup percentage is slightly higher with this style of hook.
4 inch Zoom Fluke
About the bait
The Fluke is produced by one of the top plastic bait companies in the country, Zoom. The 4 inch model is part of a family of baits with the “Fluke” name. Flukes are available in a variety of sizes and colors. You can check out the baits on the Zoom website.
The 4 inch Fluke is a great bait for mimicking medium sized baitfish. The wider body creates a larger profile and displaces more water. Properties that say “hey..hear i am!” to any smallmouth in the vicinity. The split tail design gives the bait an even more realistic profile and creates more forward “glide” or “drift” when you pause the bait after a jerk.
The bait is slightly heavier and less boyant that the Slug-Go so it can be fished a little deeper. I will typically go to this bait when I need to fish in the 3-6 foot range. The larger profile also makes it my soft jerkbait of choice when the water has a slight stain or color. Most importantly, it is great for matching the size and profile of medium sized baitfish.
Like the Slug-Go, the Fluke can be texposed rigged. I always use an extra wide gap offset worm hook with this particular bait due to the wider body. Again, the main goal is to increase hookups and successfully bring the smallmouth to hand. A size 2/0 or 3/0 hook will work perfectly with the 4 inch Fluke.
5 inch Yum Houdini Shad
About the bait
The Houdini Shad is produced by Yum Bait Company. There is less size selection in the Houdini Shad than some other soft jerkbaits but this bait certainly has a place in any soft jerkbait fisherman’s tackle box. The bait is enhanced with Live Prey Technology (LPT) fish attractant.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Houdini Shad is it’s big bulky profile. It is great for imitating larger baitfish when smallies are really on the feed. The Houdini Shad can be cast long distances and it sinks faster than most other soft jerkbaits on the market. As mentioned previously, the bait is scent enhanced with LPT so fish tend to hold onto it after the strike. The last and most notable feature of this bait is the paddle tail which gives it a distinct circular glide after the jerk. The Houdini Shad slowly circles to the bottom with a subtle tail wag that I have not seen from any other soft jerkbait on the market. The paddle tail is perforated so you can convert it to a split tail or even just knock out the middle of the paddled creating a diamond shaped hole. This in turn, changes the action of the bait as it falls.
The bait can be used when trying to match the size and coloration of larger baitfish. Because of the baits bigger and bulkier profile, it also does well in stained or even muddy water. I’ve used the bait under these conditions with excellent results. The bait can be fished shallow or deep. I’ve fished the bait down to 8 feet with success and patience. When fishing deep, I typically count the bait down to depth. I will also throw this bait when I’ve established that the fish are in a neutral feeding mood. The unique tail action sometimes entices fish to bite that are refusing other baits.
The Houdini Shad can be rigged a number of ways but texposed is probably the most common way to fish the bait. Again, due to the bulk of this bait, I typically rig it with either a 4/0 or 5/0 extra wide gap offset worm hook.