While you can catch fish on jerkbaits all year, there is a specific window of time on each body of water across the country when you stand the best chance to catch a huge bass. This window varies depending what part of the country you live in, and it may vary from year to year depending on the weather leading up to the time the fish spawn
For example, in my part of the country, the Missouri Ozarks, our lakes tend to have a lot of suspended bass once the fall season begins. The same is true in most lakes where you have water visibilities over 4 feet. I’ve seen the same behavior on lakes like Table Rock in Missouri, Lake Lanier in Georgia, Smith Lake in Alabama, and Lake Murray in South Carolina, to name just a few examples.
In this type of lake there is a window of time that you have the highest odds of catching your biggest bass of the year. That window comes when the big, pre-spawn females begin to move from suspending in deep water into staging areas. They will continue to suspend, but shallower.
Around here, in January when the water temperatures are at their coldest, they may have been suspending in 45 feet of water, but by late February or early March, they might be suspending 5 feet down over 15 feet of water.
This is best time to catch big bass on jerkbaits like the Vision Oneten. This movement is usually triggered by a warming trend coupled with a stiff south wind for several days, along with warming water and longer daylight hours.
Many lakes that have clear water will also have steep banks and bluffs. Try and focus on this type of structure because big bass like to move vertically—not horizontally—at this time of year. Bluff banks, bluff points, steep points and channel swings are key locations for jerkbait fishing in this big-bass window, as I like to call it.
It is even better if these areas are located near spawning coves or flats. A scenario like this is a prime staging area for big bass before they move up to spawn.
On other lakes around the country that are shallower and flatter, this big bass jerkbait window still exists, but the situation is different.
The bass on lakes like Sam Rayburn, Toledo Bend, Lake Eufaula and Kentucky Lake do not suspend in the same manner. They tend to be more bottom-oriented and relate more consistently to grass or other shallow cover.
Despite the fact that they don’t suspend and move like their clear-water cousins, there is still a big bass jerkbait window on these lakes. In fact, lakes with grass – especially the TVA and Texas impoundments — are among my favorites for catching huge bass during this pre-spawn window. On lakes like these, the big main lake grass flats are the key big bass pre-spawning areas. Big bass will stage on these flats before moving to the bank to spawn. Unlike the Ozark lakes, the big bass on these grass flats will either be on the bottom or they’ll suspend a few feet off the bottom in the grass.
Throwing a jerkbait over the tops of the grass flats can pull these huge bass off the bottom or out of the grass to hit a suspending jerkbait. My favorite situation on this type of water is a grass flat adjacent to spawning coves, where the water is 8 to10 feet deep, with grass growing up 3-4 feet off the bottom.
If you have this situation, in February or March when the water temperature is 45 to 50 degrees, the odds of catching a giant jerkbait bass are the best they will be for you all year long. The same hold true for shallower, more stained lakes with no grass. The fish will tend to be shallower, and they’ll hold on any available cover, whether it be rock, docks or wood.
While the common threads determining the best time to catch big bass on jerkbaits hold true in most Midwestern, western or southern lakes, the exception to this rule is northern, natural bodies of water where smallmouth bass are the dominant species. These include popular tournament venues including the Great Lakes, Lake Champlain and Lake Minnetonka.
The prime time to catch the biggest smallmouth on jerkbaits here is right on the verge of the spawn, when the water temperature is in the mid to upper 50s. These big smallmouth will bed on main lake flats deeper than their largemouth or spotted bass cousins. The biggest smallmouth in these northern waters will bed in 8 to 15 feet of water on these flats, and right about the time they start to bed is the best time to catch giants on jerkbaits.
The main factor is wind. Wind is everything in this situation. You can catch the biggest smallmouth of your life of these main lake flats on a windy day, but you may never get a bite on the same water if the wind is calm.
Hopefully, this information will provide you with a starting point when chasing that jerkbait bite of a lifetime!