Jerkbait fishing may be one of the most difficult techniques to master, but on those occasions when you put the puzzle together there’s almost nothing in fishing that’s more rewarding. Even if you manage to dial in the proper colors, sizes, cadences and equipment, there’s always the additional challenge of locating the best water.
The best wintertime jerkbait locations depend greatly on the type of lake you are fishing. You need to understand the basic substrate – in other words, the type of rock, gravel or sand bottom compositions — in order to know where to begin your search. The species of bass can also determine best locations.
Even if you have the bottom composition that the fish prefer, it’s critical to have the optimal water visibility and to match it to the correct jerkbait color. You hear me speak a lot about the importance of water visibility in jerkbait fishing. It’s the most important piece of the puzzle in my opinion. Water visibility will determine what type of structures to fish, the bank angle, and the proper depth to be fishing.
The key cover in wintertime jerkbait fishing is rock. The rock can come in forms of rocky bluff banks, chunk rock, boulders, all the way down to gravel. Different sizes of rock, but still rock.
Water visibility will determine which types of rock and depth I begin my search with. Here are some good general starting points to begin with:
Water visibility greater than 5 feet: The two best locations will be channel swing bluffs, particularly near the point of these bluffs, and long gravel points that gradually drop off into deep water. These features are found primarily on highland lakes where you are dealing with two distinct populations of bass, the first being largemouth/spotted and the second being smallmouth bass. These two populations of bass will be catchable at the same time, but they may not be doing the same thing. Some bass prefer to move vertically along bluffs and winter there, while some prefer the combination of both vertical and horizontal movement along the long sloping points. In clear water, you can expect the biggest populations of fish to be suspended 8 to 20 feet below the surface, over water 15 to 30 feet deep. Most of the time on structures like this with clear water the fish will vary their depths based upon what type of day it is, not water temperature. Sunny days, especially in the afternoons, will have the bass suspending higher in the water column, while the dark, cloudy days will often see them holding a bit deeper.
Water visibility under 5 feet: Bass will tend to not only be shallower, but on different structure. On lakes with less visibility, you’re more likely to be chasing largemouths as opposed to spotted and/or smallmouth bass, and they also prefer more of a 45 degree angle bank. My favorite wintertime jerkbait locations in water with less than 5 feet visibility are 45 degree angle, chunk rock type banks, and secondary points in coves and creeks. In lakes like this, the bass will live on secondary points, suspending 3 to 6 feet deep over water 8 to 15 feet deep virtually all winter long. The ideal slope in this situation is to have a point where your boat is sitting in 15 to 20 feet of water, and you are about 50 feet from the bank. Also, the secondary points will tend to group the bass in wolf packs of three to eight fish.
One of the things you will find in wintertime jerkbait fishing is that in clear water (over 5 feet visibility), the fish will live on both the main lake and creeks, but as the water visibility gets under 5 feet, fewer bass will use the main lake structures in winter. They’ll be more likely to live in the creeks and coves. But remember: Each lake in the country is unique. Even though they may appear similar, some lakes will see patterns develop that other never see, based upon how the lake lays out, its available cover, clarity and weather patterns.
Nevertheless,, these tips will give you a good starting point on where to begin your search, and you can modify your approach and adjust to your specific lake as needed.
Good luck, and good fishing!