Finesse jerkbait fishing harnesses smaller jerkbaits to generate strikes in situations where traditionally-sized offerings are less productive than usual. This may be due to cooling conditions, bass keying on smaller forage, or when waters are highly pressured. Observing the nuances of your specific body of water will allow you to dial in your finesse jerkbait tactics and capture new bites.
Though effective year-round in nearly all waters, finesse jerkbaits often excel in cold water situations. Typically, 3 to 10 feet of water visibility is needed for strike generation, but we often find that 4-6 feet are the most productive.
The X-80 TRICK DARTER and X-NANAHAN series are deadly finesse jerkbaits, each with their own unique action and application. The X-80 is tuned to suspend, with flatter and taller sides that produce outsized flash and the most aggressive darting in the lineup, making it a perfect choice for active and reactive feeders. The X-NANAHAN series features a more traditional slim-minnow profile, with a slow float setting and a tighter action built for traditional cold-water cranking and jerking applications. Choose your NANAHAN based on target depth (X-NANAHAN – 4ft, X-NANAHAN+1– 7ft, X-NANAHAN+2 – 10ft) and put the tungsten moving balancer system to work with a long cast.
When fishing a finesse jerkbait, one of the biggest learning curves is often the amount of power to use. The starting rule is always: less is more with finesse jerkbaits. Start with lighter twitches to explore the subtle range of actions that are newly accessible in this finesse jerkbait platform, then gradually dial up your power and start experimenting with twitch angles (downward twitch vs. upward vs. left/right, etc.). In general, when fishing baits like the X-80 TRICK DARTER and X-NANAHAN, reducing the amount of power in each jerk by 25-50% compared to a full-sized offering like a VISION ONETEN is the sweet spot. If too much power is used, the bait can be easily overworked, causing it to “blow out” and have unnatural action. A gentle, jerk/jerk cadence, with a 2-5 second pause is a great starting point to build from to allow the bait to perform at its maximum potential.
Lighter setups are necessary both to maximize casting distance and to impart proper action, bringing finesse oferrings to life with the full dynamic range of subtle twitches to big darting action. Long-time Megabass Pro and jerkbait aficionado, Randy Blaukat, prefers a spinning rod like the DESTROYER P5 F3.5-72XS WIND BUSTER paired with a 3000 size reel and 6lb fluorocarbon. However, a modern BFS setup like the DESTROYER P5 F2.5-611X KASUMI SIXELEVEN or F3-610X BAIT FINESSE are also excellent choices to explore each lure’s full potential.
Areas to target with finesse jerkbaits are very similar to those of traditional offerings, but slowing down to thoroughly work sweet spots is often key.
In general, main lake and secondary points and adjacent shorelines, are areas to target on in many man-made and natural lakes. Points to focus on should include large rock, small rock, gravel, clay or a mix of these features. Something to keep in mind when fishing finesse jerkbaits is that they do not have the same drawing power to “pull” fish out of deeper water like larger jerkbaits. Therefore, unless the water is extremely clear, the 3-10 foot depth zone mentioned above can create the best opportunity for success.
Rip-rap banks are also a primary area to target with finesse jerkbaits; specifically, focus on those with easy access to deep water. These are often found around bridge underpasses, dams, boat docks and similar structure. Riprap tends to get a lot of pressure from anglers, but these areas continue to hold large numbers of bass. For that reason, smaller finesse jerkbaits can be some of the best rip-rap producers year-round. Casting angles are extremely important to carefully mine these hard-hit waters and keep the bait in the strike zone for the longest time. When the water is deeper, staying closer to shore and paralleling the bank will keep the bait in the strike zone longer, but when the water gets shallower, moving offshore and angling casts towards the bank will expand your bite zone.
Less is more when fishing finesse jerkbaits. But don’t let their size fool you—they are often the key to new bites in tired waters!