Well thank goodness! We've finally rounded the corner and one frigid winter has now become a memory. If it hasn't been below zero it's been snowing and blowing making a shovel the tool of choice in most ventures outdoors this season. The recent familiar sound of our first thunderstorm has been our only reminder of warm weather to come. Now that the ice has left our local lakes a suspending jerkbait will knock down that cabin fever and may just put some of the largest bass of the season at the end of your line.
Many bass anglers may think that right after ice out is a little early. However, with surface water temps in the upper thirties and low forties you'd be amazed at the amount of activity below that layer. No matter the temp a fish has to eat. Not as often since their metabolism is slow but, a tender morsel that appears to be in the process of dying makes an easy meal. The main thing to remember when working a jerkbait early in the year is patience. Don't be afraid to make extremely long pauses.
When you're working a bait such as a SPRO Mcstick or an X-Rap, those pauses can be violently interrupted. Large bass are quite susceptible to this presentation with many caught here in our local area between three to seven pounds. Start by finding a body of water that is good and clear. At least three to five feet of visibility is crucial, clearer the better. Spool up a 6'6'' to 7' medium rod with a fast to extra fast tip with a good ten to fourteen pound flourocarbon like Sunline's super flouro shooter. You want the flouro for its ability to sink unlike mono or braid. Since it sinks it helps keep the bait down and may help the bait track a little deeper during your retrieve.
After making a long cast work the bait down quickly for the first twelve to fifteen feet to get it to it's maximum depth. For a Mcstick 95, 110, or an X-Rap it will get down about five to seven feet. Once it's down, pause it. Don't be afraid to let the bait sit one to two minutes. Doesn't seem like that long but when it comes to working a lure it feels like an eternity. Almost all the strikes with this presentation will come when the lure is just sitting there begging for it. Let the fish tell you how long the bait needs to sit. On active days it may only be twenty to thirty seconds or less. Some days I've found myself finding other things to do in the boat during pauses just to get the strikes.
Next when you begin to work the bait make one to three hard pops of your rod tip sweeping it toward you with each motion. After each pop quickly point the rod back at the lure to let it move freely with its new energy. This lets the bait be more erratic and travel farther side to side. Afterwards another pause. Repeat with a different number of pops each time. Be sure to reel up your slack line while the bait sits keeping the cadence until the lure has returned to the boat. You don't have to be a pro with a baitcaster for this technique either. A spinning combo with the same action and ten pound flouro will work just as well.
One last thing is boat position. With suspending baits you want to keep them in the strike zone as long as possible. Working the bait parallel to the bank, across the ends of points, and above deep structure will help greatly. Even though these baits only run five to seven feet don't rule out deeper water. With better water clarity sometimes fish will come up eight to ten feet to hit the lure. Also try to stay in depths that are a little deeper than the lures max depth. If you do fish a little shallower or hit the bottom make your jerks in an up-ward motion to keep the bait from digging into the bottom.
So now that the pesky ice has left the lakes brave the cold and swing down to Hank's. Let them know what you need to get out and enjoy some early season bassin'. If you have any questions, comments, or pictures of your catches you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Here's to hoping you see your largest fish of the season a little earlier this year.