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By Capt. Chuck Uzzle
For the Record 

Jerk baits take the guess work out of winter fishing


Last updated 12/12/2023 at 6:49pm

Cooler water and air temperatures along with overcast days conjure up a recipe for the coastal plugger and big fish are the main course on the angling menu. These conditions dictate a different approach and a different mentality from the rest of the year. Some things are obvious, slowing down and paying attention to water temps and tides go without saying. The more subtle approach and bait presentation are also high on the list. At this time of the year many folks revert to slow sinking plugs in order to entice sluggish fish to bite. The slow sinking plugs like Corkies, Catch 5, and others take a little time and patience to master. Another option that is a little more user friendly is the jerk bait. Many saltwater anglers rarely use these highly effective plugs, but the ones who do often swear by them.

I really became a firm believer in how good these plugs work on late winter trip to Calcasieu." Man can you believe this water, this is beautiful," said Capt. Johnny Cormier of Orange. Indeed it was beautiful, 3 feet deep with a mix of heavy oyster and sand that was inhabited by plenty of redfish and lunker trout or two. As we idled along studying the bottom we began to see fish darting away from the boat, most were redfish. "Let's get out and wade this" said Cormier grabbing for his gear, "hold on a minute, let's see if we get one of these out here to bite" was my reply. As Johnny found his wading belt a stout redfish found my offering, a classic Rapala jerk bait. Needless to say we never got out of the boat as the redfish continued to chew us up. Occasionally we would move a hundred yards or so until we found the fish but the pattern was the same as were the results.

On that particular trip Johnny and I both tried different options for catching those redfish, a few other lures worked but they always had some kind of drawback. A Corky stayed hung in the shell just like the soft plastics on a jig head. The top water offerings were refused and you just couldn't cast lighter baits in the wind. The solution was a shallow diving Rapala called a BX Minnow which is a medium sized diving twitch bait that floats when not being pulled. Once pulled or retrieved this model Rapala dives to about 2 or 3 feet maximum and rattles like all get out. It also will back up when you run it into structure like shell, this little pause as it floats back near the surface usually triggers violent strikes. This plug is very castable even in the wind and that rates high on the "user friendly" scale.

Other plugs that fall into this category would be the Storm Thunderstick, Smithwick Rattlin Rogue, and Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow. A simple retrieve is all that is needed and the plug will do the rest, the results will speak for themselves. On those days when you just can't get a fish to come up and eat top water this is the next best thing. Also the fact that most of these plugs float saves you some grief as well when you break off against unseen obstructions like shell. These plugs will usually float to the surface where they can be reclaimed and put to use again. Rig these lures up with a loop knot and you can double the action or wobble that is built in to these shallow running plugs. The seductive side to side movement is difficult for even finicky fish to resist. The jerk bait is an often overlooked weapon in the saltwater fishing arsenal but during the winter this plug really shines. Give one of these lures a chance and you will be amazed at how easy they are to fish and just how productive they can be under the right circumstances.


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