Tuning Jerkbait for Angling Success - Wilderness North

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Tuning Jerkbait for Angling Success

Rarely are lures ready to fish right out of the box. That’s not saying they can’t or won’t catch fish brand new, but they are manufactured to company specifications and are all basically the same out of the box save for color, profile and lip size. Depending on species, and time of year, you can consider making a couple of key tweaks to maximize the performance of your jerkbait. In Ontario’s north, key species are northern pike and walleye, both fish that will ambush prey with vicious strikes. Your jerkbaits should be ready to go on that first cast.


Jerkbaits are all about balance. They should run true and not roll or deviate from their purpose. Some things that can effect balance are weights, leaders, twisted lips or unmatched hooks. First lets talk about suspension.

When fishing a jerkbait the pattern of retrieve is vital, and as you decide on your return cadence the pauses are often when these fish will strike so depending on time of year and your personal preferences, you can tweak your jerkbait to stay floating, suspended or slightly sink. Consider utilizing a weighted tape to achieve the desired suspension or sink rate you’ll like. Take a few minutes and put your lures to the test at home, adjust tape amount and location to your desired effect.


Many anglers have their preference when it comes to hooks and buying a new jerkbait doesn’t mean you have to use the hooks that come with the lure. If you have a favourite brand of hooks, consider swapping out the factory issues trebles for your brand. Conversely, if you’re conservation minded, and choose to use a different style of hook, consider adding a “j” hook to the end of the lure removing the factory issued trebles. Remember to check balance however when you do swap out the hooks. Always, always always have a honing stone on your person to give hooks a quick sharpen up right out of the box and regularly with use. They should always be sticky sharp.

Tweak the Beak

Before you make that first cast make sure your lure runs true. Let out a couple of feet of line and just beside the boat run that bait to ensure it stays balanced, cadence is correct and doesn’t spin or turn on its side. Many occasions where a jerkbait isn’t running true or isn’t getting down deep enough, it can be fixed by slight modification of the lip. Try gently bending the lip in the opposite direction of the flaw with a pair of pliers and test. Continue to adjust until it is running properly. If you want the bait to run deeper or shallower, consider adding a little fire to the situation and loosening the lip up to bend for a deeper dive or a shallower run. Or shave the lip down with a file to get the desired depth. Be gentle with both of the modifications as you don’t want to snap the lip off the bait.


A common saying in the outdoor world is “red is dead” and many times a fish will be more likely to attack a wounded or dying baitfish as an opportunistic meal. Jerkbaits are designed to fish like, well, just that, a wounded or dying baitfish. Adding an injury with a red sharpie, or a red slash to a fish could entice a predator to attack.

The science and innovation that has gone into today’s jerkbaits is truly revolutionary, so much so that with many companies, it’s hard to tell the difference between a real baitfish and a lure. That said, these lures are mass-manufactured and are designed for one purpose. A little tweaking and modifications to your lures can make a huge difference in your fishing experience. Experiment, have fun and enjoy playing with your baits to get the maximum performance out of each and every one.

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