Jerkbaits for early season bass

Posted on: March 4, 2016 | Bob Frye | Comments

Shaw Grigsby 2Shaw Grigsby said jerkbaits that suspend catch cold water bass.

Their conditions won’t be our conditions, that’s for sure.

The 2016 Bassmaster Classic kicks off today and runs through Sunday on Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees in Tulsa, Okla. Daytime temperatures are expected to hit the mid-70s throughout.

Here across Pennsylvania, bass anglers are waiting for the ice to go away.

There were boats on Yellow Creek Lake this past week, and paddlers on Pymatuning Lake, too. But the latter froze over again last night, according to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s Freeman Johns, a biologist in its Linesville office.

Still, there will be open water soon.

How to catch bass then?

Late winter and early spring bass aren’t going to be very energetic. That’s just the way it is.

They can still be caught, however, if you turn to the right tool.

Enter the suspending jerkbait.

They’ll catch fish throughout summer and into fall, said Shaw Grigsby, a Gainesville, Fla., bass pro who’s been on the fishing circuit for more than 30 years. But they’re especially effective starting when water temperatures first climb into the 40s, he said.

That’s because of how they work.

In cold water, bass are lethargic; they won’t chase a fast-moving bait aggressively, Grigsby said. You’ve got to patiently tempt them.

“What you want, especially in cold water, is a bait that suspends,” Grigsby said.

Grigsby likes to cast his out, jerk it three or four times, then let it rest. At that point, it should stay still, suspended like a live baitfish pausing in the water. Bass – especially in clear water, as they feed by sight then – can only look at what seems to be an easy meal for so long before they just have to grab it, he added.

The key is letting the jerkbait do its thing and not overwork it, added Bill Lortz, a tournament angler and operator of NY North Country Bassin’ guide service in Rochester, N.Y.

“With a jerkbait, you want to have a long pause. It could be as long as 30 seconds,” he said.

It’s critical that jerkbaits suspend rather than float upward, though.

If he sees one rising, Grigsby adds lead strips or dots or goes to bigger hooks to make it settle.

Pennsylvania’s bass season – the first harvest portion of it anyway — continues through April 15. The daily limit is four fish of at least 15 inches.

Catch and immediate release fishing is permitted from April 16-June 17.

The season opens back up June 18-Sept. 30. The limit then is six fish daily, all of which must be at least 12 inches long.

Bob Frye is the editor. Reach him at 412-838-5148 or See other stories, blogs, videos and more at

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