With so many lifelike colors available to jerkbait users, deciding which one to use can seem overwhelming. For Bassmaster Elite Series pro Paul Mueller, it comes down to selecting a color based on the forage base and weather conditions. His approach comes from years of experience jerkbait fishing in a variety of situations across the country. As a general rule, his color selection is based on water clarity and light conditions.
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When discussing color patterns, “match the hatch” is a standard answer. It may be the biggest cliché in the fishing world, yet it still holds true and remains important. Of course, matching your jerkbait color to the forage the bass are eating is a good practice, but taking it one step further and understanding the forage itself is an even better option.
When bass are primarily keyed on perch, several different colors will do according to Mueller. “Matte bluegill, Wakasagi and Table Rock Shad all imitate perch. The new colors – Gold Flash, Brown Flash and Green Perch do too,” says Mueller. Beyond just matching the color, Mueller looks for where perch will be at a given time of year. Early in the year, that means grass and wood. “Perch are the first fish to spawn in the spring and the bass know that and take advantage of it. They will spawn and lay their eggs on grass beds and if the lake doesn’t have grass they will be around laydowns and other wood,” he says.
Another time when both color and size matching comes into play is during a shad die off. “During the late winter on many lakes in the country, yearling shad begin to die. Matching the color is important because that is what the bass are eating that time of year,” says Mueller. Another piece of the puzzle is matching the correct size of the dying shad. “The smaller profile of a lure like the Foxy Fry is a perfect match.”
Bright Days and Clear Water
When faced with bright and sunny conditions, Mueller believes a translucent color is best. With the technique being highly visual, clear water is a prime time to throw a jerkbait like the ima Flit 120. “The Ghost Chartreuse Herring is a killer color for clear water and bright days. It has a little bit of chartreuse on the bottom and it really stands out and is especially good for smallmouth,” says the Connecticut pro.
Cloud cover is a welcomed site to anglers using a jerkbait. The conditions set up well for the technique and Mueller has a general rule of thumb when deciding which colors to use: solid colors or those with flash.
While some may abandon a jerkbait when the water is off-colored, Mueller feels he can still use a jerkbait if the bait has a tinge of white, like with the Sexy Pearl Shad. “That is a new color for ima and it is great if the water is a little dirty but not quite muddy. It does a great job imitating a shad and also works really well when it is overcast,” he says.
Like clouds, the wind is your friend when jerkbait fishing. While a variety of colors will work when the water is churned up, Mueller believes that a color with some reflective properties is best. “American Shad, Brown Flash and Gold Flash all put off a lot of a good amount of flash and help bass locate the bait much easier. American Shad is also a great choice for lakes that have threadfin shad, ” he says.
Bright, Sunny and Calm is Foxy Fry Time
While these weather conditions might make an angler put down a jerkbait, Mueller feels they can still produce with the right approach and lure selection. When faced with this situation, Mueller reaches for the Foxy Fry. “I think this is the most overlooked bait that ima makes. It is a finesse jerkbait and for some reason, it works when no other jerkbait will,” he begins.
The small offering is a jerkbait that will dive to five feet, but Mueller says with the right line, modifications and some patience it can get down to 8 to 10-feet. To reach these depths, he goes to the extreme of using 5-pound Gamma Touch fluorocarbon, adding a larger gauge hook and Storm SuspenDots.
The colors available in this lure are mostly translucent and he believes it has to do with the conditions that this bait shines. “Those natural colors and the fact that this bait is more of a finesse offering make it really effective when the fishing is tough and the fish are not biting any other jerkbaits,” he believes.
He will fish this jerkbait differently than the Flit 100 and Flit 120 and will rely on short pulls instead of a jerking motion. “It is a great clear water technique and I have had my best success with short snaps and pulls while keeping a little bit of slack in the line.”
The Right Retrieve
How you retrieve your jerkbait plays a role in the flash and attraction of the bait. Depending on what species he is fishing for and the water temperature, Mueller varies his retrieves on the Flit 100 and Flit 120.
“The Flit 120 is one of the best smallmouth jerkbaits because you can make it have a real erratic retrieve and this helps get more flash out of your bait.” I fish it with sharp jerks of the rod but always maintain slack. The temperature determines both how hard I will rip it and also how long I pause it,” he says.
When fishing for largemouth, Mueller likes to fish his jerkbaits with shorter snaps of the rod. “I fish a jerkbait with more patience with when targeting largemouth and will make sure it tracks straighter instead of the wider darting action I prefer for smallmouth,” he says.
When deciding colors and retrieves for your jerkbait many factors come into play. By adjusting based on the weather conditions, water clarity and species you are targeting you can have success with jerkbaits in just about any situation.