Ima Flit 120: The new and future jerkbait legend

Seven years seems a short time relative to other iconic bass fishing jerkbaits that have been on the market for several decades or longer.

Professional tournament angler, fishing guide, tackle industry executive, fisheries biologist and lure designer Michael Murphy lives in Lexington, South Carolina.

Seven years ago was when Ima Lures in Japan, their North American distributor, Optimum Baits, and professional tournament angler, fishing guide and fisheries biologist Michael Murphy of Lexington, South Carolina teamed up to produce a breakthrough bass fishing jerkbait based largely on Murphy’s top tournament prowess, guiding experience, marine biology education and keen intellect. This wasn’t Murphy’s first success at designing bass lures – but the Flit is widely regarded as his best lure concept to date. He really nailed it.

In the short time it’s been around, the popularity and sales of the Ima Flit have rapidly risen toward the top tier of the worldwide jerkbait genre, thanks to enthusiastic angler demand and fish-catching satisfaction on every continent.

Please enjoy the one-on-one interview that follows. We trust that Michael will answer everything you want to know to successfully fish the Ima Flit 120 in 2017 and beyond. The more you know about the Flit, you’ll want to fish it more, and soon you’ll see it is indeed a new and future legend on the bass fishing jerkbait scene.

Question: To set the scene, what kind or rod, make or model do you fish with the Flit? What reel? What line?

Murphy: The rod I like to use is a 6’9″ stick. I stand 6’5″ tall, and with the elevation of the boat bow above the water, standing on the front deck, this rod is the perfect rod for me to be able to point my rod tip straight down without dragging in the water. I believe this is critical for ease of use, to hold the rod straight down without hitting the water, but this will be different for everyone. For a shorter person, it may be a 6′ rod. Overall, I like a medium/heavy action rod with some good backbone but still a good amount of tip for casting, working the lure and for playing a fish gingerly if it is barely hooked.

Question: How do you recommend attaching your line to the Flit? Why?

Murphy: Directly to the split ring. Some like to use a clip on their jerkbaits, hoping to get more action. This action is already naturally built into the Flit without having to do this. Adding a clip would most likely result in the front hook continuously catching the line. A clip is not needed. Simply tie direct to the split ring already provided on the lure. As far as knots, any type of good cinch knot goes well with fluorocarbon, except I do not like to use a Palomar with fluorocarbon since I believe it increases the chances of knot failure, and I do like to use fluorocarbon on my Flit.

You can make the Flit act wildly disoriented or like a normal baitfish. Fish it with random, erratic jerk and pause techniques or even with steady reeling like a crankbait – and explore endless variations between those extremes. The Flit’s power is whatever the conditions or mood the bass may be in, you can match it.

Question: How deep does the Flit 120 dive? Are there any certain types of cover or structure or something else specific that’s an ideal situation for the Flit due to its working depth?

Murphy: Many jerkbaits are first designed on looks (eye appeal) and then the bill is constructed to achieve action and depth. Since the Flit is designed based on the idea of matching the hatch and to mimic the cadence of baitfish, specifically of the herring family (i.e., blueback herring, gizzard shad and threadfin), the action is already built into the Flit body. The bill is there to only achieve depth, not impart action. If you would like it to achieve its maximum depth, point your rod tip down toward the water to obtain 8 feet (FT120) of depth on 8 lb fluorocarbon or 6 feet of depth on 10 lb fluorocarbon. You may change the position of your rod tip to make it run shallower. With your rod tip pointing directly up at an eleven o’clock position, you can make it walk just beneath the surface in spots where that may be necessary. The Flit can be very effectively managed with the rod position, whether used shallow under shady docks or to fish deep on bluff walls.

Question: Is there anything you can do in terms of rod, line or retrieve or any other bait adjustment that lets you reach different depths? Is there anything that can make the difference of getting the Flit a couple of feet deeper or shallower?

Murphy: As mentioned above, line diameter and also line type do make a difference. The general idea using the ima Flit jerkbait is the smaller the line diameter the deeper the bait will go, simply due to less line drag. However, with the Flit, the exception to this would be at rest. Mono floats and fluoro sinks. You could use this to your advantage to behave differently or run at different depths dependent on specific situations. Again, this will vary among line brands and types. No two lines are exactly the same.

Question: Do you stick with the stock hooks or do you ever switch to different hooks and why?

Murphy: I have found you can upsize the front two hooks and turn it into a slow sinking jerkbait with its head pointed downward to help get it to deeper depths.

Upsizing the two front hooks also gives you more command on big bass fisheries where above-average size bass are commonly caught or on days when fish are very active and striking with abandon, upsizing the two front hooks gives you a hand.

Question: Sometimes a lure gets categorized as a smallmouth killer or a spotted bass killer or a largemouth magnet. Do you think the Flit has a special or higher appeal to smallmouth, spotted bass or largemouth? Why or why not?

Murphy: I couldn’t tell you. The Flit catches all three bass species equally and all very effectively. I think you can’t tag this type of reputation on the Flit, since all three species feed on members of the herring family, which makes them all equally vulnerable. I can tell you, with all three bass species there are no differences. They all eat it most excellently. If anything I would call it the “anything that swims and feeds on baitfish magnet” because it is not just with bass, but it could be redfish, pike, perch, gar, you name it. I have caught practically everything on the Flit so far.

Question: What are some things you may have learned about the Flit 120 over the years you’ve been fishing this bait that you didn’t expect when you originally designed the bait?

Murphy: That it can be EXTREMELY effective just reeling it steadily like a crankbait or trolled. We did not originally envision using it those ways, but in retrospect it makes perfect sense because we did design the hydrodynamic shape and therefore the swimming action to perfectly mimic the forage species (members of the herring family). A big factor in the original design was that when reeled, it tracks just like a shad or herring. Very lifelike. By mimicking that natural swimming action makes it extremely effective when reeling it steadily. Matter of fact, when we realized that, it triggered the development of the Floating Flit 120 a few years after the original suspending design. Many have found the best success by slowly reeling or waking the floating version across the surface.

The Flit so closely captured the swimming action of herring and shad species that it triggered the development of the Floating Flit a few years after the original suspending design. The highly-visible lip is to help hand-to-eye coordination when slowly reeling or waking it across the surface.

Question: What is your lure color selection strategy with the Flit 120, Michael? What reasoning process do you use to select one color to tie on your line versus another?

If it is cloudy, select a matte or white-sided finish. If it’s a brighter, sunny day, select a foil finish. The exception is if it is extremely clear water, under any conditions, the clearer colors (Wakasagi, Table Rock Shad, Ghost Minnow, Ghost Chart Herring) can be most effective. Where are you in the USA? What is the local forage? Is it herring, shad, perch or panfish? These are questions I ask myself when considering matching the hatch. Are you expecting to catch predominately smallmouth, spotted bass, or largemouth? What is the water temperature? The colder the water or the farther north in latitude, I tend to gravitate to colors with some chartreuse or translucent. When I consider these elements, one or two colors will typically jump out to me. At that time, I will try the ones I think best suit the circumstances and from there, I let the fish tell me what they prefer.

If it is extremely clear water, under any conditions, the clearer colors can be most effective. In colder months of the calendar, at northern latitudes, and when or where clear water turns tinged, try clear colors with chartreuse sides or bellies.

If it is cloudy, select a matte or white-sided finish.

Of the exciting new colors for 2017, two (Brown Flash and Gold Flash) are due to popular demand, and are especially effective on top smallmouth fisheries across the USA and Canada. The two new colors Green Perch and Sexy Pearl Shad, are also where we listened to our loyal customers and their desire to see a foil version of our Matte Bluegill, and the Sexy Pearl Shad is a matte version of our American Shad. Matte Bluegill and American Shad are two fantastically effective colors, and our customers wanted to have foil and matte versions of both because foils are most effective in brighter conditions and matte finishes are best in lowlight and cloudy conditions. These new colors are proof that Ima and specifically Ima’s North American distributor, Optimum Baits, listen to their customers.

If it’s a brighter, sunny day, select a foil finish. Two new colors for 2017, Brown Flash and Gold Flash, are due to angler demand and especially effective on top smallmouth fisheries across the USA and Canada. The new Green Perch meets customer requests for a foiled panfish pattern

Question: Some anglers mention having a good jerkbait bite first thing in the morning, and then have it fade out and die on them by mid-morning. Is that something you’ve seen about the Flit bite? Is the Flit bite similar to what some have experienced with an early morning topwater bite, which it’s usually good at first light, and shuts down once the sun hits the water? Or is there anything you can do or any conditions or factors that make for a good Flit bite all day (or as long as those factors remain present)?

Murphy: No. It is not like that. As the sun comes up, I start to chase shadow lines. It may be the shadow line off of a bridge, dock, trees, bluffs, etc. Seems like bass will just pull tight to these shaded areas. It is not just with jerkbaits, I would say this applies with all lures under these early morning conditions and it is merely the natural behavior of how bass act. I say this, because I would never say a topwater bite will completely shut down. Instead, it will just change. I have had some of my best topwater days on Lake Lanier over 30 feet of water on clear bluebird days catching both spotted bass and largemouth. I think the shutting down of any bite or that sudden “lock jaw” is nothing more than a myth. Strike zones and the willingness to commit may become smaller, or how fish may hold to structure may change under changing conditions. However, at the end of the day, it is all basic behavior and simply what makes the best sense for how a bass can ambush its prey. Bass are always eating; it is just a matter of how or where. I have never seen a tournament where someone did not catch something. So I am not a big believer in a bite shutting down because the fish were not eating. The bite just changes or shifts. As anglers, we may lose the bite, but it’s still going on somewhere.

Question: What would you say is the biggest error you see anglers make with jerkbaits?

Murphy: Certainly it’s stereotyping the technique. The belief that it is only good for spring and for post frontal situations. They (jerkbaits) are good all the time.

Question: Overall, what action are you trying to create with a jerkbait and with the Flit specifically? What impression are you trying to make on the bass with the Flit? Is it supposed to be an injured or disoriented baitfish – or a perfectly normal baitfish movement?

Murphy: Both. You can make it look disoriented or like a normal baitfish. Whatever condition or mood the bass may be in, you can match it. The Flit can be fished with random jerk and pause techniques, or with a consistent walking side to side motion. It is based on the concept like a Zoom Fluke or other soft jerkbait, or a topwater like a Super Spook. Both the Fluke and Spook have very effective actions. Now imagine being able to do that on a bigger scale, better and where you are more easily able to catch the fish that are just slapping at it and not really willing to commit. You’ll hook a good percentage of these non-committal fish with a jerkbait.

Question: With the jerk component of the action you create, do you vary the jerk for different seasons or different reasons?

Murphy: Yes, the colder or less active the fish are, the tighter the walk or the shorter the jerks I will use with a longer pause. The warmer or more active the fish are, the harder I will lay into the jerks and the more frequent and consistent I will work the lure with fewer pauses.

Question: With the pause component of the action you create, do you vary the pause for different seasons or different reasons?

Murphy: Yes, as mentioned above.

Question: Which is the most important part, the jerk or the pause?

Murphy: It depends on the time of the year. Both are equally important. This goes back to the previous two questions.

Question: What other elements are there to the action? Is the reeling an important element? How fast or how far you reel, do you vary that? Any other elements to the action except the jerk, the pause, the reeling?

Murphy: I typically reel a quarter to a half a turn per jerk. With this type of technique, the reel is nothing more than a tool to hold the line, and a good drag and high speed retrieve when fighting a fish.

The most important elements to working a jerkbait are the rod action and how you work the rod. In addition, your attention to details of what happens to the jerkbait on different jerks and rod angles, and tying all this together to discover what is most persuasive action to the bass on any given day.

Question: Do you look to develop a cadence or rod action that’s repeatable for the day? That is, once you catch a few on a certain sequence of jerks and pauses, do you find all your fish going for that same sequence of jerking-pausing? Or do you catch fish on a diversity of cadences during the same day?

Murphy: Absolutely a cadence or rod action pattern materializes many days. This goes right along with my previous answer and the paying attention to details that spell what is the fish’s preference for the day or for the situation at hand.

Question: At what point do most strikes occur? What induces the strike – the jerk, the pause, the reeling in or what?

Murphy: The pause, over 90% of the time.

Question: How would you say that jerking, pausing and reeling in a jerkbait differs from popping, pausing and reeling in a topwater popper? Is it essentially the same action for a popper and a jerkbait? If not, what are the differences between working a topwater popper and working a jerkbait (except of course you can see the popper)?

Murphy: Yes, they’re both pretty much the same. Especially in the aspect that there are about as many different and effective ways to work a popper as there are to work a jerkbait.

Question: What if you suddenly see a bass following the Flit as it gets near the boat (or shore)? What do you do to convert those followers into biters? How do you get them to commit and whack it? Or if they break off the chase and drift away, how do you get them to come back and strike on the next cast?

Murphy: There is a technique that I discovered with the Flit, and it is the only jerkbait I have found you can do it with, because it has such tight walking action. With the right among of slack before the jerk and immediately after allowing the bait to glide, you can make the Flit literally do a 180-degree about-face. If the fish is trailing close enough and not willing to commit, you can make it bite out of mere reaction with this 180-degree turn-around maneuver. Bass don’t have hands to swat, they use their mouth, and this results in a catch. This does take practice, but it is one of the absolute coolest things you will ever experience. I did it on Lake Murray with a 5 lb 8 oz bass, it was unbelievable!! I have done it with many other fish, but the 5 lb 8 ouncer was the coolest because it followed the Flit the first cast and peeled off, and then I was able to get it to track it again and I did this 180 on it. It was so funny because it was apparent it hit out of sheer reaction to the 180 turn-around. This bass didn’t even know what to expect or what happened. It just bit, but it didn’t even fight. That was the downside. It was pretty lethargic. At the same time, it was pretty funny.

Ima listened to customer requests for new colors for 2017 including Brown Flash, Sexy pearl Shad and Green Perch.

Question: How come so many jerkbait bass are partially hooked on the outside of the mouth? Some have suggested that the bass is slapping the lure’s tail or pushing against the lure’s tail so it can turn the long jerkbait 180 degrees and swallow it head-first. What do you think of that?

Murphy: I used to have fish (two spotted bass, a largemouth and two crappie) in an aquarium. I would feed them goldfish. If they were hungry and/or competitive, they would eat the goldfish any way they could get them down, sideways, tail first, head first, it didn’t matter. As the competition abated and/or they were getting full, they were more selective and would go for the goldfish head first. However, doing this is a little harder for them to do. So they would ambush them from the side, battering them, with scales falling off, until the prey moved slow enough and were an easy enough target for them to successfully eat head first. With jerkbaits, I believe that may be what they are doing at times, hitting the jerkbait first as to kill or stun it to make it easier to eat. In many cases they will go through this motion with their mouth closed or mostly closed as to not eat it, just incapacitate it first. With a jerkbait, the hooks may naturally end up on the outside of the mouth.

Another explanation is far simpler. A fish swims up to inspect the bait and simply noses it, much like it would nose a jig, worm, or crayfish on the bottom of the lake out of curiosity, but with a jerkbait, because of the sticky-sharp trebles and the jerking motion of how the lure is worked, the nosy fish may get stuck around its mouth or side of the fish’s head, resulting in a catch. Such fish certainly are not intentionally being snagged, but depending on the particular state regulations or tournament rules, this may or may not be deemed a keepable catch.

From Ima Lures, Optimum Baits and Michael Murphy, thank you for reading. We hope you have enjoyed this one-on-one interview. We hope it answered everything you needed to know to confidently fish the Ima Flit in 2017 and beyond. We trust that the more you fish the Flit, the more you’ll catch, and soon you’ll see it is indeed a new and future legend on the bass fishing jerkbait scene!