While the waters throughout much of the Midwest are frozen over, creating quite a nice haven for ice fishermen, there are some lakes that remain unfrozen. This allows some anglers to get their boats out onto the water for some winter fishing. What lure will do the trick this winter, though? Well, around this time of the year, many fish are looking for shad as a primary food source, so any angler looking to fill the livewell this winter can do so by tying on a jerkbait.
It’s smart to keep a handful of jerkbaits on hand, I order to cover the different depths of water and utilize the different actions of each jerkbait. I suggest starting with a jerkbait that has a more erratic action. This will help you to see how active the fish are on a given day. If you have to, change to a different one that has less action until you find one that works. While experimenting with the different styles of jerkbaits, also try different retrieval speeds and pauses between the jerks. Once you find a combination the fish want, go back to the areas you’ve already fished and try them out.
Start out on the main lake points and work the shallow water first, then move out to deeper water until you find a pattern for that works. If the lake has any grass, you will want to find a jerkbait that will run just at the top of the grass, where you can just barely move it and it will pull free from the grass easily. You don’t want the jerkbait to get buried in the grass too deep, though, so choosing the right one for the depth you need is important. The wind is another factor to look for and adjust to. For instance, if the wind is blowing onto points or banks, it will push the baitfish into these areas and the fish will be more active, making them prime for a jerkbait offensive.
As far as tackle goes, I suggest a medium action rod between 6’ 6” to 7’, outfitted with 8 to 12-pound fluorocarbon line and a quicker gear ratio—6.2:1 or 7.1:1 are solid choices. When choosing a jerkbait pattern, stick with whites, silvers, chartreuse, firetiger, and gold during the winter months.
If the waters in your neck of the woods permit you to take the boat out this winter, jerkbaits are the way to capitalize on the opportunity. Experiment with depth, retrieval speed, and color patterns among different locations on the lake and you’ll be in business in no time. Just be sure to dress warmly and be safe; it’s still winter after all.