Jerkin’ Bass

Smallmouths can't resist suspending minnow baits that come ripping through their lairs.

Most bass fishermen bypass rivers in early spring in favor of slack-water lakes and reservoirs, but not Dave Roberts. The Sunderlin, Mass., high school biology teacher and bass guide loves casting for smallmouths and largemouths on the Connecticut River when it’s still wood-burning weather. His favorite lure this time of year is a suspending jerkbait.

“When the water temperature creeps into the 50s in spring, jerkbaits rule,” says Roberts. “My picks are the Smithwick Suspending Pro Rogue and Super Rogue, both of which are half-ounce plastic minnow lures designed to suspend in the water column. Many of the factory-weighted jerkbaits tend to float up in cold water, so I doctor them by putting small strips of lead tape (Storm SuspenStrips) on their backs until they’re neutrally buoyant and hang perfectly level in the water.”

Roberts tests his lures in the fish tank at school before heading for the river. His favorite jerkbait colors for clear to moderately stained water are chrome/yellow/red (“clown”) with a chrome/black back. In murky water, fire-tiger usually works better.

Roberts concentrates his fishing efforts around rock bluffs, points, islands, tributary mouths, bridge abutments and pilings. The key ingredients are eddies and current breaks where fast and slow water come together. “Smallmouths usually are in the slower current but hang close to the crease where they can dart out into fast water and grab a meal,” notes Roberts. “Largemouths stick more to slack water. They love to hold around submerged trees that have fallen off forty-five-degree banks and will gradually work their way into the shallows by migrating along this cover.”

Roberts casts the Rogue to a likely spot, reels up all slack and then “rips” the lure with a sideways sweep of the rod, which causes it to flutter and flash. “Give it one or two good rips followed by a pause,” he suggests. The timing of the pauses is critical. Sometimes bass seem to like the lure ripped aggressively; other times, they prefer fewer jerks and longer pauses. “Last spring I went through a period on the river when you couldn’t buy a strike unless you let the lure suspend dead-still for a full minute between rips,” recalls Roberts. “It was cast, rip, eat a sandwich, rip-BANG! Fish on!”

Contact: Dave Roberts (413-665-7636).