Using Jerkbaits for Fall Fishing on the Susquehanna River

By Dave Shindler, SFT Pro Staff and Guide April 29, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

Every year on the Susquehanna (and other Mid-Atlantic rivers) something happens that gets fisherman excited. Smallmouth begin to chase migrating shad, and will attack baits with reckless abandon. While many baits will catch fish, nothing does it better than a hard jerkbait.

The Right Jerkbait

One of my long-time favorites is the Lucky Craft Pointer series. Normally I have my clients throw the bigger sized baits like the 100 size, in ghost minnow, chartreuse shad, or all chartreuse. When the fish move into deeper areas this bait is hard to beat, and will catch some of the biggest fish of the year. Another bait that has done well since its introduction is the 10 pound X-Rap from Rapala. My favorite colors include, mossback shiner, blue silver, and glass ghost. This is a great bait that suspends well, and at times is preferred over any other bait.

A new bait that is quickly becoming my go to bait is the Sebile Koolie Minnow. I can’t quite put a finger on why this bait catches fish the way it does, other than its superb quality and finish. It simply looks different than the other baits that fish have become accustomed to seeing.  The M90 suspending bait, in color white lady has caught as many fish as other bait combined in my jerkbait box.

Fishing the Right Places

Let me talk a little about where and how to fish these baits. Finding baitfish usually means Smallmouth and other game fish are nearby. Generally, look for deeper areas of the stretch of water you are fishing. Deep is a relative term so if the deepest water in the area is 5’, that is the place to start.  Large deeper flats, or areas with deeper water close by are where I always start. From there you need to expand that area until you find them. Once you catch a few fish you can hone in on the exact pattern.

Knowing the Right Jerkbait Tactics

The how is many times the most important ingredient. I can’t tell you how many times one of my clients will be catching fish, and his buddy will be hauling water. They are both fishing the same bait on the exact tackle, but one is out-fishing the other substantially. Within a few minutes of watching their techniques, and a little coaching, the catch rate equals out. 

There is no perfect cadence or length of time to jerk and pause that works best every day. That is where you need to listen to the fish and they will tell you what they want. One day it may be a jerk, jerk, pause (5 seconds) and the next day or later that day it will change to a longer (or shorter) pause. I can’t stress enough to pay attention to what you are doing and change your retrieve until you find the sweet spot.

As far as tackle goes, I prefer spinning gear for most jerkbaiting. My favorite combo is a Shimano 6’6 Clarus Med/ Saros 3000 reel with Gamma 8-10 Lb Edge Fluorocarbon.

Vary your technique and your bait selection until you find the correct combination, and you will enjoy some memorable fall fishing on your river.

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