At first glance, it sort of looks something like a gussied-up party spoon for eating ice cream on a hot summer day.
But the spoonbill jerkbait is anything but a novelty. The spoonbill has been regarded for years as one of the top lures for cold water bass fishing.
“It’s what I cut my teeth on, the old Spoonbill Rogue,” said Hefty OneZip pro Mike McClelland of Arkansas. “Those were my first experiences with jerkbaits. Over the years I think we’ve gotten away from them a little bit. It’s something I’ve always had in my arsenal but I didn’t have one (brand) or the other that I really preferred. This time of year, later in winter and into the early pre-spawn period, they can be really effective.”
Lucky Craft pro Kelly Jordon of Texas also is a deep jerkbait aficionado, having used them for years on Lake Fork and other waterways when the thermometer starts plunging.
“They absolutely will crush it, and that includes lakes that don’t have ultra-clear water,” Jordon said. ‘They only need a few feet of visibility to see it. When Lucky Craft came out with the Pointer 100 DD with the big bill, it really was a difference for me and became a go-to bait at certain times in winter.”
Jerkbaits aren’t new, of course. The slender minnow imitations, ranging from 4-6 inches in length, mimic forage such as shad. They dart and dip with a snap of the rod tip, or can be pulled gently to replicate a dying or slowly moving shad.
But the giant bill, sometimes an inch in length on some models, often throws off anglers initially unaccustomed to the design.
“A lot of people are intimidated by the big bill, but they can be dominant in some situations,” Jordon said. “The kicker with the big bill is it looks like it goes deeper, but it’s only a couple of feet. It may go 10-12 feet and you could change hooks to make it less neutral, but that can also impart a different action.”
Sizes vary for spoonbills, from the roughly 4-inch SPRO model McClelland helped design and the Lucky Craft 65 XD and 78 XD to the larger Pointer 100, Smithwick Rogue and Rapala Down Deep Husky Jerk. Options allow anglers to match forage sizes and, as usual, colors span the gamut.
McClelland said he prefers the McRip 85 for cold-water and pre-spawn conditions, working the bait on 8- to 12-pound Sunline monofilament.
“It’s more manageable and can get to a greater depth,” he said. “Monofilament gives you some stretch so you don’t worry about pulling hooks and also gives you the ability to suspend the bait without the line affecting the action. Fluorocarbon sinks and it’s hard to control a bait with a line that sinks, so I don’t want that.
“The worst jerkbait season I ever had was when fluorocarbon first came out and I thought I didn’t need mono anymore. But I realized after that just how important monofilament line can be.”
McClelland and Jordon use the “old school” method of pulling the bait instead of more aggressive rips like with a smaller-billed jerkbait. They combine pulls of 8-12 inches with hesitation to let the bait sit, and may give it a slight twitch. Baitfish aren’t as active in colder water and, it stands to reason, a jerkbait shouldn’t be dancing the tango.
“With the pulls and pauses the bait has a better wobble and swimming action,” Jordon said. “You can try it that way or rip it and kill it, or use subtle pops to make it jump and then sit. The bill helps you get it down there quicker and you can feel it. But it really does a much better walk the dog, side-to-side action. It’s the same thing with the spoonbill Rogue. I used those for years before joining Lucky Craft and crushed fish on them.
“Those cold days when they sull up and don’t really want to bite, the jerkbait and deep jerkbait can be killer,” he added. “It’s a combination of the action and then the suspension.”
Jordon prefers water temperatures from 45-60 degrees and good visibility, which also is a good timeframe for lipless crankbaits. That seems contradictory, he concedes, but both baits work.
“If you have any visibility in the water then you should have a jerkbait tied on for January and February,” he said. “It is kind of funny because you have two baits that are almost totally opposite. With the lipless baits you have the feeding response and a bait that’s moving fast or being ripped out of grass that’s either dead or starting to grow. Then you have the jerkbait that mimics baitfish that may be dying.”