The Importance of Cadence in Jerkbait Fishing

The Importance of Cadence in Jerkbait Fishing

You hear the term “cadence” used a lot when talking jerkbaits. Cadence refers to the rhythmic pattern of twitches and pauses used to fish these baits. One of the more common cadences, if not the most common, is the twitch-twitch-pause pattern. 

In this, the angler gives the bait a couple quick twitches followed by a pause, which varies in length depending on the temperature of the water and the mood of the bass. After the pause, the bait is twitched twice more and paused again. 

This sequence is repeated over and over until the bait returns to the angler. The cadence is very important when jerkbait fishing, and we’ll talk more about why that is in a moment. But first, why are jerkbaits so effective in the winter? 

Why are jerkbaits effective in cold water - 

Bass are opportunistic feeders. But they are also cold blooded. So as the water temps really start to drop, the bass become more and more lethargic and therefore hesitant to chase bait and feed, even if the meal is relatively close by and vulnerable.

This is why bottom baits like jigs, shakyheads and Ned rigs are so effective in cold water. They can be fished slowly, giving the hungry but sluggish bass ample time to make up its mind to suck them in. But these baits don’t work well for targeting fish that are suspended up off the bottom. This is where a jerkbait shines. 

Though other lures like swimbaits, scroungers, underspins and lipless cranks can be used to target suspended bass as well, none of these have the ability to stall and suspend in the water column like a jerkbait does. 


Why is the cadence important when fishing a jerkbait - 

Though a jerkbait can be stalled and left to sit all but perfectly still in the vicinity of a suspended bass, that alone isn’t usually enough to trigger a strike. The bait still has to be worked along. The sudden bursts of the twitches alert the fish to the presence of the bait, and also mimics the jerking action of a real struggling or dying baitfish. The pause gives the bass enough time to move closer to the bait. 

But the bite rarely comes while the lure is sitting still. It’s that next burst of action that usually triggers the bass. The pause is more about the bass having enough time to locate the bait and consider eating it, which is especially critical in cold or stained-to-muddy water. 

The general rule of thumb says that the colder or more stained the water, the longer the pause should be. There are some days where a fast and erratic action actually triggers the bass better in super-cold water. Most of the time though, you can expect to need at least a 3-second pause if the water is less than 52 degrees. And it may be beneficial to let the bait sit still for a dozen seconds or more if you’re confident there's a bass in the area.


Predictability - 

The cadence is also important because it helps the predator predict the action of the prey. Throughout nature, you observe that predators try to approximate the next move of their prey. This is an instinctual part of hunting. And their lives depend on these predictions being right. The cadence of a jerkbait makes it easier for a bass to guess the next move of the bait. 

A bass will often track a lure for a few sequences of twitches and pauses, closing in on it with each repetition. Remember, the bass thinks the bait is alive. So it doesn’t want to alert the prey to its presence with a sudden movement of its own. And due to the cold water, its not interested in exerting the energy needed for a high-speed chase. Instead it stalks the bait, giving off quick little bursts of its tale in sync with those of the lure, to gain ground on the bait between pauses, finally swiping at or inhaling the jerkbait when in range. 



Mix it up - 

Though the twitch-twitch-pause cadence is the most common and quite often effective, don’t be afraid to mix it up a bit if this isn’t working. Rapid successions of a half dozen twitches followed by a short pause can do the trick sometimes. Or one twitch followed by one pause may work better on a given day. This really just comes down to the mood of the fish, which can be effected by the water temperature as well as barometric pressure and other determining factors. There’s no perfect science to figuring out this part. But once you do land on what unlocks the jaws of one bass, it will often work on several other fish on the same day. 

Cadence is key with a jerkbait. It helps bass catchup with a bait as well as predict its next move. And it also triggers them into striking. Though the exact pattern can and will often vary from day to day, the cadence of the day will often work throughout a fishery. 

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