Please select your home edition
Edition
Gold Coast Marine Expo 2017 728x90

Deepwater jigs part 1- Jerkshads

by Lee Brake on 4 Mar 2013
Big cod love jerkshad. For fish often thought of as big, slow and dumb, they will go after a darting jerkshad with all the ravenous hunger of a charging lion. Lee Brake
Over the next few weeks Lee Brake will be taking a look at some of the more popular ammunition used by deepwater jigging enthusiasts. This week we are looking at the arrow-like, flicking, darting wonders that are jerkshad soft plastics.

The jerkshad is probably my favourite deepwater lure and that's why we are kicking things off with it. As the name suggests, the jerkshad is a perfect small fish (shad) imitation that works best when 'jerked' through the water column. The average jerkshad resembles an arrow that is straight and tapers down to a small tail, which is usually forked like a snake's tongue, though some finish with single point and are often referred to as 'stickbaits'.

They differ from other softies in that it's the body of the plastic that provides the action, not the tail like curltails or paddletails. When rigged with a jighead and dropped through the depths, the lure will spear downwards with a slight quiver from the tail like a baitfish charging for the safety of bottom structure. Then, once it hits the bottom and you jerk it upwards, it'll dart from side to side erratically like a wounded and panicking baitfish, before diving once more when you pause.


The advantage of the jerkshad is the speed with which you can work it. Most plastics work better at slow to medium speeds to enable their tails to swim, but the jerkshad can be cranked and jerked hard to really imitate a fish fleeing for its life. For this reason, the jerkshad becomes your ultimate soft plastic when targeting feeding fish. If there is bait present on the sounder then chances are there are predatory fish feeding on any poor unfortunate fish that leaves the security of the bait ball. A jerkshad darting and diving near that bait ball becomes an immediate target, however, predators expect their prey to flee, so never be afraid to really crank your plastic up fast, especially after it has just taken a hit!

My usual technique when jigging these lures is to drift fish. I'll identify fish on the sounder, usually around or on prominent structure, and then I'll drift over the mark, starting far enough past it to ensure the lure is on the bottom before the boat reaches it. Then, once I know I'm over the mark, I'll usually increase the speed and ferocity of my action to attract the attention of the sounded fish. It seems that it's this fast action that entices most strikes. In fact, often I've finished a drift, gone well past the mark, and then started cranking the jerkshad in to start a new drift when I've gotten slammed. I can only imagine that the fish was following the lure and only struck when it looked to be making a break for it!


Prime target species on jerkshads range from pelagics like trevally, cobia, queenfish and even mackerel to big bottom dwellers like fingermark, reef jack, nannygai, red emperor, cod and coral trout. Lure size plays a big role in what you target. For example, if I am inshore around a creek mouth or island chasing queenfish, tuna or small mackerel, I'll use a clear-coloured jerkshad around 5' to imitate a whitebait or hardyhead; if I'm jigging an isolated bombie or shoal for fingermark or nannygai, I'll use a 7' jerkshad; and if I'm fishing a deep trench or offshore mark after big fingermark, Spanish mackerel, cobia or even a big red, I'll go to a 8' or even a 9'. My two favourite jerkshads are Berkley Gulp 7' Jerkshads and Zman XL StreakZ which are 8'. Both have accounted for more than their fair share of big fish over the years.


Lure selection aside, rigging is incredibly important when using jerkshads. The biggest mistake is hook size. If the hook is too big (i.e. has a shank that's too long) for the jerkshad you are using then the lure becomes stiff and loses its darting action. If the hook is too small, you'll miss a lot of hits, as the fish will be grabbing the tail. As a general rule of thumb: 5' and 6' use a 5/0, 7' use a 7/0 and 8' or 9' use a 9/0.

The next most important rigging rule is to rig them straight. Take the time to make sure the hook is sitting straight in the plastic. If it's off centre, even a little bit, then the softy will swim to the side and instead of darting from side to side, it'll swim unnaturally in circles.


Weight choice is also obviously important. A jighead's fast action revolves around you being in contact with the lure, yet it also needs to be light enough to glide naturally forward as it darts through the water. If your jighead is too light, you won't feel the lure and will struggle to keep it near the bottom, and if it's too heavy, it'll just 'lift and thud' rather than 'dart and dive'.

Lastly, as mentioned, the jerkshad has the speed to attract an assortment of pelagic species, and with many pelagics comes teeth! For this reason never be afraid to throw on a short length of wire if you know mackerel are around. I will usually try wireless first and then upgrade if I get bitten off. Sometimes around pressured areas the wire will put them off, so it's worth trying without first.


Another advantage of jerkshads is that you don't need too much specialist gear to work them. The fast nature of the retrieve and the viciousness of the hits means specialist finesse gear is less important, however in saying that, some things will be an asset. I like a lightweight, graphite, fast tapered combo around 24kg. This allows some shock absorption during the hard strikes that can pull hooks if your rod is too stiff and it means that you can jig for long periods without getting tired. I use a LJ Customs XZoga jigstick that's 5'6' and 25kg (http://www.ljcustomrods.com/pages/jigging-rods.php) with a Shimano 500 Tekota reel and 300m-plus of 50lb Platypus Pretest braid. This little combo is a real pocket rocket and has stopped everything from huge giant trevally to 90cm fingermark. In saying that though, when you're starting out, most general purpose offshore combos will get the job done.

Fish hard and stay safe.

Barz Optics - Melanin LensesGuy Nowell - Red 660GAC Pindar Freight

Related Articles

New Bavaria E34 arrives this Summer
You will only be able to explore the new Bavaria E34 at the boot 2017 through virtual reality glasses (VR glasses). You will only be able to explore the new Bavaria E34 at the boot 2017 through virtual reality glasses (VR glasses). From June onward, hull number one of the new motor yacht by Bavaria Yachts will take off on her first test runs. In July, on her E-Summer-Tour, she can be seen in many European cities.
Posted today at 11:25 am
Rare new listing – 2006MY Cabo 48 Flybridge
A rare listing indeed! Absolutely immaculate example of these sought after sports fishers with well deserved reputation A rare listing indeed! Absolutely immaculate example of these sought after sports fishers with a well deserved reputation for quality of build and sea keeping. This particular boat is fully loaded and powered with the powerful C-18 Cats. 30 knots cruise!!
Posted today at 10:21 am
Lowrance HDS Carbon Series – Maximum power, maximum visibility
New Lowrance® HDS Carbon units feature ultra-clear SolarMAX™ HD multi-touch displays with high-bright LED backlighting New Lowrance® HDS Carbon units feature ultra-clear SolarMAX™ HD multi-touch displays with high-bright LED backlighting and advanced anti-reflective coatings to create wider viewing angles suitable for any lighting condition.
Posted on 20 Jan
New festival to celebrate everything marine
The first annual Lifestyle on Water Festival will be held at Pelican Park in Redcliffe on April 29th and 30th 2017 The first annual Lifestyle on Water Festival will be held at Pelican Park in Redcliffe on April 29th and 30th 2017 and incorporate the Austackle Moreton Bay Madness fishing competition.
Posted on 20 Jan
Anglers celebrate record Trout stocking in 2016
A record of more than 844,000 trout/salmon stocked into Victorian waterways during 2016 to improve recreational fishing A record of more than 844,000 trout and salmon were stocked into Victorian waterways during 2016 to improve recreational fishing opportunities for freshwater anglers and boost participation.
Posted on 19 Jan
Victoria’s game fishing heats up over summer
Game fishing in Victoria has lots to offer recreational anglers whether they be wetting a line in the east at Mallacoota Game fishing in Victoria has lots to offer recreational anglers this summer whether they be wetting a line in the east at Mallacoota, in the west at Portland or closer to Melbourne at the entrance to Port Phillip Bay.
Posted on 18 Jan
New Listing – 2008MY Grady White 305 Express
Here is a unique opportunity to join the Grady White sports fishing family. This fishing machine is on the market. Here is a unique opportunity to join the Grady White sports fishing family. This big volume offshore sports fishing machine is on the market.
Posted on 13 Jan
Marine Engine Emission Standards
The Boating Industry Association welcomes the recent announcement from the Department of the Environment The Boating Industry Association welcomes the recent announcement from the Department of the Environment confirming Minister Frydenberg’s decision to introduce marine engine emission standards under the National Clean Air Agreement.
Posted on 11 Jan
Tasmanians fortunate to have Fisheries Service
Tasmanians are very fortunate in that we have a Fisheries Service who are focused on delivering the goods Tasmanians are very fortunate in that we have a Fisheries Service who are focused on delivering the goods when it comes to freshwater fishing and are continually stocking Tasmania’s freshwater impoundments with all manner of fish which include, Brown and Rainbow trout, Brook trout, Atlantic salmon and Tiger trout.
Posted on 10 Jan
Fisherman rescued off Exmouth fell overboard trying to save camera
A fisherman who survived six hours in ocean off North West Cape near the West Australian town of Exmouth A fisherman who survived six hours in the ocean off North West Cape near the West Australian town of Exmouth fell into the water while trying to retrieve a camera, it has been revealed. Ross Chapman was fishing about 30 nautical miles offshore on Tuesday morning when he hooked a large marlin.
Posted on 7 Jan