How to Catch Trout on Jerkbaits the Ultimate Guide

Jerking for Trout| fishing with artificial minnows

Sea run brown trout crunching a Yo-zuri jerkbait

Looking to catch more or bigger trout, then our guide on the best jerkbaits for trout fishing might help you do exactly that. Fishermen call Jerkbaits by many different names, such as stick baits, minnow baits or hard body lures. No matter what you call them they have one main purpose, that is to trick a large hungry trout into grabbing it for an easy meal. Jerkbaits are very effective at doing exactly that. .

It is said that every trout fisherman has their favorite lure. My favorite trout lure is the jerkbait. While spin fishing, I have caught more big trout using jerkbaits than any other style of lure. That includes in-line spinners, which I also rate among the best trout lures.

Large trout, especially one’s living in large rivers and lakes eat a fish heavy diet. It would take hundreds of nymphs or mayflies to match the energy potential of a single baitfish and the trout know it. Jerkbaits do an excellent job at replicating small fish in distress. Which is exactly the type of prey a hungry large trout likes to gulp down. Trout rarely reach double digits feeding solely on mayflies and nymphs.

Jerkbaits vs Crankbaits

It took me longer than it probably should have to learn the difference between these two types of lures, I just thought some were skinny and others were fat and more commonly used for Bass. They both catch trout, although I personally have caught more trout on the slim jerk baits over the years.

Below I will quickly explain the difference between the two main types of hard body minnow imitating lures.

Jerkbaits: Long and slender body and typically shorter bills. In general jerkbaits run shallower, making them better for skinny rivers and stream. Sinking jerkbaits can be used to fish deeper water.

Crankbaits: Short and fat. Normally much deeper diving down to 25ft. If you want to surface fish a crankbait lure then lipless variations exist.

Brown trout caught on dark color Rapala

How to Fish Jerkbaits to Catch Big Trout

The thing I love most about fishing Jerkbaits is the versatility they offer. Over the decades fishermen have invented and perfected many techniques to fish jerkbaits. Despite the name, Jerkbaits do not have to be fished by jerking the rod. When targeting trout I actually prefer a smoother, more ‘crankbait’ like presentation rather than aggressively jerking it through the water.

I always default to a steady and smooth retrieve when fishing new water. I start fishing at the bottom of a long pool or run. Cast slightly upstream and across the current. I pause for a moment. Then start a slow and steady retrieve which is slightly faster than the current. I then take a couple of steps forward upstream and cast again. Repeat. This style of fishing makes it possible to cover many miles of river in a single day.

Also, remember to fish your feet first. Trout often hold right next to the bank out of the current. Every so often I cast directly upstream and retrieve the lure so it swims back parallel to the shore. I have lost count of the times I have almost stood on a trout before spotting it because it was holding right on the river’s edge.

If trout follow my lure in, but without striking. I usually mix things up a bit, I will introduce the occasional short jerk or sharp direction change. The pause is often enough to cause a curious trout to strike. When I say pause, I mean pause. I get the lure to come to a complete stop.

If a trout strikes my lure, but I fail to set the hook. I will pause again and start twitching. A hungry trout often comes back to finish its apparently wounded prey.

When fishing pay extra attention to drop offs, eddys, current lines, submerged trees and large boulders out in the flow. All locations are likely holding places for trout. Whenever possible, I make short accurate casts to make sure my lure passes just upstream of such locations. Always worth casting a second or third time into promising looking holds. In hot spots, where trout are certainly feeding I will even change the lure.

This applies to all style of trout fishing, but learn the river. Every time I see a trout, I remember where it was holding. Next time I fish that section, I know exactly where to pay the most attention. The more I fish a river, the better I get at recognizing where the trout are feeding.

Resident brown trout love jerkbaits

Advance Techniques to Catch Trophy Trout on Jerkbaits

Here are a few more advance techniques I have learnt and developed over the years. I am not claiming to have invented them, and they might be known by other names but I am mostly self taught and rarely up to date with fishing jargon.

Downstream fishing:

I use the current to carry a floating jerkbait much further downstream then I can cast.

I cast a floating lure across the current, leaving the bail open I allow the little minnow imitation to float downstream slowly taking line. The currents motion causes the jerkbait to wobble slightly but strikes are unlikely to occur while floating.

Sometimes when fishing braid or a very sensitive rod, it is possible to pick up the occasional strike while the lure is floating. I occasionally close the bail to maintain better contact with the lure, but keep it to a minimum because too much tension will cause the lure to pivot towards the shore.

Once the jerk bait is far enough downstream, I start my retrieve. Using a slight jerking motion, I work the lure back towards me. I find this technique can be deadly effective when trout are massing at a river mouth or inflow to a deep pool. This technique allows the lure to reach locations well outside of casting range and works best with braid because it also floats.

Under the willows.

Large trout often live and hunt under overhanging vegetation, that being willow trees where I live. This wall of green is nearly impossible to cast beneath. Even from a float tube or kayak casting underneath is difficult.

For this technique I prefer to use braid or some other type of superline because it floats on the surface. I prefer using Berkley Fireline.

To get my lure under the branches, I use this trick. While standing on the shore, I cast a floating jerkbait directly in front of me and close the bail. The wind and current then slowly pivots the lure around where I am standing. As the line tightens, it pulls in vertically next to the shore and beneath any overhanging vegetation. I have caught many unsuspecting brown trout using this technique.

I also use a variation when I want to fish the edge of a canal downstream of where I am standing. This technique does not work where there are branches beneath the water surface.

This winter caught brown could not resist a Rapala F5, color shiner

Up and over

This technique I use to fish both sides of a submerge tree, using a floating jerkbait with quite an aggressive bib I cast well over the submerge branches. I then wind rapidly, causing the bait to dive sharply. It pays to watch the line and lure closely. I estimate to the exact point the lure is approaching the branches, before pausing and letting the lure float to the surface. With care, I float the lure across the obstacle, once over I wind quickly causing it to dive back down maximizing the time it spends in the strike zone.

This technique also works well when fishing around large mats of weed which are just below the surface. Large trout often feed in the channels between the mats before escaping to safety under them.

Jerkbaits are Excellent Trolling Lures

Most fishermen already know that jerkbaits are excellent trolling lures, and trolling for trout is no exception. Floating Jerkbaits, like the original Rapala or the jointed Rapala are my favorite trolling lures for rivers and the shallow margins around lakes.

When trolling for trout, the secret is to go slow. This is not a race, and trout are not high energy pelagic. I like to run my lures about 50yards behind my boat. This seems to be far enough back to minimize any disturbance caused by the boat. You know the jerkbait is swimming correctly by looking for the slight vibrations in the rod trip.

When trolling for trout, I believe stealth is everything. So try to cause as little disturbance as possible to the water. I much prefer trolling behind a kayak or canoe than a noisy 2-stroke. If you are in a noisy boat, consider trolling the lures even further back.

Now, avoid just trolling in a straight line. I much prefer to go in a wide lazy S, this way the lures far behind are constantly cutting the corners. Traveling over water which has less disturbance from the boat.

It is still possible to troll Rapalas in deeper water. One popular way is to place a piece of split shot about four feet in-front of the lure. Behind that clip on a small sinker. The split shot acts a stopper, and the sinker will sink the lure towards the bottom of the lake. A floating jerkbait is a good idea, even if the sinker drags along the bottom the floating lure should continue to swim a few feet above it.


My recommendations on jerkbaits to catch big trout

Rapala

One name stands head and shoulder above all others, and most spin anglers for trout would have at least one in their tackle box.  Based in Finland Rapala crafts their lures out of Balsa wood and hand tunes the m to guarantee performance. Rapala lures are supplied with VMC hooks, I have never had a VMC hook bend or snapped on me while fighting a fish. The only time I change them is to fish singles.

Rapala manufactures a massive range of lures, including 30 models of Jerkbaits. All are available in many sizes. If there is a style or variation Rapala probably has a version. I am going to quickly cover several more classic and proven models which deserve a place in all tackle boxes.

Original Floating Rapala – One of the best affordable jerkbaits.

Rapala Original Floater in gold color a proven fish catcher especially in cloudy conditions

The original floating Rapala is one of the most fished Jerkbaits in the world, and there is a reason. It is a highly successful lure. No matter where you fish, whether it is a rocky river, lake or estuary, the floating rapala can bring success. It is an amazing lure to troll behind a dinghy or kayak.

Ask any fisherman what the best jerkbait for trout fishing is, and chances are the original floating Rapala will be on their list. It is a classic and well proven. I always have several with me every time I go spinning for trout.

Available in a range of sizes from the tiny F03 to the massive F18 which is 7 inches in length. For most trout fishing, the 2 inch F05 and the slightly longer F07 are the best compromise and is what I reach for most of the time. If the water is cloudy, or if the trout are feeding on larger baitfish, then a F09 can also bring success. The tiny F03 has a niche fishing in very small streams, but in personal experience the larger sizes normally outperform it.

Rapala Countdown

Countdown in brown trout pattern

The Rapala Countdown is a sinking and suspending lure, for every second the Countdown remains stationary in the water it sinks at a consistent one foot per second. If you want to target fish holding on the bottom of a 5 foot deep pool simply cast out and across, wait five seconds for the Countdown to sink before starting your retrieve.

The technique requires finesse, but with practice the Rapala Countdown can be fished where the trout are holding. The Countdown is one of my most successful Jerkbaits for trout fishing, and I highly recommend it. Like all Rapala lures the Countdown is available in a wide selection of sizes. The CD5 and CD7 are the best for most trout fishing situations.

Rapala Ripstop

Rapala Ripstop, a great bait for slaying sea run browns trout

The ripstop is a newer design, it has already proven itself to be a very effective bait for trout fishing.

The Ripstop has excellent jerkiness and a lot of movement on the straight retrieve. A great all purpose bait, especially if the trout are reluctant or wary. The purpose-built tail allows the ripstop to stop almost instantly. Fish it with a slow and steady retrieve, then stop instantly, can provoke any following trout to pounce. The finish is very fine with a nice metallic sheen which flashes as it moves through the water.

The smallest size Ripstop is the 3 1/2 inch size 9 which is slightly larger than most trout lures but still effective, especially on bigger waters with plenty of baitfish. I have removed much larger baitfish from the bellies of predatory brown trout, so the size should be no deterrent.

Jointed Rapala – Excellent jerk bait for cold water and sluggish trout

Jointed Rapala in the very effective rainbow trout pattern

This Rapala is split into two sections with a jointed middle. It gives an amazing action of a wounded baitfish when retrieved slowly. The swimming action remains even at the slowest of retrieves. One of the best jerkbaits for tempting sluggish trout in cold water when they are reluctant to chase after more lively prey.

Do not be tempted to fish the Rapala too actively. I find it requires a very slow and delicate presentation. It is prone to tangling if retrieved too jerkily. I also have struggled to get the desired action from the smaller sizes after replacing the trebles with singles.

Rapala Xrap – Are they worth the premium?

Rapala X-rap in rainbow trout pattern

All of the above are also available in Xrap versions, Xrap lures have a more pronounced action, and they all have a higher quality and more detailed finish to compared with the regular series.

The extra details might just be the answer to tempting a cautious fish in clear water conditions but I have not noticed any improvement in catch rates compared with the classics.

Rapala Xraps come with a dressed terminal hook, which can sometimes trigger more strikes. I personally prefer naked hooks most of the time.

Storm Original Jr ThunderStick – best budget jerkbait for trout

The Storm Thunderstick is a very effective and affordable jerkbait, it shares many features found on premium lures such as an internal rattle. I am also impressed with the detailed patterns.

Storm rigs the Thunderstick with three VMC treble hooks. These are the same hooks that Rapala uses on their Jerkbaits. Storm is a sub-brand of Rapala, so there is little surprise that the Thunderstick is a deadly trout catcher.

I have one main complaint. The trout I catch engulf Thundersticks whole. Causing them to be hooked in multiple places, sometimes deep. I had more fatalities on trout I would otherwise release when using the Thunderstik compared with any other jerkbait. I have no idea why. Even removing the third hook did not help. So use with caution if you are intending on catch and release.

Yo-Zuri Pins Minnow – Amazing bait for long casts and for discolored water

A super effective and time test trout lure

Another big name in Jerkbaits is Yo-Zuri, and like Rapala they make an extensive selection of minnow style lures. Yo-Zuri has been producing fishing tackle for over 50 years, they have crafted some of very realistic looking and action packed jerkbaits. The pin minnow is one of their original designs.

The feature which best sets Yo-zuri apart is their weight transfer system. Inside the lure are small channels which allow ball bearings to roll. When cast the ball bearings roll to the end allowing for extra distance.

You-zuri minnows are manufactured from a proprietary polycarbonate, the design is laser etched directly onto the plastic body. Which is then coated with a scale patterned foil. These steps make for a durable and lifelike Jerkbait.

Just how durable are yo-zuri baits?, I still own and fish with the first Yo-zuri pin minnow lure I purchased. It remains one of my favorite lures; I have fooled countless brown and rainbow trout with it. After fifteen years of use, its coat only shows a few scratches and some minor flaking. I have replaced the hooks several times; they do eventually become blunt.

Lucky Craft Pointer 65

Lucky Craft Pointer 65

The Luckycraft Pointer 65 when retrieved steadily wobbles tight and fast. To my eyes it resembles an escaping baitfish. During the rip action, it comes to life like a wounded fleeing baitfish. When paused, the pointer simply hangs, every so slightly twitching. It is available in both suspending and floating version.

At 65mm (2 1/2″) long the Pointer 65 is the smallest pointer, it is marginally longer than a Rapala 7 but still a very good size for trout fishing. Some hopeful anglers even fish the larger sizes, hoping to land a trophy trout.

Made from high-quality components and with a very lifelike finish. The Pointer series of lures includes an internal brass weight mechanism, which helps create a low centre of gravity. This allows the lure to continue wobbling and vibrating even after the retrieving action has stopped. This additional weight allows for longer casts or to gain a few extra yards when punching into a strong headwind.

One negative for the Lucky Craft Pointer is the price, it is considerably more expensive than the already pricey Rapalas. But the price is not completely unjustified, considering the higher quality of the components used. I am very hesitant before using it around submerged trees or other snag prone areas. Especially in areas where I can not dive in to retrieve it.

When targeting shy fish in ultra-clear water conditions, lures with realistic finishes work best, and I find Lucky Craft designs to be very life like. The Lucky Craft Pointer in American Shad, Laser Rainbow trout, Brown trout, Brook trout and MS Herring are great options.

In cloudy, discolored conditions standing out is important, so consider using Aurora Craw, Aurora Gold, Tiger Perch or the Red Musky

Dynamic Lures HD trout – Amazing shallow water jerkbait

Excellent shallow water jerkbait

The Dynamic Lures HD trout has some of the best action on a straight retrieve. The tail portion wobbles side to side giving a very lifelike swimming action. This action combines with a vibrating wobble from several internal ball bearings. This combination of a realistic wobble and vibration can trigger even wary trout to strike.


The HD trout comes in at 2.25” longs and weighs 1/10oz. So between a F5 and F7 Rapala in length. It is available in 20 different colors. Like all jerkbaits in this size range, it is not the easiest lure to cast but the ball bearings certainly help.

As a slow sinking lure, the HD trout works best in streams and shallow creeks. Particularly deadly when worked over shallow weed beds. This is quite a shallow diving lures, so do not expect to reach the bottom in very turbulent water.

The excellent straight retrieve wobble also makes it a top trolling lure. Especially when trout are holding close to the surface.

The HD trout is made from ABS plastic, which is used in many Jerkbaits. ABS Plastic is very durable and impact resistant. The coating will eventually scratch , but is as durable as any on the market. Overall, I have no complaints regarding the durability of this lure.

The hooks are sharp from the box, but I have had a few start to straighten after multiple fish. It is really hard to judge, but I feel the Yo-Zuri hooks are tougher.

No jerkbait review is complete without comparing it against Rapala. On a straight retrieve, I prefer the action on the HD trout, but I feel the Rapala dances better on the jerk. Rapala lures also tend to dive deeper and quicker, making them more versatile in deeper water.

Summarising. The HD trout by Dynamic lures is an excellent shallow water jerkbait on a straight retrieve and might even be my new first choice when fishing for trout in shallow water.

Disclaimer:  Some of our pages contain affiliate links. At no cost to you, Troutresource may receive commission from purchases made through such links.  Here at Troutresource we try are hardest to give unbias advice and gear recommendations independent on whether we earn a commission or not. 

Similar Posts