N.H. Weekly Fishing Report -- July 2, 2009

This week, fisheries biologist Jason Carrier goes wacky for jerk baits.

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GOT TEENS? Thanks to generous benefactors, the cost of the NH Natural Leaders Program, an environmental leadership program that includes a two-week residential camp this summer, is now just $500 (including room and board) for New Hampshire resident youth between the ages of 13-17. The summer camp, based out of Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, N.H., runs July 19 - August 1, 2009. CLICK HERE for info and application.

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Summertime Soft Plastic Jerks for Bass
By Jason Carrier, Fisheries Biologist, Region 4/Keene

There are so many different types of soft jerkbaits on the market today that it can be quite time-consuming just picking out what style, color, or size to purchase at a tackle shop.  Soft jerkbaits are probably one of the most popular baits used among bass fisherman today.  You would be surprised to peek into a bass angler's boat and not see at least one rod rigged with some sort of soft plastic jerkbait.  The two basic styles of soft jerkbaits are the minnow style and the worm style, with many different variations in sizes and shapes.  Whatever choice you make, there are multiple ways to fish that jerkbait.

Worm-style jerkbaits rigged "wacky" have been the craze the last few years.  This is a plastic worm, usually four to six inches long, hooked right in the middle.  This is typically fished weightless; the worm falls horizontally in the water column, and is very effective on fish that are not very active, because of its slow-falling nature.  This can be fished around shoreline structure, weed beds, and rocky areas.  Wacky rigging is not snag-proof, because the hook point is exposed.

Minnow and worm-style jerkbaits that float, sink, or have neutral buoyancy can be very effective when rigged in these four ways: Carolina, Texas, drop shot, or straight rig (no weight).  I don't think I can adequately describe how to set up these rigs here, so you'll want to search the web for examples and diagrams of those you're not familiar with.  "Carolina" rigging a worm or minnow bait can be very effective during the summer months; this is usually fished in deeper water near or adjacent to weed edges or main water structures like points or humps, and is slowly dragged or bounced on the bottom.  Using a floating worm or minnow will raise your presentation off the bottom, giving it a different look. 

"Texas" rigging a jerk bait is very effective when fished in and around heavy cover.  The hook point is not exposed, so the bait is practically snag proof.  "Drop shot" rigs can be used shallow or deep, and are usually used with a downsized worm or minnow jerkbait, three to four inches in length.  This presentation is typically, but not always, used in open water on flats or around main lake structure.  Using a "straight rig" is the easiest and most snag-resistant way to rig a soft plastic worm or minnow.  This rig allows the angler to really change up the cadence of the bait to let the fish know what they really want.

Two of my most recent fishing trips produced some nice largemouths in and around vegetation.  The mornings were calm and I just had to try top-water, but the vegetation was so thick that I needed something that wouldn't get snagged.  I went with a floating minnow jerkbait, straight rigged.  I just twitched it along the surface of the vegetation, making it look like a struggling minnow.  I got many hits on it and managed to boat a fair number of bass once I got the timing of the strike and the hook set down.  Once the bass would hit it I had to be patient and wait 2-3 seconds before setting the hook.

Get out on the water this summer and experiment with these different types of rigs for your soft plastic jerkbaits.  Try different jerkbait styles, sizes, and colors and find out what works best for you. Good luck!

P.S. to anglers fishing Lake Winnipesaukee: Watch for tagged largemouth and smallmouth bass; they're tagged as part of a NH Fish and Game Warmwater Fisheries Management Program study. For info or to report a tagged bass, click here.

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