Nose-hooked soft jerkbaits

One advantage of rigging a soft-plastic jerkbait with a nose hook? Most fish are hooked solidly in the corner of the jaw.
One advantage of rigging a soft-plastic jerkbait with a nose hook? Most fish are hooked solidly in the corner of the jaw.

Try this different way to rig popular baits when fishing gets tough

Chances are, wherever you are, you are fishing in the month synonymous with transition:  September. Aside from fish being unpredictable, weather conditions provide a sneak preview of an imminent fall season.

In all honesty, trophy trout are hard to come by this  month, but 30 days stand between you and, in my opinion, 60 days of the most-productive fishing of the year. To prepare for that time, I want to discuss a technique that may provide tremendous value when water temperatures begin their descent: nose-rigged soft-plastic jerkbaits.

About three years ago, I was introduced to this technique by a good friend and angler, Kyle Perry. Like me, Kyle is an officer in the U.S. Air Force and, as a result, fishes different parts of the United States. Right now, he’s in northern California, where he regularly fishes the California Delta and Lake Berryessa for remarkably large bass. When he heard about this technique, he was quick to pass it on so I could discover its potential on the inshore side of things. Simply put, it didn’t disappoint.

So what is it?

For all intent and purposes, it’s a modernized Banjo Minnow — for those of you who remember the lure sold on TV several years ago. The rig consists of an small Owner CPS, a 1/0 Octopus or drop-shot hook, a soft-plastic jerkbait of your choice and either a 1/32- or 1/16-ounce VMC or Eagle Claw nail weight as necessary.

Getting started, take the Owner CPS coil spring and screw it into the nose of the bait to the point where it is fully embedded in the plastic. Then, take the hook and thread it through the top loop on the CPS, catching some of the plastic with the hook point on entry and exit. What this gives you is an anchor point on the nose of the bait and secures your lure so it doesn’t come off when casting or on the retrieve. The nail weights can be applied to provide the appropriate sink rate or help you out casting on windy days or fishing in heavy current.

What does it do?

Again, drawing comparisons to the infamous Banjo Minnow, it presents an extremely erratic, side-to-side motion with a very subtle fall. This can be great in a number of situations, but I’ve found it to be more successful on highly pressured fish in clearer water. Also, it compliments a topwater bite extremely well when fish aren’t fully committed. The rate of fall can be adjusted using the nail weights, but I’ve found that the lighter, the better. In other words, do not add weight if it can be avoided.

Pros and cons

Start with the ultimate pro: big fish like it. Fishing for years in Florida, I caught more of my big trout on this rig than any other. The soft entry doesn’t spook shallow fish, and the action is extremely natural. And, using an exposed hook in the nose of the bait allows you to get away with minimal terminal tackle. Said a different way, you can downsize your leader because you don’t have to set the hook as forcefully. Also, going light with your terminal gear allows you to make extremely long casts, again increasing your stealth and minimizing your presence.

The main con to the rig is longevity. Expect a maximum of three to four fish on one soft-plastic bait, simply because when the fish commits, it’s often a head shot. On the hookset, the lure often rides up the line, which mangles the nose of the bait, and for most soft-plastic brands, there generally isn’t very much plastic there to begin with. This makes it difficult to reestablish an anchor point without compromising the action, so the best thing to do is swap out the soft-plastic bait, which can be time consuming because you have to remove the CPS and thread into a new tail.

Which soft plastics?

Most companies have in their lineups a jerkbait of some kind, so really it’s a matter of which brand you like to use. That said, I’ve established confidence in a few brands, mainly because of density, action and profile.

Slayer and Zoom make a myriad of different colors in traditional jerkbait styles. Slayer’s Sinister Twitch Bait, or STB, and the Zoom Super Fluke are both 5 inches long and offer great action and color profiles, but giving weight to longevity, I prefer the STB.

The MirrOlure Provoker and Cajun Zydeco Shad have some similar, yet different qualities. Both are 5 inches long, but instead of the forked tail, they both have a single darter-style tail, with more action. The differences between the baits is the Zydeco Shad has more of a potbelly which causes more or a horizontal fall. The Provoker’s fall is led by its nose, so it’s more vertical. That said, the Provoker has more surface area around its nose, which makes it easier to insert the CPS.

Lastly, the 5- or 7-inch ZMan Jerk ShadZ or the 6-inch Mann’s Hardnose provide great, larger profiles. I also like both because they offer unique qualities. The JerkshadZ is made of Elaztech, which allows you to skip using the CPS — making it quicker to change lures — and it offers a slower fall. That said, you have to use a nail weight with the ZMan because, without it, the lure will not sink.

ABOVE: A nail weight, Owner CPS and 1/0 Octopus hook are the makings of a nose-hooked jerkbait rig.
BELOW: A ZMan Jerk ShadZ can be nose-hooked without the screw-lock, but the nail weight is almost required.

The Hardnose is traditional plastic, but as the name suggests, the nose is hard. As a result, once the CPS is secured, it can last upwards of 10 fish because it doesn’t tear up as easily as other soft plastics. Keeping that in mind, there is some rigidity to the bait, so the action isn’t as good, but it still produces. Last, they are hard to find, and the colors are pretty limited, so if you can find and buy them, I suggest you do it in bulk.

Parting shots

This technique is great for wary fish, especially in clear water. That said, I’ve noticed a few other things I’d like to leave with you. First, always use a loop knot and always insert the tag end through the eyelet on the side of the hook opening. This will increase the rate at which you land fish exponentially, mainly because it deals with the hook rotation in the fish’s mouth on the hookset. And always set the hook to the side instead of vertically. Again, this deals with the hook rotation in the fish’s mouth; you’ll find the hook in the corner of the mouth almost every time. And I always throw it on spinning tackle. I use a Shimano NASCI 3000 spooled with 20-pound/6-pound Suffix 832 on a 7-foot, medium-action Laguna Liquid rod. This allows me to make extremely long casts, provide the walk-the-dog action and set the hook once the fish commits.

Like anything in the fishing world, simplicity lends success. So I encourage you to try this simple technique when fishing gets tough or fish aren’t responding to traditional offerings. It can be the difference between success and failure.