Dancing the Jitterbug

I caught my first large mouth bass on an artificial lure more than three decades ago. Dang, I’m old.

Anyway, I had access to a local farm pond loaded with bass and after borrowing some lures from my dad’s tackle box (I may or may not have asked for permission, the details are a little fuzzy), I took off to see if I could persuade any of the fish to come home with me.

I don’t recall exactly how many bass I caught that day—we’ll just assume it’s a lot since it’s my story, and I can tell it how I want—or how many lures I lost. Let’s just assume none, because again it’s my story. I do recall that one of the lures I used that day was a Jitterbug, and it worked awesome even though I had no idea what I was doing. 

It’s time for a brief history lesson—there will be a test at the end so take notes. The Jitterbug was created in 1938, and although it has gone through a few minor changes it has been in production ever since. I’ll do the math for you. That was 78 years ago.

Interesting facts about 1938:

This is the same year the ballpoint pen was invented, and the last time that TCU was named the NCAA football champion by the Associated Press. Use that to impress your friends, unless you’re a TCU fan. Then you’ll probably not want to mention this to anyone.

So a lure that was invented before most of our parents were born is still in production and still catching fish. Kind of makes you feel dumb for spending all that money on every new lure that comes out doesn’t it? It’s OK, I won’t tell your wife how much you’ve spent.

Let’s get to the real point of this article before I get you in trouble. How exactly does one fish a Jitterbug? and what can you do to make it work better for different situations? Fishing a Jitterbug is easy, you just chunk and wind, very slowly—I mean really slowly. Reel as slow as you can, and then slow down some more. The Jitterbug will spit, pop, and walk its way back to you.

Although a Jitterbug will work just fine straight out of the package, you can tweak it to make it work better. The key to the Jitterbug’s fish catching action is the blade on the nose. Since it’s made out of metal you manipulate it to change the action.

The first tweak to make is to bend the tip of each wing on the blade down slightly. This will make the Jitterbug bounce back and forth slightly more erratically. Be sure to bend the wings down the same amount to make sure it still runs straight. More on this later.

The second adjustment is to bend the back edge of each wing down slightly. This will make the bait ride higher in the water while pushing more water for a larger disturbance. This will also make more noise to attract more fish if the water is a little bit murky.

Back to the point about bending the tips of the wings down the same amount. If you want the bait to move straight back to you, this is key.

However, there are times when you want the bait to run slightly to one side or the other in order to stay close to the edge of a grass bed or boat dock. Making it run in a particular direction is as easy as bending the wing on that side down slightly.

Want it to move right? Bend the right wing down. Want it to move left? Bend the left wing down. When you are done, just bend it back up, and the Jitterbug will run straight again.

Just be careful when you bend it down. Don’t make it too drastic or it will act like a rudder dragging the bait underwater and make it spin.

Modern baits are great with their holographic graphics and space age designs, but there is something satisfying about fooling a bass with a bait that has been around longer than you’ve been alive.

Email Greg Berlocher at ContactUs@fishgame.com

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