Jerkbaits, such as a Suspending Rattlin’ Rouge, probably catch more cold-water bass than any other category of lure. And if they aren’t at the top of the heap, they certainly account for their fair share of wintertime fish.

A series of rapid, erratic twitches punctuated by long pauses is usually just too much for a bass to stand. But wielding this bait with consistent success takes some skill and more than a little stamina. 

“Not everyone can fish a jerkbait the way it’s supposed to be fished,” said Donna Mullins, competitive angler and Norman Lures brand ambassador, “and even if you have the skill, fishing it for an 8-hour day can I wear you out! I know that after about 3 hours my wrists and forearms are just about done.”

Refusing to let fatigue cut short her fishing time, the angler turned to wide-body crankbaits to accomplish the same thing. The lures are dynamite on prespawn bass once the water warms up to 50 degrees or so, she reasoned, so why wouldn’t they work in the late season as surface temps fall?

“I started experimenting with them as an alternative to jerkbaiting a couple of years ago, then sort of forgot about them as other techniques came along,” she explained, “Just recently, though, I decided to try fishing them again, and now wonder why I ever stopped. You can fish them anywhere you’d fish a jerkbait, and they work great.”

On her home lakes in Tennessee, rocky shoals, channel ledges and rip-rap banks are prime territories for winter smallmouths and largemouths, she says, which are perfect for late-season cranking with the quick-diving Norman Lures DD14 and DD22.

“On my 17-pound fluorocarbon mainline, the DD14 will get to about 15 feet, and the DD22 will dive to 18,” she said. “You don’t have to reel them very hard and fast; they’ll dive just fine with a nice steady retrieve. And that’s a lot easier and less taxing no matter if you’re a beginner or a veteran angler.”

Whether she’s casting over a shoal or down a ledge, Mullins wants the lure to tickle the bottom. “When it hits a rock, stop reeling and let it sit there for a few seconds. The bass will usually hit as the lure lies dead, or just as you start the retrieve again.”

The next time you need a break from the twitch-twitch-pause routine, pick up a cranking rod and give Mullins’ alternative method a try. You’ll likely catch as many fish, and your body will thank you.