Minnow VS Jerkbait Full (and Helpful) Comparison

Artificial lures have endless shapes and types. Each of these types is designed to do a specific job underwater to attract specific species. Some of these productive lures are jerkbait and minnows. Is there a big difference between both of them? And what about the similarities? 

What do minnow and jerkbait have in common? Minnow and jerkbait have that thin body structure in common. They’re both artificial lures that are used to attract different fish species with a variety of colors and patterns. They can have extensions on them that are called bib or lip that can help in dicing deeper into water.

In this Minnow vs jerkbait comparison, we’re going to learn what sets them apart, when to use each of them, and how to use them for the best results possible.

What Is Minnow?

minnow in hand to show size

Minnows or Bibbed lures are artificial lures that come in different colors and patterns. They are built to dive to different depths, which is achieved by the angle and size of the bib at the front of the lure, which forces water down as it flows over it, creating a life-like swimming action.

When not being retrieved, most minnow lures float, but there is also a type that sinks. When fishing on drop-offs or steep banks, sinking types are ideal because they allow the lure to reach the strike zone. 

Another type of minnow is the jointed one. When the jointed minnow is retrieved, all parts of the minnow move independently of each other, providing a rather natural swimming movement that can’t be resisted by hungry fish.

What is Jerkbait? 

A jerkbait is a minnow-shaped lure that is presented horizontally. A jerkbait swims with a shimmying motion when fished with a straight retrieve. A jerk-bait shines when fished with a snap-pause retrieve, which gives it an unpredictable, darting movement that drives fish crazy.

Its slim body gives it the advantage of passing through rough structures which can be ambush points for the fish you’re targeting. Jerkbait is ideal when you’re fishing in structures such as:

  • Rocky shorelines, points, and mid-lake structures
  • Sand and grass flats
  • Ledges and drop-offs
  • Around docks
  • Open water

Jerkbait can also have a lip or a bill like a crankbait. However, you should keep in mind that the bill on a jerkbait is smaller than that on a crankbait. The jerkbait bill is typically just a bit larger than the fingernail while the crankbait bill tends to be longer and wider.  

Body Types

minnow vs jerkbait body comparison
Jerkbait (top) – Minnows (bottom)

The two primary crankbait shapes are the minnow body and the shad-shaped body. The first is long and thin like the “common minnow”. These minnow baits are often referred to as “stick baits” because of their long, thin, streamlined shape. 

The second, what might be called stubby in comparison, resembles shad. Both imitate baitfish preyed upon by bass. They have smaller and more narrow lips which give them a tight wiggle at high speed. 

Jerkbait bodies are not that various compared to minnows. But they share the thin body characteristic. They have slender and long bodies that come out as one piece. Their motion is practically provided by the angler by twitching the rod tip over and over again.

Jerkbait can have a lip or a bill. It helps them dive deeper into water. However, they’re very short; not exceeding ½ an inch (1.3 cm). The shorter the bill and the steeper the angle, the shallower the bait will run making jerkbait suitable for shallower waters.

Retrieval Depths

The main model of the minnow specifies the retrieval depth. The position of the eyelet and the size of the lip are two factors that decide the depth at which these artificial minnows dive.

A shallow dive can be expected on lures where the eyelet is attached to the minnow’s nose and the lip is small. These shallow-running minnows are ideal for fishing along a river or pond bank with a gradual drop in depth.

A faster dive at deeper depths is expected if the eyelet is fixed directly to a long lip. These deep divers perform best in areas where there are steep drop-offs on the banks or in deep river channels where fish may be present. Several fish species, including stripers, crappie, and bass, congregate in deepwater areas, making deep-diving minnows the most effective bait.

Jerkbaits can’t be fished as deep. Their bill sizes, which are responsible for the sinking effect, are typically less than ½ inch (1.3 cm) long. Because of that, they tend to have a much better performance on the upper side about 1-to-3 feet (about 0.3-to-0.9 meters) from the surface of the water. They’re ideal if you’re fishing in creeks and ponds.

Swimming Actions (with different Scenarios)

In Deep Waters

Lakes and deeper waters are prime locations to use minnows. They have an action when retrieved at slow speed, that is more of a wide wobble than a wiggle. Predatory fish pay close attention to and respond to this wobbling.

When fishing on drop-offs or steep banks, sinking types are ideal because they allow the lure to reach the strike zone. The line you’re using will affect upward resistance affecting depth:

  • Braided line floats. This will make it put much more upward resistance on a minnow.
  • Fluorocarbon line sinks. It will allow a minnow to reach its maximum depth.

Jerkbait can be useful in this scenario too. They’ll do great near banks, vegetated lakes, or shallow waters.

You can check my recommended fluorocarbon lines here and my picks for braided lines here.

In Shallow Waters

In shallow waters such as ponds and creeks, jerkbaits are ideal. They stay close to the top, and if you take a short pause between retrievals, you can comfortably keep them within a foot of the surface as you approach the bank.


Minnows can work in shallow waters because you can retrieve them both slowly and rapidly with the same satisfying results. The jointed minnow is also very effective in shallow waters as it moves in a way that makes a very realistic fish motion around the surface. Minnow lures that float also work very well for night fishing as their silhouettes show well against the surface. They can be jerked, twitched, or retrieved steadily in open water or close to shore. 

Can You Troll Minnows?

Can you troll minnows? Yes, you can troll minnows that are 9 inches (25 cm) or longer. They can be trolled at speeds up to 11.5 mph (18.5 kph) and depth between 1 and 6 feet (0.3 and 1.8 meters) of water. They can be trolled at high speeds without worrying about getting snagged.

Large Trolling Minnows 9 inches (25 cm) or longer come in a wide variety of colors with the color patterns of white with the very popular redhead. Large bibbed minnows are normally trolled at speeds up to 11.5 mph (18.5 kph) and depth between 1 and 6 feet (0.3 and 1.8 meters) of water. 

Without skipping, Bibless minnows can handle trolling with a higher speed. These are great lures for a variety of oceanic species, such as tuna, mackerel, and wahoo, to name a few. 

How to Fish a Jerkbait?

A jerkbait can be fished in a variety of ways. Some people choose a sideways retrieve to a snapping downward retrieve. It’s important to make a brief cast and watch the lure to ensure it has good action before attempting different retrieves.

Follow these steps to easily fish a jerkbait:

  1. Start with the rod pointing down at the 4 o’clock position.
  2. Next, snap the rod downward to 5 or 6 o’clock position. 
  3. Quickly return the rod to the 4 o’clock position while reeling in enough line to compensate for the bait’s moving time.
  4. Don’t reel too much line, since the lure requires some slack to allow it to dart to the left, it requires some slack.
  5. Repeat steps 1 to 5, but include pauses between jerks.  

How to Fish a Minnow?

When casting a minnow into a smooth, flat water surface, take your time retrieving the lure and do it as slow as possible. Enable the lure to sit motionless for a few seconds to imitate a weak prey. This would frequently entice a strike.

Like jerkbait, When a diving lure is underwater, twitching or jerking the rod tip causes a flickering motion that can imitate an injured minnow. It can take some time to learn this, so consider practicing to see if you can come up with an approach that works for you.

Consider varying your retrieval speed. In cold water, fish tend to slow down and are more likely to strike slower-moving prey because they’re easier and require less effort. Retrieval speed can affect the depth at which the lure is running by several inches, making your lure reach the strike zone.

Now that you know the difference between these two lures, it’s time to learn the difference between crankbaits vs jerkbaits here as well. You can also check this swimbait vs jerkbait comparison.  

Related Questions 

What Does Minnows Catch?

Minnows catch various types of fish that include bowfin, crappie, gar, perch, pickerel, and rock boss. Because of their ability to attract northern pike, bass, panfish, and walleyes, chub, golden shiner, fathead minnow, and blunt nose minnow are particularly popular.

When Is It Best To Use Jerkbait?

It’s best to use jerkbait when the water temperature is between 38-to-50°F (3.3-to-10°C). If you have clear water over 4 feet (1.2 meters) visibility you’ll want to use it under cloudy skies with a 5-10 mph (8-to-16 kph) wind.

Helpful Resources 

Change in diving behavior by lip shape and tied-eye position of crank bait lure [2001]

Pro Swimbait & Co. : Fish On / Muhammad Izz Husaine …[et al.]