The Jitterbug is one of those rare lures that you could truthfully say, “There is no wrong way to fish it, as long as it is in the water”. The Jitterbug is legendary as a night-time Bass-Assasin, but it is an outstanding lure any time of day or night…anytime bass are hitting topwaters.
The standard way to fish the Jitterbug is child’s play. Simply cast it out and reel it in steady, fast enough so that it ‘swims’ from side to side, gurgles, plops, and generally creates a cacophony of sound in the water. Strikes are usually sudden, and incredibly vicious, from bass, pike, pickerel, muskies, large Rainbow and Brown trout….Heck, I’ve even caught some large bluegill on the smaller-sized lures. Just don’t cast it directly in cover. The Jitterbug is not weedless, and it will hang up on brush and grass. You want it to land right at the edges, to draw the fish out.
Many anglers say it is better to let the Jitterbug ‘rest’ on the surface when it lands, for around 30 seconds or so, before beginning the retrieve. I have found this to be true. Many times, a fish, especially largemouth bass, will smash one of these as it sits motionless on the surface. My rule-of-thumb is to let the Jitterbug sit until all of the ripples from it’s landing have dissipated, before starting to reel it in.
Another deadly tactic is the Stop-and-Go routine. Cast the Jitterbug near likely places, let it rest a bit, then reel it in for about 10 feet, then stop and let it rest again. After a bit, reel it in another 10 feet or so. Continue this all the way in. Sometimes this will produce strikes when nothing else works, especially at night.
You can also fish the Jitterbug like a Popper, or Chugger. This is especially good around lily-pads and cattails. Cast it near the weeds, let it set, then twitch your rod tip hard enough to make the Jitterbug swim and gurgle for a foot or so. Let it set a bit, then do it again. It’s been my experience that this works best with the frog-colored models, in areas where bass feed regularly on Leopard Frogs. Strikes will be explosive, and without warning, so hang on……
Another tactic I like to use is to rig a Sassy Shad ultralight (1/16 or even 1/32 oz.) jig 18” behind the Jitterbug, Then I cast it out and just ‘swim’ the whole rig in. To a predator fish, it looks like a smaller fish is stalking their potential dinner. That is a challenge no fish can ignore. It is not uncommon to catch a fish on both the Jitterbug, and the Sassy Shad, at the same time. I can tell you from experience, that is a handful.
If a bass, or other fish, strikes and misses, or for some reason does not get hooked, stop the retrieve and let the lure sit motionless for a few minutes. Likely as not, the fish will return to finish it off.
There are various opinions on color selection. Some say to use light colors in dark water, and dark colors in light water. To some extent, that is true, at least some of the times. Lighter colors show up better in turbid, or stained water, and darker colors show up better against the sky, and clearer water. It may sound crazy to use an all-black jitterbug for, night fishing, but it is by far the best night-time color. The fish are below it, looking up at the sky. Even at night, a dark lure will stand out against the sky. But other than that, I have found it is best to use colors that are close to what the local fish are used to eating. A good example is Carter’s Lake in north Ga. It is a deep, clear lake with little surface vegetation. Bass mostly feed on schools of shad, and other baitfish. Here, a Pearl, or Gray Jitterbug works best. And, black, of course, at night. But at Lake O The Pines in east Texas, there are tree stumps, aquatic vegetation, weed-beds, and lily-pads everywhere (and a snake in every tree….). The lake has a huge population of all kinds of frogs, especially Leopard Frogs, and green lures with black spots will out produce all other lures here. It’s also worth noting that the Jitterbug triggers strikes based more on the commotion it creates in the water rather than by sight, so colors are less important. At least half of the lure is not even in the water at all.
Lastly, some anglers will advocate that you ‘tune’ your Jitterbug by bending the metal lips to make it run different. Of course, you can do what you wish. It’s your lure, but I highly advise against it. They come from the factory running just like they are supposed to, and I have never seen anyone do any better with a modified one than the stock lure does on it’s own.
Oh, and after your Jitterbug gets beat up and chipped from all the fish you will catch on it, resist the temptation to ‘touch it up’ with paint. The more beat up they get, the more fish they catch. I have no idea why, but it is true for most lures. My ugliest lures catch the most fish. Just replace rusty hooks, and let the colors be.