One of the most effective ways to trigger fish that are either actively feeding, or in a negative mood, is with a suspending jerkbait. There are a few different ways that you can work it, but there are a lot of principles in those different cadences that stay the same across the board.
When I talk suspending jerkbait, I'm talking about something similar to a Rapala Shadow Wrap Deep. It's number 11 size, that's the length of it. It's got three treble hooks and a longer bill, and what this bait is going to do is move side to side and that's what we want. As this bait slashes forward, that bill is going to catch the water, move side to side, and it's going to turn and go the other way.
It has a little bit of shimmy, and that flash is really important. What that does is that triggers a fish's brain to take the opportunity when that bait comes by because they are wired to either bite a fish that is fleeing, or something that is dying and is an easy meal. A jerk bait imitates both of those things very well, but you need to know how to create that action to get those bites.
What I like to do is give a couple cranks to get that bait started in the right direction. If your jerk bait has a magnetic transfer system, you want to get that ball rolling forward, and then you want a little bit of slack in your line. You're going to jerk and use your wrist, so the butt of the rod comes above your forearm as you flip the rod up and down, or "slash" the rod. What that does is throw the line back at that bait and that gives it the slack to allow that bait to go sideways. If you're just straight pulling, that bait is just darting forward and you're not getting that side-to-side action. You're not going to get as many bites that way. So it's really important when you slash that rod forward, that you allow that slack and you do that by throwing the tip of that rod back at it just a little bit. It's all in the wrist. That's why we call it "slashing."
Now what determines the cadence is the conditions that we're in. A general rule of thumb is, when you have cooler water temperatures, you want a longer pause in between those slashes. It may be jerk-jerk and then pause, and it may be up to 10 seconds sometimes 15 seconds to get that fish to bite. We have electronics now, things like our Humminbird MEGA Live, that allow us to actually see our bait, see if a fish is tracking it, and you're able to change your cadence to get that fish to bite. But if you don't have that technology, it's perfectly fine; just use that general rule of thumb that cooler water = longer pause. As that water warms up then start to use a faster cadence with less of a pause. My go-to is typically a "jerk-jerk, pause, jerk-jerk, pause, jerk-jerk, pause..." Either way, every time I jerk I throw that rod tip back to allow that bait to have the action required.
Keep that in mind next time you're throwing a suspending jerk bait. Make sure you give it just enough slack. You want a little bit of slack when you jerk and slack, when you throw it back, and that's going to give you the best action of that bait.