Crankbaits are one of the most commonly used bass lures. Crankbaits come in all shapes and sizes and in an unbelievable spectrum of colors, but they all have a few things in common. The first thing you will notice about crankbaits is the lip or bill on the front of each one designed to plane through the water and get the lure down in the water column. The diving depth of the lure can be roughly determined by the size of the bill; the bigger and longer, the deeper it will dive. Another thing you will notice about crankbaits is that there are usually two big treble hooks hanging from the bottom that make it look like it will hang up on the first piece of wood or weed it encounters. While crankbaits often do get fouled in this kind of cover, the attitude or position that the lure travels in is bill first and head down, thereby protecting the hooks from snagging.
Crankbaits are relatively simple to fish and can be very effective when used in the right situations. Before buying a selection of crankbaits and going out to your favorite bass water there are a few things that you should know to help you catch more fish and lose fewer lures. While the basic method of fishing crankbaits is quite simple; cast it out far and crank it back in, there are a few tricks we can learn from the pros to use crankbaits more effectively.
Not every rod in your rod locker is going to be good for catching fish with the crankbait. A good crankbait rod should have a relatively slow action. In other words, the rod should start to bend down about half way down when moderate pressure is applied to the top section. Fast action means that just the top third will bend with the same pressure.
Slower rods will help cast the lure further and help keep from tearing out the hooks when you catch a strong fish or when your fish turns and runs hard near the boat. Many experts contend that the slower action will also give the bass a little more time to inhale the bait before you set the hook, ensuring that you don't rip the bait away from the fish before it gets the hook. Tackle Warehouse carries an extensive selection of cranking rods that are designed specifically for this style of fishing.
If you don't have a cranking rod, select a medium action rod or a fiberglass rod that will have enough power to cast the big lures and handle heavy fish. Avoid a stiff, heavy rod and don't use one that is too wimpy, because you will need to get a good hookset on fish that may be far from the boat and a rod that has no backbone won't get the job done for you.
Reels are a little less critical for effective cranking but many experienced anglers select reels with 4:1 or 5:1 gear ratios to slow down the bait and provide more power for cranking in heavy fish. Make sure the reel has plenty of line capacity since you will often be making long casts. With a little wind at your back you can send a big crankbait a long way.
Some lure manufacturers provide data on how deep each particular lure will dive on a given line weight. For example, a lure will run to 12 feet on 10 pound test line. Line diameter is important to get the most depth from your crankbait. If you are fishing deep water and need to get down 20 feet with your crankbait, you will have to use line with smaller diameters, like 10 or 12 pound test. If you are not fishing deep you can use heavier line to help make a deep diving lure stay in the shallower strike zone. In recent years some anglers have been experimenting with "finesse cranking", using small crankbaits and light line and throwing them on spinning rods. However you use your crankbaits you should try to balance the line diameter with the depth you are fishing and the size of the lure you're using.
Let's say you just bought your new cranking rod and reel and a good assortment of lures and you are casting and cranking all over the lake with no success. There is more to being effective with the crankbait than just making a thousand casts. Most importantly, a crankbait is a contact lure. That means the bait should contact something on the retrieve; the bottom, a rock ledge, brush or stumps, or other cover or structure. Flashy colors and loud rattles aren't always enough to generate strikes with a crankbait, but when the bait deflects off something in the water it may look like an evasive movement to a bass and will generate an instinctive strike response. If it looks like it's trying to get away a predator that may not be feeding will often strike instinctively just so the prey will not escape. Another method that can get good results is to stop the lure occasionally during the retrieve, or giving it a good rip from time to time. This will give different action to the crankbait and can also generate a response.
Most crankbaits on the market today are light enough to float and this can be an advantage when you get your lure hung up on rocks or brush. It is often enough to give the line plenty of slack and the lure will float out of the snag it is in, especially when it is just the bill that is hung up. Try this trick before you start yanking really hard and drive the hooks into the snag. Sometimes you'll want to use a suspending crankbait, especially in a stop and go retrieve situation. Instead of the lure unnaturally floating up quickly it will rise slowly or look like it is just staying in one place, more like a bait fish naturally would. Sinking crankbaits are mostly used for maximum depth, since they are denser than water they will reach a little deeper in the water column. You can also let these lures sink to the bottom before starting the retrieve, enabling you to fish quite deep.
Be sure to check out the Suspendots and Suspendstrips from Storm Lures featured on our website to change the buoyancy of your crankbaits. To make your bait swim deeper and get there faster, put some of the Dots on the bill of the lure. This will make the crankbait plane deeper faster, getting it to the strike zone sooner and keeping it there longer. If you want to make your lure suspend put the Dots along the belly of the lure so it will have a more natural level attitude when you stop the retrieve.
Crankbaits can be effective just about anywhere there are bass; steep rocky banks and ledges, broad shallow flats, near grass beds, and over and around brush and stumps. All it takes is knowing the characteristics of your favorite crankbaits and selecting the bait that is most useful in each situation. If you're fishing deep structure, get a deep diving lure that will reach the bottom and strike the structure you think the fish are holding on. When you're fishing shallow cover select a medium or shallow running crankbait that will stay up where the bass are and can run through the cover, striking limbs and stumps along the way.
When you start catching bass on the crankbait you'll know how fun and effective these baits can be and you'll probably end up owning quite a few of them. Crankbaits can catch fish just about all year long and in a wide variety of situations, making them one of the most versatile lures in the box.