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Crankbaits: Cranking Up a Limit of Bass
By L.O.U. guide, Danny Grulke


If the usual warm weather of May and early summer arrives we fisherman will typically find our quarry the bass moving from spawning patterns to post-spawn patterns. Typically this includes moving to deep water and heavy cover. As the water warms up bass will become more active and we can be very successful using reaction baits. One lure that falls into this category is the crankbait. In this article we will review some tips that will help you become more successful in catching a limit of bass fishing the crankbait.

If the usual warm weather of May and early summer arrives we fisherman will typically find our quarry the bass moving from spawning patterns to post-spawn patterns.

Typically this includes moving to deep water and heavy cover. As the water warms up bass will become more active and we can be very successful using reaction baits. One lure that falls into this category is the crankbait. In this article we will review some tips that will help you become more successful in catching a limit of bass fishing the crankbait.

I like to use crankbaits that have a wide wobble when fishing water with temperatures over 60 degrees, when fishing around wood cover, and when the bass seem more active, and if the water has a little stain to it. My experience has been that bass tend to hit a crankbait after a deflection, a change in pace, or contact with structure. Thus a wide wobble crankbait has more chance of contacting wood or other structure on a retrieve and providing us with a better percentage or chances of strikes on each cast. The down side to this technique is that you are also more likely to snag your lure. To decrease the chances of snagging your bait select a crankbait, when fishing heavy cover, with a square bill or lip and switch to a smaller sized treble hook on the rear of the lure.  Some lures I advise you to try are the Rapala Crankin Rap, Rapala Clacking Rap, and the Rapala Dives to Fat.

When fishing weed beds, colder water temperatures, cold front periods, open water or when bass are less active I use crankbaits that have a tighter wobble.  These generally don’t hang up in the grass and don’t “spook” less active fish. Tight wobbling crankbaits generally have a fatter head with a body that tapers down to a thin tail area. My favorite tight wobbling crankbaits that have a lip are the Dives To Series from Rapala. Because you will not be contacting hard structure in these conditions it is important to impart a pause and crank retrieve with your reel or a retrieve and rip with your rod tip. Either of these techniques will impart a slight change of action to the crankbait.

It is also important to select the proper running depth of your crankbaits. I typically select a crankbait that will run to a depth 1-2 feet deeper than the water I am fishing. This gives me the best chance of keeping contact with the bottom on a consistent basis and allowing for the greatest chance of deflections. However there are two situations in which I will deviate from this rule of thumb. The first is when I want to fish over the top of weed beds and second when fish are schooled and suspended over open water. In both these cases I will select a crankbait that runs 1-2 feet shallow than where the fish are holding or the weeds are located. In both of these cases you want a bait that swims above the fishes head as they will be looking up for their prey.

For colors I normally select three types: 1) natural forage fish colors, 2) bright colors, and 3) crawfish colors. In clear water and open water situations I will use colors that are natural and mimic the colors of the natural forage base. These colors include Rapalas colors such as bluegill, perch, penguin, smash, and silver. If the water is stained I will prefer “hotter” colors such as Rapalas color hot mustard, chartreuse brown, Helsinki shad, and firetiger.  Crawfish colors I prefer include dark brown crawdad, olive green craw, and red crawdad. Crawfish patterns I use predominately for smallmouths and when the fish are feeding on the bottom on crawfish.

Selecting the proper fishing equipment is just as important as selecting the proper crankbait. For a rod a 7ft graphite model with a moderate or slow action is a must. The moderate action means the rod will bend all the way into or just above the handle of your rod. The limber rod will keep the fish from pulling off of the bait as you are fighting your quarry. For throwing deeper running crankbaits 12 feet and deeper you will want a medium-heavy power rod and for throwing baits that run shallow a medium power rod. A 7ft rod will allow for longer casts and thus allowing your bait to get to its maximum running depth. For line I prefer Rapala Deep Cranking line in 10 pound test as it sinks thus allowing you to fish deeper than the lures running depth. If you prefer to use braid I high suggest using a fiberglass rod as it will generally have even more “limberness” than a graphite moderate action rod.

Lastly there are two schools of thought on selecting a reel: 1) use a slow gear ratio model or 2) use a high speed retrieve reel. My experience is for deep diving crankbaits 12 feet and deeper use a slow gear ratio model reel. They generally handle the torque and resistance of these lures better, keep the bait in the strike zone longer and force you to fish slow which usually is the best speed performance wise for crankbaits. However it takes longer for them to reach maximum depth so make longer casts and use Rapala Deep Cranking line.  For shallow water crankbaits and when I want to power fish with crankbaits I will use a faster gear ratio reel.

To book trips please contact Ken Penrod or any of the other Life Outdoors Unlimited guides. Please check out our web-site www.penrodsguides.com for other articles in LOU Magazine and our weekly fishing report. For questions on this article please contact Dan Grulke at musky13@yahoo.com, the web-site above, or via phone 703-389-3508.