FISHING A CRANKBAIT: TIPS FOR THE BEGINNER APRIL 2004
I hope some of the following thoughts will help young and beginning fishermen have a better understanding of fishing a crankbait.
I guess every Bass fisherman has a "Go To" lure that they have more confidence in than any other. To some it's a jig, to others its spinner bait or a worm. I have a good friend in Louisiana that fishes oxbow lakes that are full of Cyprus tress. Nole says "If I'm going to catch anything I'd rather it be on a buzz bait". You have to have confidence in what you're throwing, and by far my "Go To" lure, my "Confidence Lure" is a crankbait.
My father introduced me to crankbait fishing many years ago as just a young boy. Dad and I bass fished with lures named "River Runt" "Lazy Ike" "Mirr O Lure" "Cast Master" "Sparkle Tail" and many more. I must admit that I became a crank bait junkie long ago. One of the first tags crankbaits were labeled with was "Idiot Lure". You just throw it out and crank it in. But through the years things have changed dramatically-to days crankbaits in the hands of a skilled crankbait fisherman is a high tech fish catching tool that can add big numbers and quality to your fishing success.
But for the beginning crankbait fisherman where do you begin? When you go into a large fishing tackle store you are confronted with dozens of crank bait manufactures that produce baits in hundreds of different colors and sizes, with prices running anywhere from $3.00 to $10.00 or more. Some baits float, while others sink. Some rattle and some don't. Some crankbaits because of their buoyancy rise quickly when you stop cranking while others suspend. Some baits have short lips-some long and others none at all. Just choosing the right baits to get started with can be not only mind boggling but costly if you make a mistake.
WHERE ARE YOU GOING TO FISH MOST
My suggestion would be this, determine first where most of your fishing is going to be. If you are going to be wading creeks and rivers or fishing ponds from the bank you may need shallower running baits. If you are fishing lakes from a boat your variety in color and depth selection will be greater because of varying depth and water colors. (We will cover more on depth in a minute) Once you have determined where your going to fish the most you then can move on to colors.
I've learned the hard way over the last 30 years when it comes to colors. I have a cork board in my boat barn that has well over 100 crankbaits stuck to it that I never use now. Some never ran right, while others were the result of "It Looked Good To Me" when I was at the store but it sure didn't look good to the fish when I used them at the lake. Through the years (and several $$$) I have settled on some very basic colors that produce over and over again.
I have 6 basic colors that I rely on over and over again. In clearer water I use Texas Shad-Chrome and Blue and Chrome and Black. In stained and muddier waters I use Firetiger-Chartreuse and Crawdad. All the baits in the picture at the left are manufactured by Bandit Lure Company and will give you a good idea about colors. But if I had to choose ONE COLOR ONLY to fish month in month out on our area lakes it would have to be a shad pattern. Once again remember "It's a confidence thing".
Under most circumstances I use a crankbait to search out cover and structure looking for a reaction bite. At times I will "Burn" or crank it as fast as possible, other times I "Ease" the bait through the structure. To be able to do this I always try to select a crankbait that will run deeper than the water depth that I'm fishing. If I'm in 6 feet of water I want a crankbait that will run 8 to 10 feet deep. If I'm in 10 feet of water I want a crankbait that will run 12 to 15 feet deep. I want to make sure that I'm keeping in contact with the bottom at all times bouncing off as much structure as possible. ONE EXCEPTION to this is when I'm fishing grass so I select a crankbait that will just barely touch the tops of the weeds. You may say "If I throw a crankbait in structure I'll get hung up and may loose my bait". That's what a good lure retriever is for. If you are not willing to throw into structure you might as well be fishing in your living room. Most crankbait manufactures will list the depths their baits will run, but remember that (1) Reel Speed-I prefer a reel with at least a 5:7-1 ratio (2) Line Diameter- I prefer to fish 6lb to 10 lb max (3) Rod Length- I prefer at least a 6½ foot rod-7 foot is better and (4) cast distance will play a big part in how deep your crankbait will run.
CRANKBAIT ACTION AND SOUND
Here's a couple of tips on how you can determine what kind of action a crankbait will have just by looking at it. If the line tie is closer to the end of the bill that crankbait will run shallower than a bait the has the line tie nearer to it's face. If the bill of the crankbait is angled down it will run shallower that one where the bill is straight. The closer the line tie is to it's face the tighter the wiggle. Baits with a wider body will have more of a wobble where thinner baits will have more of a wiggle. Lipless crankbaits like a Rattle Trap have thin sides and the line tie is on the top-these types of baits have a very tight wiggle and are very effective when retrieved at high speeds.
Another important part in achieving good lure action is making sure that your crankbait has a adequate size split ring (I change all baits with small rings) and in my opinion the use of a good quality snap not a swivel . This is probably the most hotly contested area in crankbait fishing. Many will never use a snap and will always tie directly to the baits split ring. Over years of experimenting I have found that if you use a good snap and attach it directly to the baits split ring it will enhance your lures action dramatically. I have fished side by side with many that won't use a snap and I will have numerous more strikes in a period of the day's fishing using a snap. Will CHEAP SNAPS FAIL? Yes.but so will cheap line-reels-rods. Spending a little extra on good snaps in my opinion pays off big time throughout the year.
Many crankbaits have rattles in them. I have found that rattles are very helpful when (1) there is limited visibility because of muddy water (2) the structure is very heavy (3) the bass are actively feeding. But on the other hand I have found that rattles can be a hindrance such as in clearer lakes when bass are moving up to spawn and at times in the late winter/early spring in colder water. This is the time that I opt for a #5 or #7 Shad Rap. I have watched this hold true over and over again on Old Hickory Lake early in the year.
The great thing about crankbaits is that here in the south you can throw them all year long. You will have to change presentation-structure-depths and line weight to make them work for you. But if you will be diligent in learning you can add many pounds of bass to you years catch. Don't go out and load your tackle box down with dozen of colors and sizes-take your time and find out what will work for you best. With the money that you will save in dud crankbaits you will be able to take your wife or girl friend out to dinner a few more times which might result in more uncontested fishing trips for you. Hope this helps you! Rick McFerrin Owner/Guide Tennessee Bass Guides Inc.