The crankbait is one of the most valuable tools in the tackle box, yet one that most anglers least understand. If you’re a recreational angler who enjoys casting, you can simply hurl the crankbait over the water, wind it in and enjoy some success. But if you’re serious about wanting to catch more and bigger bass on crankbaits, there are some things about these baits that you need to know.
While many crankbaits look alike, they wobble differently and that can affect bass appeal. For example, I’ve found a tight-wiggling crankbait catches more fish when the water is colder and fish are lethargic. However, a wide wobbler is a much better choice during summer months or in stained water.
To determine whether a bait is a tight wiggler or a wide wobbler, pull it through the water next to the boat or test it in a swimming pool. You should see a difference in various models.
Most packages indicate the running depth of the lure, so anglers tend to match baits to the depth of water they are fishing.
When fishing hard bottoms, I choose a bait that runs deeper than the bottom to make that lure dig and root into the lake floor. That not only creates a commotion, but it also allows me to fish the lure slower and even hesitate it at times. During early spring, that can make a difference in the number of bites you get.
If there are rocks and brush on the bottom, I may opt for a bait that runs the same depth because it moves faster and thus will produce more deflection when it bangs into cover. That erratic movement produces reactionary strikes that attract neutral fish.
Rattling crankbaits often produce more strikes because they attract attention in stained water or around heavy cover. On the other hand, I believe a rattle-less lure catches more fish in lakes that get heavy fishing pressure from other anglers using rattle baits. Last year on Lake Murray, for example, some anglers were catching more fish on lipless crankbaits by filling the cavity with silicone (to silence the BBs inside). That may be the exception to the rule, but it’s something to think about.
If bass are suspended on structure, tie a shallow-running crankbait onto a Carolina-rigged rod. This is a great technique when you see bass on your graph that are suspended above points or ledges. Make a long cast and start winding slowly. The sinker will help keep the bait down where you can catch those fish.
Matching the hatch with crankbaits is a good way to choose your lure size and color, but sometimes it pays to try a different color. When the fish are feeding on shad and there are a billion of them swimming down there, I choose a color that stands out amongst them. It makes it easier for the fish to single out my lure. It doesn’t always work that way, but it’s certainly worth trying when the traditional colors aren’t working.
You can tie your crankbait directly to the line or use a snap. It’s your choice. But if you want more action out of the smaller crankbaits, learn to tie the King Sling Knot. You’ll get better results.
Also, remember that line diameter and casting distance will determine how deep your crankbait runs. Smaller-diameter line produces less drag, so it runs deeper. Longer casts enable the bait to reach its maximum depth and stay there longer.
Finally, the gear ratio in a fishing reel impacts lure speed and could explain why one man in the boat is catching fish on crankbaits while the other is not. Pay attention to that.
Spend time getting to know your crankbaits and how they react in different situations. Once you become proficient, you will be covering water faster and catching fish that your buddies never see.