"Water, water everywhere but not
a drop to drink."
That's a line from an old salt's tale of a sailing ship
traveling across the Atlantic headed for the new world on the
other side. Seems the ship got lost. They ran out of fresh water
and the crew feared they would die. As luck would have it, they
spied another ship crossing the horizon. They hailed the ship and
communicated their desperate need for water.
The reply came back, "Throw down your buckets!"
It seemed like a ridiculous reply, but they threw down their
buckets over the side into the sea. Well, if you know this story,
then you also know they cranked in pails full of fresh water.
Seemed odd until the explanation came that the ship was sitting
in a current of fresh water pushed way out to sea beyond sight of
land by the mighty Amazon River.
"A cool story," you say "but what's it got
to do with fishing?" Well, I was just reading an article in
a national bass publication about how three nationally-known bass
superstars fish crankbaits. Each pro gave all kinds of complex
and excruciating details about some totally different and
advanced way to crankbait. No two of the three pros mentioned
anything remotely close to what the others said. One guy won a
big tourney his way, the other guy won another tourney a totally
opposite way, and the third pro did it his way. As far as me the
reader trying to pull in a fresh pail full of clear crankbaiting
know-how, I felt like I was lost in an endless sea of information
I just could not drink. I was doomed to die of thirst before I
could wring a single drop out of it! That's when I thought of the
tale of the old sailing ship. I decided to just throw down a
bucket right there.
I hope you'll pull in a pail of clear crankbait information
below. Please enjoy!
Envision your favorite crankbait.
It looks just about as obvious as the Goodyear blimp, doesn't it?
Now take that blimp and add action - broad sides rolling, bold
colors flashing, tail strutting briskly back and forth, head
bobbing, bottom-gouging like a mini bulldozer, deflecting up and
over every obstruction in its path. Let me also ask you,
"What's your favorite crankbait color?" Is it
"fire tiger", a pop art concoction of bright blazing
orange, glaring fluorescent green, hot yellow chartreuse with
bold black bars and stripes thrown in all over? We're not soaking
a skinny, drab-colored pumpkin or watermelon worm here anymore!
So that's the first thing about a crankbait
- a crankbait makes an obvious target. It's bulbous,
billboard-sided, much bulkier and more conspicuously painted than
most any other lure in your tackle box.
Second, if you can feel a crankbait
throbbing in your rod tip from 50 feet away, just
imagine what kind of excitement your crankbait's throb ignites in
a fish's lateral line! Now crankbaits just assault these two
senses - eyesight and the lateral line. All that's built in right
out of the box - big bulk, bold color and throbbing vibration.
Third, you want a crankbait that casts far.
Over the course of a few seasons as you try different ones
(hundreds of crankbaits are on the market), keep in mind that
castability counts. One that casts well for you because it
matches with the rod and reel you use without overpowering it. If
a crankbait waffles in the wind, dies and drops short, you don't
need it. The farther you can throw a crankbait, the more water
you can cover, the more fish you can attract, the deeper it will
go and the longer it will be in the strike zone the farther you
can cast it.
Speaking of depth, you'll need
three different kinds of crankbaits that work well for you in
three different zones:
No crankbaits go deeper than that. It's
fairly easy to find crankbaits that fit each of these zones. Look
at the lip. As a rule of thumb, if the lip is much shorter than
an inch and angled vertically, it's going to stay in zone one. If
the lip is approximately an inch and angled less than 45 degrees,
that's zone two. If the lip is much longer than an inch and
practically horizontal, that's zone three. A wide lip usually
makes a wide wobble and a lot of rod resistance. A thin lip
usually creates a tight wiggle with less resistance. Those are
general rules of thumb.
1 (0 to 6 feet)
2 (6 to 12 feet)
3 (12 to 18 feet)
Zone 1 crankbaits are usually very buoyant.
In zone 1 you will typically encounter weeds, reeds, wood and
other kinds of cover - solitary cover or acres of it. Cast into
open water beyond the cover and reel the crankbait right up to
it. If you think you can bounce off the cover without fouling,
hit the crankbait right into the side of it and stop reeling. If
you fear getting fouled, just stop reeling an instant before
contact. In either case, let the crankbait float up. Most of
these zone 1 types are highly buoyant and will bob up to the
surface like corks. Then do nothing. Bass will belt them as they
rise, and they'll even boil up to swat them off the surface as
they float motionless. Repeat as long as there is cover to come
Many zone 2 and zone 3 crankbaits are
also very buoyant. In general, these buoyant ones are the best
types for digging along bottom. The rod tip is usually held
pointing down at an angle that telegraphs a strong throb. Get a
good long cast. Hold the rod down. Sweep the tip slowly once or
twice to help pump the crank down and reel steadily until the
crankbait starts bumping along bottom or pounding into
obstructions down there. Pause the retrieve a bit when you start
striking into stuff. If it's a troublesome snaggy spot your
crankbait's gotten into, lift the rod tip a bit to alleviate line
pressure, thereby causing some slack line for the crank to float
up. The high buoyancy helps keep you from snagging. Slowly resume
reeling when you feel you've floated far enough up so that you've
lost all bottom contact and you're not hitting anything at all.
Then resume regular reeling or sweep the rod tip until you start
hitting stuff again.
Repeat bumping and backing off until
the lure gets close enough that the shortened line distance
prevents your crankbait from reaching bottom any longer. Both the
end of the retrieve (when the crankbait no longer reaches bottom)
and the beginning of the retrieve (before the crankbait reaches
bottom) are typically unproductive. A surprising amount of your
crankbait's overall time/distance can be spent in the
unproductive beginning and end of the retrieve. That's why a
long-casting crankbait is desirable - to extend the middle part
of the retrieve when the bait is in the strike zone.
Other types of zone 2 and zone 3 crankbaits
are not buoyant at all but are designed to be neutrally
"suspending" crankbaits. They are precisely weighted so
that they will hover and hold their depth when you pause the
retrieve. Cast way out, crank them down to get them bouncing
bottom, then pause the retrieve. They'll practically suspend and
hover just off the bottom, rising very slowly if at all. At this
point you should suspend reeling too. Rod manipulation comes into
play now. Your mission is to find any manner of twitching, longer
jerks or abrupt ripping that may trigger a strike - always with
lots of pausing. Do whatever it takes with the rod tip to trigger
that first response from the fish. Then repeat that over and over
again, fine-tuning the "trigger key" you've found a bit
better upon each repetition. That's called "catching"
and not always an easy thing to do...but so very rewarding when
you make it happen!
Another use for zone 2 or 3 suspending
crankbaits is where your electronics show bass
suspended or feeding in the open water column. Cast far enough
beyond the fish so you can reel the bait down to their water
level. Same story here now. Hover your crankbait in mid-water
amidst the suspended fish. Experiment with rod draws, twitches
and generally using the rod to evoke that trigger response from
bass at mid-depths in open water - always with plenty of
lingering in-your-face pauses.
I can't think of what else to say. That's
basically it about crankbaits. Find the few that work for you and
you'll never run dry of fresh water where you can throw
them down and pull in a big bucket of bass!