Finesse the Grass...with Crankbaits
the Grass. This is a tough situation, and it can
be tedious fishing - but productive. If you want something a
little easier to do, then you can rip cranks off the grass, which
doesn't require any finesse at all. But this article is strictly
about a more difficult alternative grass-cranking technique,
which is called "finessing the grass."
By the way, we're talking about cranking submerged grass beds
of thick weeds like hydrilla as opposed to emergent beds of the
gloppy stuff, okay? So to do this, you must rely on the
sensitivity of a relatively limber-tipped graphite rod and the
most sensitive superline you know of, such as 12 lb. test
fluorocarbon. The sensitive rod/line allows you to detect when
the crankbait STARTS to get caught up in thick grasses like
hydrilla. Basically you use the sensitivity in the rod/line to
concentrate all your attention on what the vibration of the bait
normally feels like as it swims along. Then when you feel
ANYTHING at all different, just slow up or even stop the crank.
Most likely, that "anything different" you feel is the
crank making contact with the stalks. So far what you have done
is cast out, run the bait down to the desired level, and come
into contact with a thick clump of weedy stuff. This is the easy
part so far.
Next, you have a choice of three things you can do to
hopefully induce a strike:
1) Wallow it. Just slow up on the
retrieve (or pause and let the bait rise a bit), then reel slowly
to make that duck-billed crankbait slowly "wallow"
through the thick spots so slowly that it can make contact with
thick-stalked grass without snagging. This is truly finessing the
grass which is difficult to do at best, but can be productive.
2) Let it rise. This works with a
highly buoyant bait on active fish. Just stop and let the bait
rise, and expect to get bit as the bait starts to rise into the
clear zone just above the grass tops. That's it. If no hits
within a few seconds, just resume reeling until you feel ANYTHING
again, stop it, rise it and repeat over and over again, thereby
covering the entire grass bed in this fashion.
3) Work it in place. This works
with a suspending bait on inactive fish. You have hopefully made
contact with the outer fringes or some taller stalks sticking up
from the top of a thick clump. Throw a little slack into your
line. Just shake and doodle the neutrally buoyant bait in place
right next to the thick clump of grass. You may get some very
feeble bites doing this, almost like a bite on a plastic worm.
You really want to avoid pulling the bait forward horizontally,
because you can get bogged down if you do that. Things will get
better or worse at this point. Worse in that you may get deeper
into trouble with the weeds with a suspending bait. Better in
that you can slowly inch your bait through the clump as slowly
and as motionless as possible until it comes into the clear
again. Surprisingly, you will still get hits by barely pulling it
out ever so slowly not even trying to make it wallow.
If a bass hits and misses, or in
many cases with these slow tactics just mouths it and then lets
go of the crankbait, what happens next can get very interesting.
Just put down the cranking rod, but make sure there's enough
slack line so that the boat drift will not pull the crankbait out
of its position for a few seconds. Now pick up a second rod and
toss a lightly-weighted Carolina or splitshot weedless Fluke or
tube back at the location of the bass and the crankbait. No hits?
Then put this rod on deck with a little slack to keep it in
place, and pick up the cranking rod and resume your original
retrieve with it. Once the crank is out of the water, then reel
in the soft plastic bait and keep that aside for the next time it
happens. With two rods going up and down and two lures in the
strike zone, anything can happen and usually does! (Note: Make
sure your fishing license permits fishing with two rods).
Lastly, there are the crankbaits themselves. Now
when you think of your favorite crankbaits, you usually envision
something that's bulky, bulbous, billboard-sided, and more
conspicuously painted than many other baits in your tackle box.
And you usually create lots of crankbait action - broad sides
rolling, bright colors flashing, tail strutting briskly, wiggling
back and forth, head bobbing, bottom-gouging, deflecting up and
over cover. That's all very good and exciting stuff, but it's not
what you need if you want to learn to "finesse the
grass" with crankbaits.
Plastics in grass. I generally
favor plastic rather than wood crankbaits in grass. Why? With the
grass tactics described here, slowly-worked wood plugs typically
exhibit more wiggle and roll than plastics. More wiggle and roll
will catch more grass. Now, let's not confuse wiggle and roll
with vibration. There is a difference between wiggle/roll and
vibration. I am a proponent of vibration. I like a crankbait that
vibrates in the rod tip...a wiggle cannot be felt in the rod tip.
Vibration can also be felt by the fish in its lateral line, often
from a further distance...wiggle and roll, on the other hand are
more close up, sight-oriented qualities. But in the grass, sight
can be blocked. Heck, the bass may be under the grass, so a slow
wiggle and roll will not necessarily get them out, but vibration
will draw them! Also great for grass is that some plastic
crankbaits have ball bearings or other rattle contraption in
them. Most wooden plugs do not.