Despite what the manufacturers say, no matter how pretty they
look, or how much they cost, no bait comes with a guarantee to
catch bass. Most however, are very successful in
"catching" bass anglers. I guess that explains why my,
and most likely your, tackleboxes are overflowing with baits we
just "had to" have.
by Alan Paczkowski
Now that we have established that all baits do catch
"something" let's focus our discussion on what I
believe is the most often used and "misused" bait - the
crankbait. I say "misused" because a lot of anglers
believe all there is to fishing a crankbait is tying one on,
throwing it out and reeling it in! That may work on occasion, but
consistently productive "crankbaiters" know there is
much more to it than that.
What I like most about crankbaits is their versatility. They
can be effectively fished within a wide range of depths and in
just about every type of bass habitat. Learning how to properly
select and present a crankbait comes with experience, lots of
time on the water under various conditions, and good old trial
and error. Among the key factors I consider when selecting a bait
are water depth, temperature, clarity, noise, cover, activity
level and available forage; which should sound familiar if you
have read any of my past articles.
I believe the first step towards successful crankbait fishing
is selecting a bait which runs at the proper depth. Effective
crankbaiting requires your bait to make contact with underwater
structure, ricochet off the bottom, kick up a mud trail, or tick
the top of a grass line or some hydrilla. Simply put, the name of
the game with crankbaits is contact!
Although most lipped crankbaits are designed and rated to run
within a certain depth range, the only sure way to determine if
your bait is getting to a desired depth is to tie one on and
retrieve it through water of a known depth. If you feel the bait
touching the bottom move to slightly deeper water and try again.
Repeat this process until the bait no longer makes contact with
the bottom. Note the depth and you have established the true
working range for that particular bait.
Another factor which impacts on how deep your crankbait runs
is line diameter. Heavier/thicker line creates more water
resistance thereby decreasing the achieved depth. Line diameter
affects smaller baits more dramatically than larger ones. On
occasion I will deliberately use a heavier line as a form of
depth control so I can use a particular bait in shallower water
or keep one working just above weed or grass lines.
Many anglers mistakenly believe the faster they retrieve a
crankbait the deeper it will run. Truth is, every crankbait has
an optimum speed at which it performs best. You need to
experiment with different retrieves to find the one which
achieves the greatest depth without negating the baits motion and
performance. The surest way to achieve maximum depth is to make
long casts and keep your rod tip low during the retrieve. Short
casts and a high rod tip tend to pull the bait upward long before
it can reach its potential depth.
My next crankbait consideration is whether to use plastic or
wood. I base my decision on several conditions the most important
of which is water temperature. Since bass in cold or deep water
are often less aggressive and tend to relate more to the bottom,
plastic baits are my choice. Why? Plastic baits do not have the
natural buoyancy of wood so you can crank them down deep and slow
your retrieve to a crawl without having them start to quickly
rise to the surface. I particularly like the new family of
"suspending" or "neutrally buoyant"
crankbaits because they allow you to keep your bait in the
"zone" with an effective presentation. Plastic baits
also tend to have a wider wobble and therefore displace more
water and create more vibration at slow speeds.
When fishing shallower or warmer water under conditions which
cause the bass to be more active and aggressive it is time to
increase the speed of your retrieve. This is when I break out my
wood baits. By design, wood baits produce a much finer vibration
and appear more shad like as they move through the water. Do not
get me wrong; I am not discounting the effectiveness of plastic
crankbaits in warm or shallow water. Under certain conditions and
in particular applications "plastic" crankbaits are
very productive warm, shallow water producers. My tackleboxes are
full of "shallow" running plastic baits which are
consistent bass catchers. My objective is merely to share some
BASICS considerations you can apply when deciding between wood
Next, since you are trying to convince a bass your crankbait
is an appetizing meal which should not be passed up, size is very
important. In the late spring and early summer I prefer to use
smaller crankbaits. Why? Because at that time of the season a lot
of newly hatched fry and other small forage abound. Too large a
bait will look out of place and unnatural. Logically, as the
season moves towards fall and into winter I gradually increase
the size of my bait to keep pace with the naturally available
forage which has grown and matured.
Water clarity also affects what size bait to use. In muddy or
off color water, I prefer fatter plastic baits with built in
sound chambers since their side-to-side wobble displaces more
water and creates more vibration and noise, thereby making them
easier for a bass to locate. Remember, in dingy water bass rely
more on their lateral lines (hearing) than their sight to locate
food. Clear water is just the opposite since bass tend to rely
primarily on their sight to acquire food. Also, in clear water,
fast-moving baits in natural colors tend to be more productive
than do bright colors.
Last but not least, always remember a crankbait is nothing
more than a tool. How effective a tool it is depends upon you. It
is up to you to select the right tool for the existing conditions
and then properly use it. Lots of practice, patience, and the
ability to recognize when and what adjustments to make are
critical to crankbaiting success. Remember when you tie a bait on
there are "no" guarantees. That's why they call it
fishing and not catching! In any event, I hope these few BASICS
have convinced you there is more to using a crankbait than just
throwing it out and reeling it in.
Those are the BASICS of craknbait fishing based on my many
years of professional experience. I hope you give cranks a try.
Till next time, have fun fishing, be safe and courteous on the
water, and please practice catch and release so we all can enjoy
bass fishing for many years to come.
Hi. Alan Paczkowski here. If you have any questions give me a
call. Better yet let's get together and put the basics of bass
know-how to the test out on beautiful Lake Gaston where I operate
a professional guide service. Just give me a call to
reserve your bass fishing date or to order a Gift Certificate for
the special bass angler in your life.
Give Alan a call at (252)
Visit Alan's web site at Alan's Guide Service
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