A Largemouth Bass with a Megabass Crankbait.

A Largemouth Bass with a Megabass Crankbait …

The Fishing Wire – July 30th, 2021. 

Crankbaits 101:

Confidence baits. We’ve all heard the phraseology. It’s that lure or select few baits anglers go-to at the onset, or if what’s supposed to be in play according to your horoscope or bait shop intelligence…isn’t. Full disclosure. Hardbaits were my Achilles heel, or rather, a category I avoided for years because I didn’t trust or understand them.

That all changed in a former life when I lived on the Ouachita River in Hot Springs, Arkansas. I only scratched the hardbait surface while in the Natural State, but before I knew it, crankbaits became my confidence bait. I threw and kayak-trolled them for everything this amazing span of water offered, swapping models, sizes and colors to fine-tune matters. Nothing was safe from me, boating everything from striped bass to spotted and largemouths, crappies to bluegills and walleyes. Now, I open with hardbaits and modify only if cranks aren’t getting it done, regardless of the situation.

Late summer and early autumn foster a period where crankbaits can evolve into your favored baits, too. Most every freshwater gamefish in North America will lay its life on the line for a perfectly selected and presented crankbait. They can’t help themselves.

A Sheephead or Freshwater Drum from the Maitland River with a Storm Lipless Crankbait.

A Sheephead or Freshwater Drum from the Maitland River with a Storm Lipless Crankbait …

The atmosphere is ideal, too. Warm water temperatures have fish lunging at things they can barely fit in their mouths, and with cavalier confidence. Bass are blowing up on nearly eater sized panfish. Young-of-the-year baitfish, like shad and shiners, are flirting with adulthood. Gamefish even cannibalizing on lesser sizes of their own species isn’t out of the question.

Speed kills, too. Temperate water and heightened metabolism put gamefish in hot pursuit of their quarry, including your hardbait. Moreover, crankbaits afford the ability to cover water quickly, combing for active fish. You can always dumb-down to a jigworm, dropshot or Carolina rig if marks aren’t materializing into strikes. It’s always prudent to leave the dock with a couple plastics combos prepped for immediate deployment.

Crankbaits excel in so many ways, painting a target on myriad structures and situations. Deep rocks are universally loved by gamefish in late summer and early autumn. Here, they find slightly cooler climes, and shadowed hideaways for chilling and ambushing. Crawfish get gobbled, too, as do as passing baitfish. Deeper reefs and rocky points are great spots to explore.

Reservoir pundits know it’s crankbait season as well. Offshore, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, spotted and sometimes largemouth bass amass in significant schools to partake in massive meals of young-of-the-year shad. Giant bait balls hover at or near the surface and down midway through the water column, location in the water column contingent on time of day and light levels. Bass are often seen on electronics lurking just beneath these pods. By day, bass often skim the bottom of the schools for exposed shad. At the bookends of the day, it’s common to see hordes of shad rippling the surface accessorized by bass making a mess of things. In both scenarios, crankbaits are preferred, with shallow runners favored when surface feeding is underway and deep divers the prime choice if the food source is squatting below.

Another popular summer and fall reservoir technique is cliff diving, meaning working crankbaits along steep and deep bluffs. Here, bass often suspend just off the structure, or tuck back into rocked nooks and crannies. Never ignore creek channels, either, especially deeper cuts as they ply into the main lake. Better yet if the channel is lined with submerged timber.

On northern natural lakes, warm weather finds bass milling along or just inside deep weedlines, particularly when in conjunction with a main lake point. Long straight casts along the greenery often produces hefty bass, not to mention bonus walleyes, pike and larger-than-life panfish.

Equally crucial to locating fishy areas is tying up the right stuff. You want crankbaits that can achieve the targeted depth, as well as replicate the approximate size and colouration of the forage.

Braid is the way to go for long casts and solid hooksets. For cranking, I spool with with 20-lb. for a good do-everything weight. Strong, and resistant to abrasion yet well-bodied enough to lay smoothly on the spool.

A fluorocarbon leader is a must as well. Tie in a roughly two-foot section in 15- to 20-pound test. The leader lends invisibility and a bit of shock absorption when you put the pins to it.

Lastly, I’m a snap guy. Purists might roll their eyes, but I like the lure changing speed, and I actually believe it gives a crankbait the freedom to maximize its action.

So, yes, crankbaits have become my confidence lures. And this is only one application where they can outshine your current confidence baits. 

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