Any Time is Crankbait Time
By Ronnie Denton
Anytime of the year is a good time to tie on a crankbait. I think first of crankbaits when I'm trying to locate fish. Whether on a new lake or just the ones close to home where I fish regularly, these lures will help you find fish.
Crankbaits can be used to cover water until fish are located, then other baits such as jigs and worms will be used to finish out limits. If you keep up with the pros, you'll notice them referring to a crankbait as the bait they used to locate their fish.
Cranks work well on a tree line or creek channel. Usually, when you turn back down that same area and work it slower you can catch bass that wouldn't chase after faster moving baits.
There are four basic styles of crankbaits available. There are, of course, many brands, but the basic baits you want to have are lipless cranks, shallow runners, medium runners, and deep divers.
There are a number of companies that make lipless crankbaits. The one I prefer is made by Bill Lewis Lures. It is the Rat-L-Trap and this bait has rattles in it that drive fish crazy. It's one bait that will catch just about any species of fish you might be after.
Popular sizes are ¼-, ½-, and ¾-ounce, with the ½-ounce being the most widely used by anglers. The company came out with a new 1-ounce model this year and it has already proven to be a good big bass lure at Lake Fork this spring.
The ¾-ounce and 1-ounce sizes in red dog, red shad, and chrome/blue back are good colors at any east Texas lake.
You should try to choose the size of your lure according to the size of baitfish in the lake and cover shallow water with structure. Bass will attack this bait from stumps or grass lines. Along the edges of sunken grassbeds are good places to use lipless cranks to locate fish. Sometimes the largest fish of the day will be caught in this manner.
Experiment with your retrieve. Try ticking the tops of submerged grass beds. Bass will explode with a vengeance on a Rat-L-Trap fished this way. This bait is my first choice when bass are schooling. When using lipless cranks, I prefer to use a 6-1/2 foot medium-action casting rod over open water and fast action in heavy cover. I also use a 5 to 1 ratio Garcia reel to get the job done with a slow or fast retrieve.
With all the crankbaits on the market I usually find myself using ones made of wood. For shallow-running cranks, my choices are made by Poe's. These baits are made of cedar and are very light. The 1100, 1100R (rattle), and 1100ss (same body size with a wider bill), all run at four to 10 feet deep.
Wood baits seem to produce a natural swimming action. The RC1 and RC3 both have flat sides and a squared lip that gives an erratic deflect, like a disoriented fish.
Shallow-running crankbaits are mainly used in shallow water, but they can also become effective when bass are suspended in structure in deeper water.
I like a 6-1/2 foot light to medium action power casting rod with a fast-action tip for these lures. Best results can be had with 12- to 14-pound test line and an ABU Garcia bait-casting reel. You can down-size the line to 8- to 10-pound test with the use of ABU Garcia's Cardinal spinning reel. This will help you achieve greater action and depth.
Some of the medium-depth runners are Bomber Model 7As and Norman's DD14's. I also like the Poe's 300 in crawfish colors around the new and full moons. The rest of the month I like a shad pattern.
The best way to use crankbaits that dive to the medium depths is to bounce them off stumps, the bottom, or run them along the edges of shallow grass. Baits with narrow lips and thin sides have a tight, fast wiggle while baits with a broad lip will produce a wider, slower wiggle.
The best rod to run these baits with will be one especially made for crankbaits like the All Star Classic Graphite 6-1/2-foot crankin' stick with fast tip action, medium power. Use 14-pound test line to get the best from these baits. Stren is my choice.
There are many choices of baits that run deep. There are Poe's 400 and 400 Plus, Norman's SS22, Mann's Deep 20+ and 30+, Bomber Fat A, Mud Bugs, and many more.
These are the sizes of baits I prefer to use to locate fish. These big-lipped baits should be run down to their maximum running depth, then slowed to a crawl. They do their best when fished over submerged trees or when you're dredging the bottom.
Deep divers will also be productive for you around or on top of grass. Most of the time you'll find me throwing a Poe's 400 in 10 to 14 feet of water early in the day. I'll fish the same bait later in the day at 30 feet. This is where you'll catch that hard-to-get bite from fish that are suspended in tree tops.
The larger lips on deep-divers will allow you to run them through tree tips without a lot of hang-ups. Most of the time when you feel the brush you can slow down your retrieve and the bait will flip over the limb. You can feel that the bait then begins to dive once more. Often this is when the bass will hit the lure.
For these baits, I prefer heavy line and always use at least 20- 25-pound test. You'll also need a medium power casting rod with a fast tip to get the most out of these lures.
It's not uncommon for me to have three or four rods in my boat with crankbaits tied on them, year around. It's also not uncommon for me to fish with a deep-diver all day. If the fish bite it, I'll throw it.
If you don't throw crankbaits as often as you should because you think they'll hang up easily or you'll lose them, don't worry. Most crankbaits can be retrieved. The most important thing is don't continue to pull on it once it becomes snagged. This only digs the hooks in deeper. Place your boat straight above or past your target snag spot and try to shake it loose. Sometimes you can thump your line like you would a bow with your thumb and index finger and the bait will just pop loose. Some people have become very skilled with this and lose few crankbaits.
If you don't choose to fish crankbaits, you're passing up some very exciting fishing trips when nothing else will work.