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Shallow River cranking


jitterbug127

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I am going through and doing tackle organization this week since the season is all but over here in central Indiana. I am exclusively a river smallmouth fisherman, and I am realizing that I don't really own any crankbaits for the river outside of KVD 4" jerkbaits and 1.5 square bills. My river is shallow being 3-5 deep at the most. What other crankbaits do you guys throw in a shallow river? I am excluding topwater baits for this conversation.   

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I'm not fishing streams much lately, but used to a lot.  Depending on how small you're talking some good ones to consider are bomber model A's, DT4s, and the various 1.5 equivalent squarebills.  A lot of what I was fishing was < 2' so a DT4 wouldn't be quite right there but the little bombers are.  Also, the rebel wee crawfish always seemed to produce, probably because its a 2-3' bait and was digging into bottom like a real crawfish would. 

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Don’t overlook some of the Rapala UL crankbaits. Sometimes in the bass world of bigger is better, is not always the case. The size of these bait are not unnaturally small. It’s just another way of going after these Smallies. 
 

I’m not one who is a fishing match the hatch. But I keep a light setup out there out there with me for small crankbaits and smaller soft plastics. 

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Shad Raps and Flicker Shads are great. They’re thin baits and have tight wobbles, so they can be pretty subtle. The flicker Shad’s have a rattle though. I’ve seen the silent vs rattle make a difference first hand. They were slamming the Shad raps but not the flicker shads. 

 

 

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3 hours ago, Finessegenics said:

Shad Raps and Flicker Shads are great. They’re thin baits and have tight wobbles, so they can be pretty subtle. The flicker Shad’s have a rattle though. I’ve seen the silent vs rattle make a difference first hand. They were slamming the Shad raps but not the flicker shads. 

 

 

I don’t know how long I’ve been fishing Shad Raps but since their arrival I’m sure. Years. My favorite. One of top three confidence baits for sure on the river. 
 

I’ve fished a few others like a SR that are good baits also. 

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I do have a few flicker shads, but ive had little luck on them for whatever reason. Wiggle warts are the other baits that ill throw parodically in the deeper pockets of the river. 

On 12/5/2022 at 1:50 PM, Blue Raider Bob said:

My rivers are a bit deeper but DT4 and 6 have worked for me. Also a medium depth Rock Crawler, and Rebel Crawfish shallow runner.

rebel crawfish yes!!!! i forgot about that one had it years ago. 

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I like the Duo Kabuki 55 SR on the river, but normally, it's a balsa shallow to mid depth crank like an E1 or similar in summer or like a Hicky or what have you. I really think a flat bait shines in a river setting.

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I’ve used the OG Slim the last two seasons some. Got a few river smallies each year. I throw it the same as any DT (location). Kept my color patterns simple and natural for now. May expand that some over the winter, pick up an 04 or two. Like DT’s I’ll throw it all season. 

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I do a lot of river cranking, and I have an arsenal of really good baits. A lot are discontinued so those I won't mention but there are plenty of others. 2 good ones were already mentioned, Bandit 200 and the Rapala DT4. Bomber Square A, Bagley Rattlin' Kill'r B square bill and Rattlin' Honey B. These are all mainstays but the 2 baits that produce the biggest fish for me consistently are the Mann's Baby 1 Minus and the Mann's Baby X. The baby X is just a baby 1 minus with a square bill. The X dives down to 2' - 2.5' but the bill is straight with sharp corners, more of a rectangle if you will. Seriously, draw a rectangle on a piece of paper and that is the bill. That makes it deflect wildly but it rights itself in 2 to 3 cranks if it isn't already in the mouth of a big smallie!!!

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Storm Subwart is the best shallow cranker that exists for river smallies.  Unfortunately, its discontinued and the only place I can find them now is on ebay for a pretty steep price.

 

The closest version I have found is the Bass Pro Shops XPS Super Shallow Crank.  It comes in a variety of colors and the cost is $4.99 each.  In the spring, they are often on sale for $3.99 each.  The orange craw color was my top producer this past season, with the throw back plastic being a tube.

smallmouth lures.jpg

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16 hours ago, Spankey said:

I’ve used the OG Slim the last two seasons some. Got a few river smallies each year. I throw it the same as any DT (location). Kept my color patterns simple and natural for now. May expand that some over the winter, pick up an 04 or two. Like DT’s I’ll throw it all season. 

 

I'm adding some OG4's this year.  I fished the 6's last year a lot and did well.  There are a couple places where a 6 is just too deep and even 17 lb mono can't keep it shallow enough so 4's it is.

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It may not qualify as "cranking", but a very overlooked shallow river bait is a good old fashioned in- line spinner. Good examples are small rooster tails, and Swiss Swings and Shyster Spinners.  The rooster tails and Shyster spinners have the advantage of being able to be fished deep also. depending on size. The Swiss Swings are not as productive (and are a pain in the A$$) to fish deep. I really like the Swiss Swing (or the almost identical Swedish Swing. And don't forget the classic Mepps spinners. For some reason these spinners have become pretty much a "forgotten" lure, but they are still killers in small streams and shallow rivers.

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15 minutes ago, Kirt Howe said:

It may not qualify as "cranking", but a very overlooked shallow river bait is a good old fashioned in- line spinner. Good examples are small rooster tails, and Swiss Swings and Shyster Spinners.  The rooster tails and Shyster spinners have the advantage of being able to be fished deep also. depending on size. The Swiss Swings are not as productive (and are a pain in the A$$) to fish deep. I really like the Swiss Swing (or the almost identical Swedish Swing. And don't forget the classic Mepps spinners. For some reason these spinners have become pretty much a "forgotten" lure, but they are still killers in small streams and shallow rivers.

Funny you post this. I bought a black fury in black and orange and Avila with a gold blade mepps 3 today. Your exactly right about them being forgotten. I surely did forget about them. 

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I bought a couple flicker shads to try out this spring. Tackle warehouse's rod sale also got me. I picked up a lancer pro cranking rod for $55 bucks shipped to my door. I think it will be perfect for smallies this spring. 

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On 12/7/2022 at 7:57 PM, Kirt Howe said:

It may not qualify as "cranking", but a very overlooked shallow river bait is a good old fashioned in- line spinner. Good examples are small rooster tails, and Swiss Swings and Shyster Spinners.  The rooster tails and Shyster spinners have the advantage of being able to be fished deep also. depending on size. The Swiss Swings are not as productive (and are a pain in the A$$) to fish deep. I really like the Swiss Swing (or the almost identical Swedish Swing. And don't forget the classic Mepps spinners. For some reason these spinners have become pretty much a "forgotten" lure, but they are still killers in small streams and shallow rivers.

I sure havent forgot about them, have been using them for river smallies since my early days. However, from a boat, the crankbait has its place over the spinner. If you run a spinner fast through a drift, either by design or necessity, that lure will want to come up high in the water column. On the other hand, if you crank, that lure will get down deeper into the strike zone. From a boat I like crankbaits, from the bank I prefer spinners. I like a dt4 baby bass, a bandit 200(?) baby bass, and a fat rap in shad. I updated my crankbait box some years ago, I had alot of big deep diving crankbaits for lakes; in a river those are often useless and you need to run shallower.       

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I’m really glad I started this thread. Tons of solid information so far. 2023 is going to be a heavy cranking year for me, I’ve pretty much fished the bottom of the river and top water exclusively. I’m going to work lots of lay downs and weed lines. Squarebills, jerkbaits, shad raps, in-line spinners and chatterbaits will be my first weapons of choice. 

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1 hour ago, jitterbug127 said:

I’m really glad I started this thread. Tons of solid information so far. 2023 is going to be a heavy cranking year for me, I’ve pretty much fished the bottom of the river and top water exclusively. I’m going to work lots of lay downs and weed lines. Squarebills, jerkbaits, shad raps, in-line spinners and chatterbaits will be my first weapons of choice. 

Good luck buddy! I picked up some DTs because of this thread as well. I would have had some fish less days without cranking. 

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3 hours ago, jitterbug127 said:

I’m really glad I started this thread. Tons of solid information so far. 2023 is going to be a heavy cranking year for me, I’ve pretty much fished the bottom of the river and top water exclusively. I’m going to work lots of lay downs and weed lines. Squarebills, jerkbaits, shad raps, in-line spinners and chatterbaits will be my first weapons of choice. 

They are a big part of my river fishing. Admittedly I over fish them but I catch myself and get a mix of soft plastics, topwater and spinnerbaits in. Good luck. 

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