Names like Little N, Wee R and Fat A were catchy not only to anglers but to the fish as well. Many companies today continue to use letters and numbers to name their lures.
Crankbaits are versatile for various fishing situations and water conditions all across area lakes. They are not tied to a specific time of the year as some other lures are. Anglers use different styles of crankbaits to locate and catch fish throughout the year. The lures can be fished shallow or deep, fast or slow and even in brush and grass.
Depth ranges for cranks are from surface to more than 20 feet. Most crankbaits are mid-range lures diving from 6- to 12-feet deep. The ultra-deep diving lures require some muscles and a heavy duty real to fish. However, they can get down to depths where bass have never seen those types of lures.
One of the advantages of crankbaits is their ability to cover plenty of water. They are used by anglers as search baits. The lures can be fished quickly to locate schools of bass or even cover. Once the bass are located, repeated casts to the same location can produce a limit.
“Everyone has their own ideas about crankbaits, said B.A.S.S. pro Russ Lane of Prattville. “You find one that you have confidence in and it catches fish, you use it.”
Lane cut his angling skills on the lower Coosa and Tallapoosa lakes using crankbaits. The lures helped him locate fish and develop confidence in the areas he was fishing. For most pros crankbaits are a mainstay for their tackle boxes.
Crankbaits can be used to locate fish quickly and efficiently. With their balanced weight and hydrodynamic design the lures can be cast long distances across the lake. Retrieves can be sped up or slowed down depending on the conditions.
“I like to make several casts across a point or flat with a crankbait,” Lane said. “Sometimes it may take several casts before the fish will hit.”
Lane suggests repeated cats to visible targets. Anglers should pay close attention as to what the lure is doing when a fish strikes. You should note the speed of the retrieve and the action of the lure along with the depth. Once a fish strikes, repeat the cast and retrieve in the same area.
Plastic or wood
Crankbaits are made from wood or plastic depending on the manufacturer. Both materials offer specific traits for various forms of fishing. Most anglers carry both types in the tackle box and will use a particular type depending on the time of year, lake and cover being fished.
“Wooden lures float better and bounce off cover with less hang ups,” Lane said. “Some of the wooden lures do not have rattles but give a different vibration the bass can sense.”
In 1993, BASS pro angler David Fritts of Lexington, N.C. captured the Bassmaster Classic crown on Logan Martin Lake using a Poes 400 cedar crankbait. The buoyancy of the lure allowed Fritts to fish the lure in brush tops without getting snagged on every cast. The combination of the long plastic bill and wooden body allowed the lure to be deflected off of the brush or when stopped the lure would actually back up away from the cover.
Plastic baits are more durable and can take some pounding against piers and rocks. Most manufacturers of plastic crankbaits have models with rattles or small pieces of metal or plastic inside the lure. When the crankbait is retrieved, the vibration of the lure causes a rattling or ticking sound that can attract fish.
Wooden baits can be modified by drilling a small hole and adding some weight to give the lure a different balance or even cause it to sink slowly. Some crankbait models are designed to suspend when the retrieve is stopped.
Line size can drastically affect the action and depth of a crankbait. This can play into the hands of anglers as long as they understand how it affects their particular bait. Generally the smaller the line diameter the deep a crankbait can dive.
Recently, some of the newer crankbait models have been designed to run smoother with less drag. Lane formulated the Spro Big Daddy Crank. The lure has flat body and a long slender bill. This design provides a wide wobble and a smooth retrieve. The bait has no rattles for a silent approach to the bass.
Many anglers shy away from lighter line when fishing crankbaits, especially large, diving baits. However, the smaller diameter line has less resistance in the water to allow the lure to reach its maximum depth. Larger diameter or heavy line can also kill the action of the lure.
“With 10-pound test fluorocarbon line the Big Daddy will dive to around 14 feet on a long cast,” said Lane. “On 14-pound test the depth is around 6 to 8 feet.”
Lane said he points his rod at the lure during retrieve. This helps the lure dive deeper and is easier to reel. If the lure bumps a stump with the rod pointed at the lure the lip will hit first and the bait will pop over the srump.
Tools for cranking
Like most other lures, cranbaits perform better when used with the proper equipment. Special cranking rods and lower speed reels help anglers fish the lure to their potential. Also, the angler is not under as much stress when fishing with quality gear designed for crankbaits.
“I use a 7-foot-long cranking rod, Lane explains. “The long rod gives me plenty of casting distance and control of the lure. It is a combination of graphite and fiberglass.”
When using most type of cranking lures the long rod allows the angler to maximize the distance of the cast. The extended distance allows the lure to reach its maximum depth. Also, longer casts can cover more water area in search of fish.
Super sensitive rods are not an advantage for cranbait anglers. Most anglers prefer a strong rod with a sensitive tip for cranking in lures and bass. The soft tip allows for an easier hook set without ripping the hooks out of the fish.
A standard 5.1:1 speed gear ratio reel is ideal for crankbaits. The slower speed reel provides more power and control of the lure during the retrieve and when reeling in a big one. Many anglers try to fish crankbaits to fast and miss opportunities to catch more fish. A lower speed reel will force the angler to slow down on the retrieve.
Charles Johnson is the Star’s outdoor editor. You can reach Charles at ChrJohn7@aol.com