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Crankbaits 101 | Print |  Email
Written by Gary Dobyns   
Saturday, 05 March 2011 04:51


Several times a year, I'm asked to guide people who are new to bass fishing. Sometimes, it's a young angler who wants to catch his or her first fish. In these situations, I will generally have them tie on a crankbait. Hardbaits are some of the easiest baits to use, and a novice angler can learn to use crankbaits as quickly as he or she can learn to cast.

If you want to learn about crankbaits, you must be prepared to collect a few different types that will be useful at different times of year, and on different lakes.

The first group of cranks I want to discuss is the lipless group. These baits go by names like Rat-L-Traps, Spots, or in the case of Lucky Craft, its LV series. These baits don't have a bill on the front of the lure, hence their name.

Lipless cranks are easy baits to use and are very effective around any type of vegetation. Look for openings around vegetation, throw the bait to the opening and retrieve it relatively quickly-they're de-signed to be fished this way. Most lipless baits are heavy, and I usually throw the 1/2-ounce variety.

When a lipless crank gets held up by the grass, just pop the rod and the bait will usually come free. Quite often, this is just when a bass will strike. Also, a standard stop-and-go retrieve works very well with these baits.

Lipless cranks are great even with no grass in the area. Some of our reservoirs have no grass, and if a lipless crank is fished down the rocky banks, it will produce good-quality bites. Because of the quick retrieve and its design, fish have to make a split decision to either strike at the bait or not. They don't have a lot of time to think about what they're doing. Along comes the bait and they have to react. With lipless cranks, if I could only fish two colors, they would be chartreuse, and chrome with a blue or black back.

After you master the lipless baits, you might be ready to try shallow-running cranks. These baits generally run from two to five feet beneath the surface. A real popular bait in this class in the Speed Trap, from Luhr-Jensen. It comes in either a 1/8- or 1/4-ounce version and works very well. I stick with crawdad red, and once again chartreuse, as my best colors.

Other great shallow-runners are Excalibur's Fat Free Shad, and Lucky Craft's shallow CV series. In the grass, shallow crankbaits don't work as well as lipless ones. Instead, they're primarily designed to bang into stumps and rocks, and even work the edges of grasslines. But when the fish are in a shallow mode, they will outfish lipless baits.

The retrieve for shallow cranks resembles that for lipless cranks. You are still looking for a reaction-bumping the bait into the structure-and when it comes off the structure is usually when the fish will take the bait. Also remember, with these baits, you need to (and you can) cover a lot of water.

This brings me to a tip that will help you more than anything else when fishing crankbaits. Whether you're just starting out, or have been fishing forever, always get in the habit of changing out the hooks on your crankbaits. You'll catch a lot more fish if you do. My personal choice for replacement hooks is the EWG treble from Gamakatsu.

Now that you have a few crankbaits in your tackle box-a few lipless baits, and a couple shallow runners-the next group of crankbaits go just a little bit deeper, maybe five to 10 feet. There are some great crankbaits in this group. The CB250 from Lucky Craft is an awesome bait. Excalibur's Fat Free Finger-ling is another awesome crank. The Bomber 7A is yet another. They all have great action and imitate baitfish and crawdads very well. In this depth range, I add an additional color to my list. White is a great baitfish color that has to be added to the red and the chartreuse colors previously mentioned. In fact, I use white on the shallow-running cranks as well. It's a really good color, period. The last group of cranks is, of course, the deep series. Bagley DB3s, or the Lucky Craft CB350 series, are very good deep-water cranks. But, I don't recommend these baits for those just starting out. From Jan-uary through December, there are always shallow fish to be found. Concentrate of those fish, and fishing cranks will be a lot more fun.

When you feel you're ready for the deep divers, remember, the colors are the same-the only differences are the physical size and weight of the bait, and the size of the lip.

Line is a crucial consideration when fishing crankbaits. Don't go too light. I recommend your line be at least 12-pound test, leaning more toward 15-pound for most lipless baits, as well as shallow to medium divers. I throw a lot of 30-pound braided lines with my lipless cranks. Braids have a small diameter, and they allow you to pull your crank through the grass much easier than monofilament. The heavier the monofilament, the shallower your crankbait will run. But, on all but the deep divers, the bait will run as deep as it's supposed to without worrying too much about line size.

Remember, 12- to 15-pound test should be sufficient for most applications. My favorite monofilament is P-Line CXX. Crankbaits are a great way to learn to find bass. Don't be afraid of them. Most need to bump into things in order to be effective. If you're not hitting things, you probably won't be catching a lot of fish, either.


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