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Peek in the box of any bass kayak angler and it’s a sure bet that there will be a multitude of colors, size and lip shapes (or no lip) of traditional crankbaits and few other that could fall into that category.
For the stand up or sit in kayaker you can cast and retrieve cranking lures effectively. While viewed as a bass lure, crankbaits catch multiple species. Targeting bass under certain conditions, around cover, (square bills), on deep water ledges (large billed deep diving models), cold water (flat sided versions) cooling water in the fall (lipless) and clear, cold water (jerkbaits), don’t be fooled crankbaits bring more that bass to the “yak”. Crappie, walleye, musky, northern pike, trout and even catfish are routinely caught on cranks. Why? Crankbaits look a lot like a minnow, shad, bluegill and other forms of forage.

The confusion comes in because of the wide varieties of sizes, lip shapes / sizes and they are available in a rainbow of colors. Plastic or wood, shallow or deep, different profiles, lip length and size, there’s a crankbait for almost every situation. A few of each variety and color and you’re ready to start cranking. Each angler has certain baits they enjoy fishing but during every month I tie a crankbait on and have it ready in the kayak. In the early part of the year when water gets to a stable or rising 50 degrees surface temperature, cranking gets serious. During the summer and post spawn bass will move off shore and feed after the exhausting spawn, a time when they rarely feed. In the fall (according to the calendar, September) as water temperatures drop due to shorter days and cooler air temps (65-50 degrees), a crankbait should be a constant companion in whatever waters you visit. The secret, when baitfish are found in enormous schools, crankbaits have the potential to fire up a school of offshore fish and create catches that are epic in proportion.
 Square bill – the square billed crankbaits, Strike King makes a 1.5 for shallow water applications and a 2.5 for deeper, are the perfect bait for fishing around heavy cover. Submerged wood, rip rap banks, bridge pilings, boat docks, chunk rock and any obstruction should be covered with a crankbait. The square bill deflects almost magically off cover and draws strikes from bass that were hanging close to that cover. Jumping wood, bumping rock, deflecting off dock pilings, ripping through weeds each circumstance draws strikes from bass.3-crank
 Oval bill – primarily for open water use, the depth of the bait dive is determined by the size and shape of the plastic lip. The side to side wobble and the water displacement offers a visual and sensory attraction to bass. Rooting along the bottom or swimming among suspended fish these baits can become more easily stuck in heavy cover. Available in silent and rattling versions the oval lipped types are effective in open water environments devoid of heavy cover.
 Lipless baits- still considered a crankbait, the lipless baits excel in certain situations. In late fall and through the traditional winter months (where water remains open) lipless baits catch many and good size fish. Again equipped with sound chambers, lipless crankbaits have become popular after the success realized by tournament anglers hoping to catch several fish I as quickly as possible.
 Sound Off or Silent – Rattling crankbaits created by a manufacturing error and accident do in fact catch fish. On heavily pressured waters it’s my personal belief fish do become conditioned to the sound and subsequent experience of being hooked and eventually become conditioned to avoid the sight and sound of specific baits. Many other factors, including a consistent sound can create a negative conditioning effect on fish. This is why manufacturers to combat this phenomenon, offer silent versions of the rattling lures, provide for new colors and smaller or larger sizes.
 Colors- Various colors and even subtle shades are highly effective dictated by the water and weather conditions such as water color, water temperature, sky condition and the amount of surface disturbance due to wind velocity. With numerous (and confusing) colors and shades available choosing a color can be a daunting task. Solution: clear water, bright sky, no wind tie on a lighter color, off white, Tennessee shad for example #584 oyster from Strike King Lures is always my choice now. Move up in color scale to crawfish patterns, browns and mid-range tones in slightly stained water, a hot (orange or red belly), partly cloudy skies and a bit of a breeze. Muddy water, dark skies and stiff breezes call for firetiger, black / chartreuse color combos and red. Bright and contrasting colors are deadly in dirty water. It should also be noted that fish are more likely to be hugging cover tightly and accurate casting and presentation is critical. Colors are a matter of preference and ask ten kayak bass casters and you’ll likely get a half dozen strong opinions.

 Rods, reels and lines working in concert with cranking lures. Drawing strikes can be accomplished with any rod, keeping the fish buttoned up and eventually coming to your grip can be a different story. I have found the ideal cranking rod, the McCain Fishing 7’2” foot rods MK862M CRANK IT rod is a glass/ graphite composite material that flexes with the fish, allows for a solid hook up, gives as the fish pulls and fights all around the kayak. This specialty rod is in the kayak edition line up for McCain High Performance Rods. Working in conjunction with the rod and a critical component is the line. My choice is monofilament and generally regardless of conditions I use 12 pound test line. All but the tiniest of cranks are launched with baitcasting reels, my choices are Lews line of reels but the retrieve ratio is my main concern. On the low end I have an antique, still functional crankin’ reel that is geared to pull crankbaits back at a rate of 5.3:1 up to the newer models with higher speed models 7.1:1 which spools 31 inches per full revolution. I rarely lose a bass when using this set up.
 The Need for Speed – The retrieve speed is critical to the catch in all aspects of bass angling. Non-aggressive fish won’t chase far or fast, while disputed common sense tells you that if a bass or any other species expends more energy that it gets in return for searching, finding,, chasing and eating anything, it logically gets smaller instead of bigger. Bass are in a neutral or negative feeding mode the majority of the time. They can however, be coaxed into biting when something is delivered to them in close proximity of their resting spot. Experiment with speed knowing it can change quickly as weather and water conditions change. When fishing is tough slower is almost always better. When the bite slows down the retrieve speed should also be reduced regardless of bait, technique or species.

Crankbaits for kayak anglers are just another tool for your fishing adventures. Bunches of bass or BIG bass, crankbaits don’t have to create confusion, under the correct conditions they can create catches.