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My Tackle Box…where crankbaits go to die

Cast it out, crank it back, and catch fish. So why do I despise bass fishing with a crankbait? So many reasons, yet they catch fish anytime (except when there’s ice on the water), they come in multiple sizes, and colors and reach a variety of depths. You usually have six, yes six hook points with which to “stick” you fish (or your thumb, or your boat, or your upholstery). My tackle box(s) are loaded with cranking lures. While I fish them, they also frustrate me. Just when I give up on them..boom a bass crush one. I start to believe it in them and then I bury the hook in a submerged tree and 15 feet of water. They can imitate everything a bass eats and even some things they don’t. Pick a season and there’s a crankbait size, style, and color “made” for that time of the year. You can toss cranks on spincasting, spinning or baitcasting equipment. Over the years there’s been rods and reels developed and manufactured wearing the label, crankin’, designed to lure fishermen to this “devils’ device”. Of the five times I have had a hook hung in me four of those times the piercing has come from a crankbait. So, here’s why I have em’, hate em’ and still have one at the end of my line each time I fish.

Pick A Color

My long-time sponsor Strike King Lure Company offers crankbaits in 70 different colors. Descriptions such as craw, shad, perch, sunfish, minnow, herring, bluegill and bream are all available. If that’s not enough for you other titles like phantom, sexy, ghost, wicked, neon, moon juice and nude (not a typo) all “lure” you into think I gotta have it. While I have a vast collection of cranking baits, I rely on three basic colors. My criteria are these: water color, sky color and wind velocity. Bass feed predominately by sight, no sight no bite. Clear water, clear sky and no breeze I use a color called Oyster (#584 in the catalog) during the spring with some discolored water and a little wind I opt for the crawfish pattern, this one is #667, in dirty water, dark skies and windy I count on #535 chartreuse / black back. That’s it, that’s what I use 90% of the time. Why do I have every color? My personal theory is whatever technique you’re the worst t is the bait you invest the most money in.

Where Do You Throw Them

I’m addicted to the shallow water fish. They cruise the shallows to spawn and find food. Most of the crankbaits I carry will dive between 6- and 12-feet max. For use around heavy cover I do like the square bill models. They deflect of rocks, docks, logs, bridge pilings and hard objects that often harbor bass. For fishing drop-offs and shallow water spots most of my other hard baits are the #3 models designed to dive to around eight feet. Creek channels, ledges, edges of flats and around points is where I deploy deeper runners. I have baits that makers claim to dive over twenty feet. CONFESSION: I don’t know how to catch fish in twenty feet of water. Lipless crankbaits are good for late winter and early spring bass trips. They sink at rest and can be ripped through aquatic vegetation.

Rods, Reels and Line

Any rod a reel can be used to launch these lures. The folks who hate baitcasting gear will grind it out with open faced spinning equipment. I prefer the power of the reels geared for the chore of crankbait fishing. I use lower gear retrieve ratio Lew’s reels 5.3:1 or 6.3:1 normally. My rods after years of trial an error and found some cranking magic a few old rods that are graphite and sometimes graphite/glass composite. What seems to work best for me are a more limber tip and a stronger middle and butt section. The loose tip allows the fish to take the bait, the stronger part of the rod sets the hook and again the tip allows “give” for the fish to find it difficult to throw the hook(s). I embrace the use of monofilament line strictly for crankbait fishing, I exclusively use 12- or 14-pound test mono. TIP: to get additional depth go with lighter line (smaller diameter) conversely to achieve a shallow presentation go with heavier, larger diameter line. Long casts also ensure the maximum dive of you lipped cranking baits.


I generally change my front treble hooks out to tap into the predatory instinct pf the bass. Red, in my opinion is triggering color. I use the Diiachi red trebles. To maintain the balance of the bait, use the same size hook when either replacing or adding the red hook. For a bait with no red, a small splash of red paint or even nail polish adds a visual incentive to attack the seemingly injured creature. A strong split ring should be added to baits not equipped with one. The split ring allows maximum side to side action of you cranking lures.

Other Options

Who doesn’t love the top water explosion? Given a choice I’ll throw surface baits if for no other reason than I live for the visual strike. The “sudden stop” of a spinnerbait bite is also addictive, whirling through the water and a hit with a phrase coined by a friend of mine, “the dead thug”. The hit that gets my blood running is the thump, bump, take of a “feel” bait. Jigs, plastic worms, soft craws, tubes and any number of the “squishy” lures yield a what’s at the other end that just sucked my bait in, endorphin releasing high that keeps me coming back. Take that crankbait!

Experiment with crankbait retrieves and keep in mind slower is better when fish are in a neutral or negative feeding mode. Bumping cover and any object often results in a deflection bite. Cast past the cover or the place you anticipate the fish is located. Twice in my life I’ve caught two fish on one crankbait! I also landed a nine-pound largemouth bass (on camera) on a crankbait. Love them or hate them they catch fish.
I often hear people say “I don’t want to throw in there, I’m afraid I’ll lose my bait. A. They made a bunch of them. B. If you don’t want to lose any leave them on your tackle box. AND that’s exactly why crankbaits sometimes go to my tackle box to die. Happy Cranking!