Crankbaits come in a dizzying array of sizes,
shapes and colors that all catch fish occasionally because they generally look like something a bass should eat.
"When I'm throwing a crankbait, I try to imitate
one of three things -- a crawfish, a bluegill or a shad," said Alton Jones, the
2008 Bassmaster Classic champion. "For crawfish, I
like browns, greens or orange. To imitate bluegills, I like firetiger
or chartreuse with a blue back. For shad, it's either a pearl white or chrome
with a blue back. On a bright day, I throw chrome and blue. On a cloudy day, I
throw pearl and white."
Crankbait bills also come in many configurations
including squared, rounded, pointy, scooped, or even almost chisel-shaped, each
in several different widths and lengths. Sometimes, conditions might call for a
short, fat crankbait with a squared bill or a rounded
lure with a pointed bill. Professional anglers must know what to throw under
many different kinds of water and weather conditions.
"The thinner the bill, the tighter the wobble," said Gerald Swindle, a
professional bass angler from Warrior, Ala.
"Whenever I'm fishing really hot water, I want a big, wide wobble. I usually
throw a square-bill crankbait from late spring
through early fall. It's a good bait to fish during the post-spawn. In the
winter, I like to throw small wooden crankbaits with
tiny, rounded bills that produce very little action. The tight wobble is like a
shad in cold water, almost like a lipless crankbait."
Use Square-lipped Crankbaits In
In the spring or summer, predators and baitfish generally turn more active so
anglers want more wobble in their baits. A square-lipped crankbait,
pardon the pun, fills that bill since it makes more commotion and displaces
more water than other configurations. It also works well in thick cover,
thumping against objects where lunkers lurk.
"The warmer the water, the more aggressive I want a bait to work," Swindle
explained. "Everything swims faster in warmer water. In warm water, a bream
swims very erratically. When bass target bream, I throw a crankbait
that looks like a bream. If I'm throwing in shallow cover that I can see, I
always go with a fat, square-lipped crankbait. Square
bills deflect off shallow targets like stumps, or blow downs."
Most crankbaits have excellent action with little
help from the angler. Therefore, most anglers simply throw a crankbait into a likely looking honeyhole
and retrieve it steadily toward the boat, repeating the motion with little
variation in speed. That catches fish, but anglers who vary their retrieves
generally catch more and bigger bass.
"Very seldom do I just steadily retrieve a crankbait,"
Swindle said. "I don't jerk a crankbait either unless
I'm trying to clear the grass. Most crankbaits are
not designed for that kind of retrieve. The stop and go retrieve is probably
the most effective way to retrieve a crankbait. I
make a few turns on the reel and stop for a few moments. Then, I start winding
again. The more rounded a bait is, the more buoyant it is. If the bait bumps
something, just stop and it will float back up. When I'm bumping bottom, I let
it float up and then run it back down into the bottom again."
Bill length does not affect the bait action. The length only affects the
depth to which the bait generally runs and the angle of the dive. A crankbait with a large, square bill still makes a good
wobble, but just goes deeper than similar models with smaller bills. Baits with
long, scooped bills run deep, but can easily tire any angler repeatedly trying
to crank them back to the boat. However, they make good choices for trolling.
User Larger Lure In Shallows
"Often bass in shallow water want a big crankbait,"
Jones said. "I might take a crankbait that dives 12
feet deep and fish it on 30-pound line in five feet of water. I reel a crankbait very slowly, trying to feel the lip hit the
cover. When I hit the cover, I pause a second to let the lure float up over it.
I walk it down through cover, feeling my way and moving the bait with the rod
instead of the reel. On the edge of grass lines, I pick a
bait that runs down to the submerged tops. As soon as I feel the top of
the grass, I quit reeling and let the bait float up a bit. Then, I pull it with
my rod until I start feeling grass again."
Sometimes, bass like a particular color and configuration, but not the size of crankbait you are using so keep a variety of similar baits in different sizes handy. Anglers may need
to try the same basic lure, only in a larger or smaller size. Experiment with
colors, shapes and retrieves to see what works that day.
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