In this article I’ll try to explain the basics of how to fish crankbaits for the beginning bass fisherman. The crankbait is probably the easiest lure to fish in the bass fisherman’s tackle box. With this lure you only have to make the cast and reel it back in. I will not be going into the advanced stages of fishing this lure in this article but will in a later article. There are a lot of different sizes, types and styles of crankbaits out there and each has its place in our tool box (tackle box). We all need to remember that fishing tackle, rods, reels, line types, line weights, lure types and styles are tools used to try and catch bass.
The Tools (Rods, Reels, Lines, Snaps, lures)
The Rod: We will start off with a basic rod used for fishing crankbaits. For most purposes and most basic crankbaits we’ll start off with a rod length of 6’6” to a 7’ rod in either a fiberglass rod or an IM6 graphite rod. I actually prefer a fiberglass rod in 7’ to 7’11” length. But for the beginner we will stick with the shorter lengths. In this article I will be using or talking about a bait casting setup only no a spinning setup or a spincast setup.
The action of the rod should be a “medium or moderate” action which will allow the rod to give a little before the angler feels the fish bite or inhale the lure and have time to swallow the crankbait before he feels it hit and jerks the crankbait away from the bass. Look for a rod in the $35 to $50 dollar range; I actually like one from a major fish outlet that only cost $14.99. This rod comes in either a 7’ or a 7’6” model and is entirely made of fiberglass and is a medium action rod at the most.
When I talk of “medium or moderate” action I am talking about a rod that bends from the middle of the rod all the way to the tip. This action rod will Not be as sensitivity as a graphite IM8, IM10, HM or a 40 ton rod but we are not after sensitivity at this point.
As for reels we need a slow rate of retrieve not a high speed reel such as a 6.4:1 or a 7.1:1 but instead are recommending a 5.4:1 gear ratio. This gear ratio will not tire us out after fishing the crankbait all day. Later on we will talk about a high speed reel for a crankbait type such as a lipless lure like a Rat-L-trap or Redeye Shad. With this reel gear ratio we can keep the crankbait moving a slow to fast rate of speed that will catch fish on a crankbait. I fish this gear ratio about 95 percent of the time and catch a lot of bass on this setup. Most combo setups that you will find at the larger sporting goods stores will have high speed reels and medium heavy action rods. So you will probably have to put together a rod and reel combo yourself. If you want a good reel but will have to sped around $125 to $160 dollars then I recommend either a Shimano Citica CI200G5 or a Shimano Currado CU200G5 reel.
There are a lot of line types and weights on the market for fishing but for the beginner I’d recommend that you use a good quality of monofilament line such as Berkley’s XL or any good monofilament line. I use 10 pound test in this line for most of my crankbait fishing. I also use a monofilament line made by Mr. Crappie in 10 pound test that is very strong. I recommend that you use either “clear” or “green” colored line for most crankbait fishing conditions.
You can either tie directly to the split ring on the crankbait or use a “snap” for fast changing of lures without having to retie every time you want to try a different lure.
There are a huge number of crankbaits on the market in different sizes, depth ranges, colors and actions. Some float then dive, some are deep divers, medium depth divers, shallow divers and some are designed to suspend at what ever depth to decide you want it to stay at. We must consider the crankbaits as tools again and they are designed to fish at a certain depth. Let’s assume you are fishing from the bank and are throwing out into water that is only 6 feet deep. In this cast you would not want to throw a crankbait that is a deep diver that runs down to 12 feet deep. You would want a crankbait that runs at either 6 feet deep to at the most one that would run 8 feet deep. For a crankbait to be most effective you want it running on the bottom or digging in as you reel it back in. A crankbait that runs on the bottom is causing two things to happen, it is stirring up the bottom creating a sound or it is deflecting off when it hits something such as a rock, stump or some other object connected to the bottom. These deflections will cause a bass that is following the lure to strike the lure as it changes direction or action. The bass in most cases a opportunistic feeder and will try to eat anything it can get into its mouth if it thinks it is a food source.
Floaters: These lure are designed to run either on the surface of the water or just under the surface. The bass consider the top of the water an edge and will push baitfish up to be able to catch and eat them when they can. Sometimes you will see fish busting bait fish on the surface and I recommend you throw one of these types of crankbaits into the middle of the busting fish.
The squarebill designed to fish at a shallow depth usually to about 4 to 5 feet deep and usually has a wide wobble as it is retrieved. If you’ll notice the lip or bill of these lures are short and squared designed, the squarebill allows the lure to deflect up and or off to the side of things like stumps or limbs without hanging the hooks. You can fish these lures slow or fast depending on the mood the fish want the retrieve speed. This style of crankbait is usually used in shallow water and around cover such as stumps, fallen trees and shallow weed beds.
Medium Diver Crankbaits.
This is probably the most popular style crankbait on the market, these usually run about 6 feet to 10 feet deep. These are usually retrieved at a little faster speed and are excellent choices around the deeper points and rock structure such as rip-rap breaks the bill is a little longer and more rounded to get the lure deeper on the retrieve. One of the most popular lures is the Bomber Model A #6 crankbait. There are others such as Bandits 200 series, Strike Kings #4 to #5 sizes to name a few.
These crankbaits are designed to be used when the bass is at deeper depths down to 15 feet or so since the lips or bills are longer and more rounded. The larger types that have the longer and wider bills will usually require a different setup on rods, reels and lines types. The deeper divers we will be talking about will be the Bomber Model A #7’s, Bandit’s 300 series, the Norman Deep Little N and Strike Kings #6 and 6XD models. I usually start out with a medium to slow retrieve first and speed up or slow down the retrieve depending on what the fish want at the time. Speeds will vary from day to day, season to season and even hour to hours so try different speeds before starting to swap out lures.
Man this is one area where most fishermen will differ on. I personally think and use natural colors most of the time. If the water is stained or colored then I’ll usually go to either bright color such as the chartreuses, reds, bright greens or even black. Consider color as tweaking after you determine the speed, depth and action the bass want. When you have everything dialed in the lure will usually be inhaled or entirely in the bass mouth. If the water is clear (visibility down to 3 feet or more) I’ll use a shad colored or natural pattern. If I have no luck on this pattern after about fifteen minutes I’ll usually go to a lure with a blue or green hue to it and try for another fifteen minutes or so. If I’m around heavy cover, weeds, trees or stumps for example I’ll switch up to a bluegill pattern. Again, color is a tweak after you establish the other things first.
I hope this helps you out as a beginner to the basics of crankbait fishing. So get out there and try a few of these great fish catching lures. Send me a few photos of the fish you catch on them and I’ll post them on my blog.