Tips for better crankbait fishing

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, February 8, 2017

In my last column we looked at jerkbaits for wintertime bass fishing; this time let’s look at crankbaits.

Crankbaits are one of the most diverse and numerous lures for bass fishing there is. Most anglers, whether novice or professional, have at least a few new or rusty crankbaits in their box. Crankbaits can be divided into several categories, but the main ones are diving depth, action, and color.

Go into any tackle store and you may be overwhelmed at all the size, color, style and price options. As usual, I like to keep things simple, so there are a few things to keep in mind.

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Depth. Crankbaits can run from 0-30 feet or more, but most of the time, 4-12 feet is where you will spend most of your casts. It is a good idea to have baits that run 0-2 feet, 4-8 feet, and 12-16 feet; this lets you cover most of the water column that feeding fish will be in, and if you get more in depth at crankbaits, you can add the deeper stuff for summer.

Most winter crankbait fish are caught less than 15 feet, as even winter fish will move shallower to feed and these are prime times to be throwing crankbaits.

Actions of crankbaits may not seem like a big deal, but it can make all the difference. Colder water calls for a more streamlined action, or a tighter wiggle, if you will. These crankbaits tend to have a longer body, a narrower lip. This tends to match the more lethargic moods of cold-water bass.

Color options are endless, one angler will swear by one color, the next by a different one. There are some basics when choosing colors.

The water clarity is probably the biggest factor. Clearer water calls for more natural colors, and matching the baitfish colors may help. Dirty or muddy water calls for visible colors, two of the best for muddy water is red and chartreuse. Having an assortment can be a help.

Suspending crankbaits can make a difference too, much like suspending jerkbaits. Stopping your retrieve and letting the crankbait just “hover” in place can make a curious fish bite. This is best done after hitting something with your bait, like a stump, tree limb, or the bottom. The sudden change of action followed by a pause are two of the best tips I can give you for crankbait fishing. Reeling them thru open water may work from time to time, but deflecting baits off of cover or structure are paramount.

Some of the best, if not the best, winter crankbaits are made by Rapala. The tried and true Shad Rap is still hard to beat after decades of use. The tight wiggle is second to none for cold water. Although these baits don’t dive very deep, the action makes up for it. A #5, #7, and #9 are excellent choices; the tiny #5 is kind of hard to cast it’s so light, but sometimes it’s all the fish will eat.

Some good shad rap colors are black/silver, chartreuse/pearl, fire tiger, and crawdad. The crawdad and black/silver are my two best by far.

Winter crankbait fishing can be endurance, you may fish several hours without a bite, then run across a school of feeding fish and have an outstanding day in a short amount of time, so just keep casting.