Crankbait Savvy Tips

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What colors are best?

Lure Colors

Much has been made about lure colors and which colors are best under certain conditions. A tip to remember is that bright colors such as red, chartreuse and sparkle colors should be used for darkly stained or muddy water and more natural colors like green, black and silver used in water where fish are relying more on their eyesight to locate prey. Night fishing, oddly enough, often requires black. The dark crankbait body can be seen against the dim light in the night-time sky by a fish deeper than the lure.

How do I make my floating crankbait run deeper?

Weighting Your Line Without Killing Your Lure's Action

As a child I used to pub a split shot or two on the line right in front of my floating crankbait to make it run a little deeper. In theory, it works, but the result is a bait with less wobble and zing. Try putting that same split shot two feet up the line and the bait will maintain more of its action. The more distance between your line weight and the bait, the more action is preserved.

Attaching a commercial lure weight to the crankbait body can accomplish the same thing and the lure will run a little lower in the water on a straight retrieve or trolling. Depending on how much weight and where you attach it will determine how much it affects the lure's action. If you really want to fish deeper, you may be better off to switch to a countdown lure or a spinnerbait.

While fishing sandy or rocky bottom for bass or walleyes, tie on a diving crankbait and then enough weight to keep the bait right on the bottom. The crankbait will kick up sand and click against the rocks, powerful stimuli to a predator looking for a meal.

How can I up my odds for predator species in the late fall and early winter?

Weighted Crankbaits for Coldwater Fish

At times, the slowest, most sluggish-looking crankbait will be the one taking the fish. As water temperatures nose dive with the oncoming winter, fish metabolism slows and energy is at a premium. Bass, pike, muskies and walleyes are interested in big, easy-to-catch meals. You can cash in on the action by sacrificing one of your large crankbaits to a little self-modification. Attach a few weights designed for lures with just enough extra on the rear of the lure to tip that end downward a little more than the front end. The look you're trying to achieve is of a heavy-bodied preyfish with not long to live. The sluggish, haphazard dipping of the lure on the retrieve will send the signal that here's one that won't be hard to catch.

What sized crankbaits should I use for pond fishing?

Tiny Crankbaits Can Hit the Spot

When fishing for bass, large crappies and other predators that inhabit ponds and small lakes, the smaller crankbaits will sometimes out-produce the larger versions of the same bait. The predators prey more often on young-of-the-year bluegills than on older preyfish simply because most of the preyfish never reach heftier sizes. A big crankbait looks unfamiliar and alarming. Tiny cranks are the norm as far as normal prey is concerned and the predators are conditioned to eat creatures in the one- to three-inch size ranges.

How can I make my crankbaits weedless?

Fishing Weedless

Cast a crankbait with two treble hooks into the middle of a weed bed and you'll have a mess on your hands. There's not anything particularly natural about a small creature dragging a three-foot trail of weeds behind him. You can still fish the weedy areas where fish are concentrated with crankbaits with a simple modification. Snip the forward of a three-pronged treble hook off so that weeds will tend to slide right over the hook. You'll have to do it with both trebles. If your bait is a high-dollar lure with quality hooks, simply use split-ring pliers to remove the original trebles and replace them with cheaper hooks that you won't mind modifying.

What about the new super baits?

Ignore the Latest "Super Bait"

Marketing directors for bait manufacturers know that their job is to sell baits to anglers first, and make sure the lures catch fish second. Have you ever looked at a topwater bait? The realistic frog pattern, life-like eyes and natural coloration are all on top of the lure, not on the bottom where the fish can see it. The bait caught the angler and won't necessarily catch fish.

This is the tack that new "super baits" take. Claims are inflated with promises of results, none of which can be substantiated. The manufacturers leave a wake behind them of disappointed anglers and tackleboxes stocked with baits that are pretty much a waste of time.

There are plenty of tried-and-true baits on the market that catch fish consistently. Stick with what works.

What's the best way to store my lures?

Hassle-Free Storage

Lures stored in a tacklebox may go in nicely but come out in a tangled mess of hooks. Not only do you run the risk of a poked finger while trying to pull out an old stand-by, the sharp points scratch up the finishes on the lure bodies.

Proper lure storage means keeping your assorted baits separate. Most tackleboxes already present a couple of trays with individual slots. Most tackleboxes are also woefully short of slots so a lot of baits end up in the bottom of the box. Buy small plastic sleeves or tubes that have caps that a single lure can fit into. With your crankbaits individually wrapped, so to speak, you can store them in whatever type of container you like. Just remember that the lures will need to be removed from their sleeves and tubes when you get home so they can dry out. If you seal wet lures in plastic you're asking for rusty hooks and mildewed crankbaits.

Crankbaits should be stored out of temperature extremes. A tacklebox on the dash on a sunny day can result in melted plastic baits. Dipping winter temperatures means that plastic parts of the lure will crack if handled too roughly.

How do I get my lure to track straight?

Tuning Your Crankbait

If your lure tracks to the side you can easily use a pair of needlenose pliers to correct the problem. If the lure tracks to the left, bend the small metal tow point or line tie to the right. If it's pulling off to the right during the retrieve, bend the wire to the left. Don't over-bend the wire. When the lure tracks straight on, you're in the right position. There may be times that you want to track off to the side such as when you're trying to bump rocks or dock posts, swim the bait up under an overhang or just give the fish something they haven't seen. You can easily adjust the lure to travel where you want it.

How do I use a countdown bait?

Countdown to Success

Try counting down your sinking lure to find what depth the fish are holding. Many manufacturers are marketing crankbaits that sink at about a foot a second and you can take advantage of this to pinpoint how deep the fish are concentrating. Cast the lure out and count down "one thousand one, one thousand two" and so on, then retrieve the bait. Continue casting and counting down a foot deeper with every cast. When your bait gets hit you'll know how deep your next cast should be allowed to sink before retrieving it. Try fishing at this depth or a little shallower. Muskies, bass, pike and other fish will usually rise to take a bait but often overlook one sailing by in the water column beneath them.

If you can determine how quickly a spinnerbait flutters down to a prescribed depth, you can use this bait for controlled depth fishing as well providing the blade is a willow blade. Colorado and Indiana blades give the bait too much lift.

Can I add a trailer hook to my crankbait?

Trailer Hooks

Crankbaits can sometimes be made more effective if you add a trailer hook. A small bucktail or single hook with a soft plastic worm or lizard can excite a lethargic bass. Remove the rear treble hook with split ring pliers and attach the trailer hook to the split ring. This will change the action of the lure so your first cast should be an experimental one. If you like the action or take a fish on the first cast, you're in business. If you don't like it, it's easy to change.

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Jerry Mayo
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