FISHING WITH THE CRANKIES!
There are still plenty of reasons to use less fashionable crank baits
LURE expert David Watkins-Smith reckons early season it pays to be a hard man, rather than a softie – in lure-fishing terms that is. With the predator world turning to soft baits, David considers that hard lures are still hugely relevant, particularly in summer. Known as ‘reactive’ baits, hard lures such as crank baits, tend to illicit aggressive attacks more readily because unlike drop shotting, where the lure is worked in one area, hard lures need to be constantly retrieved to produce their ‘action’. “Most lures are only coloured, hard or soft bodied items; it is the angler that really brings them to life,” David told us. “The beauty of crank baits is that they are very user-friendly. Attractive to all predators – pike, perch, zander and chub – you are able to simply cast one out and wind it straight back in if you want. The lure’s body shape and its lip size and angle will do all the fish-catching work for you. “But, by speeding up, slowing down, pausing and/or flicking the rod, you can impart even more erratic movement into the lure; something I guarantee will put more fish on the bank.”
Shape makes a difference
Cranks baits come in a variety of shapes and sizes from long and thin to short and fat. The targeted quarry will dictate the size and body shape to a degree. For chub, David uses short, stubby models up to 5cm, either ones which float, so they skip enticingly across the surface or ones with short, shallow noses designed to dive to a maximum of 40cm. For jack pike, perch and zander he will go larger, up to 12cm, using ones that dive slightly deeper, so more water is covered. “If the bottom is clean, I often use deep divers (ones you are able to ‘crank’ down
to 7ft in a 5ft swim, for example) so the nose scrapes and bumps along the floor on the retrieve, throwing up puffs of silt that resemble feeding prey fish,” explained David. “It is a little trick that has helped me put quite a few bonus fish on the bank.” Body shape is what makes each crank bait distinct. A short stubby body will create a very tight wobble, while a longer, thinner body will produce a lazier less erratic action. The key to success is trying to discover what produces the attack trigger on any given day – a fast, tight wobble or a slower, more rolling swimming action. Species-wise, perch and chub tend to prefer the tighter wobble and the high-pitch vibration produced from small stubby lures, whereas pike seem to prefer the slower wobble of a larger lure. To compare the two types to sound waves, stubby lures emit treble, while the longer, thinner lures create more of a longer, deeper bass tone. This is possibly why several species are attracted by the different body shapes. “There is no magic catchall lure shape,” said David. “Every day is different; hence the reason why so many lure anglers carry many different patterns.”
Nose profile is the other component that affects how a crank bait behaves. The size and angle of the nose will affect how deep it will dive when retrieved. The harder you crank the bait back, the deeper it will dive. On a river such as the Great Ouse, targeting perch, jacks and chub, David uses crank baits with short noses that only dive to a maximum of around two feet. “Unlike soft baits, which are allowed to sink before they are worked back, crank baits either sink slowly or float, so they work from the top down,” explained David. “Predators will see the silhouette and come up to attack. One thing I’ve had a lot of success doing is to cast and leave the bait on the surface for a few seconds before retrieving. The number of chub I’ve had after only one or two turns of the reel is incredible. It really is a great tip when using crank baits.” The other thing David likes regards his crank baits is to use ones that feature internal rattles. This is another feature that will help ignite a predator’s attack response. David reckons that you only really need a few crank baits to start with. A shallow diver in both muted and hi-viz colours and the same in a deep diving pattern. “As you become more experienced, you build up your collection to include lures of various shapes, sizes and colours but, as a starting point, these four basic types are perfect. The main thing is to cover as much water as you can, and enjoy doing it,” he concluded.
Long-nosed lures (left) dive deeper than ones with shorter noses which tend to shimmy higher up Fluorocarbon leaders are best for perch and chub but, if there are pike around, use a wire trace David always carries a range of sizes and colours of crankbaits because every session is different