“Retrieval Techniques – Crankbaits (Part 5)”
I go to bed at night thinking about one particular occasion where modifying a retrieval action changed a day of fishing into something incredible. I’m boiling over with stories from past experiences out on the water, crankbait fishing for bass – Roger Donaldson
Igo to bed at night thinking about one particular occasion where modifying a retrieval action changed a day of fishing into something incredible. I’m boiling over with stories from past experiences out on the water, crankbait fishing for bass. I’m going to settle with you and admit that targeting bass on a crankbait is amongst my top three strategies.
If you’re thinking to yourself, “Hang on, surely you cast and retrieve no matter what crankbait I’m fishing?” Well you’re not entirely wrong, but there’s really so much more you can do that turns your retrieve from dull, to structure specific and reaction inducing. Here are my top three days I’ve enjoyed and the small differences which significantly enhanced the days catch:
Renosterkop Dam with a lipless crankbait
recollections, as shallow fishing like this is quite unusual. If any of my fishing friends are reading this I’m sure they’re grinning already.
It goes without saying that the lipless crankbait is a perfect tool in searching for bass around grassy cover. This time I had found myself gravitating towards very shallow water (2 to 5ft deep) and sparsely dotted with tendrils of vegetation rising up from the bottom.
Over the years, I’ve quickly learned that bass do not like a crankbait with hooks trailing any weed, or vegetation. You need to be vigilant about fishing around the vegetation, or have the ability to rip the hooks free during your retrieve. With the hooks holding any foreign matter, the lures natural swimming action will be lost and you cannot deliver an enticing profile for the bass.
In this situation three important points were practiced. Keep your rod tip elevated to stay away from the silt on the shallow bottom, guide your lure around the vegetation to prevent snagging, confirm the baits natural pulsating action in the tip of the rod and in your hands by keeping check with the pace of your retrieve. Too slow - no feel, no bite.
Final result: Ten fish in ten minutes, including three fish over 2kg and one over 3kg.
Nandoni deep down with a DD22
On the opposite end of the spectrum, deep water (16 to 20ft) crankbait fishing is in a world of its own. I’m always surprised by the quality of fish that this technique produces.
Nandoni dam provides some truly spectacular, quality, deep water opportunities enhanced by flooded
timber, shale banks, creek channels, and underwater brush piles. It really is a bass fisherman’s dream venue. On one particular occasion though I was going to put the largest crankbait I owned to good use and probe the deep water just off the hard gravel banks.
Crankbaits with a very large lip and body are quite taxing to fish. Firstly, a long cast is very important. This will enhance your ability to retrieve the bait down to its designed depth and then work it long enough before the lure starts rising again at the end of your retrieve. Secondly, the large lip displaces a substantial amount of water compared to smaller ones. Therefore, you need to put in far more effort winding and holding against the pressure in order to get the most desirable swimming action. This will only be realised by a very prominent thumping feeling in your fingertips and through the backbone of the rod. If the lure is thumping the bass will be jumping!
Final result: First fish 3,8kg and the largest of the event. Albert Falls flats and the DT10
When the dam level is full, the flooded brush and young wattle trees out on Albert Falls Dam Ridge provide for some excellent hunting grounds around the spring time. In this area I caught the most bass in twenty minutes on a crankbait to date. I didn’t make a cast without landing a fish, but the retrieval technique was crucial.
The crankbait I rigged is designed to swim at a depth of 10ft. The day we were fishing the Ridge area the limbs and tips of the flooded structure started at around 5ft and as we ventured off the plateau the depth would gradually increase to around 15ft – perfect!
The key was also to vary the elevation of your rod tip - high when shallow and then lowered gradually as the depth increased. The fish were moving in toward the shallows using the tops of the submerged structure as their migratory route. By skipping the crankbait nimbly over the top it was the prime intersection to encounter our target species, the largemouth bass. Only, beware to allow your fingertips to feel when your crankbait runs up against the outstretched branches. Halt your retrieve for a second or two and then slowly trickle the lure through and past.
Final result: Catching twenty fish consecutively on a crankbait in a matter of only twenty minutes, each fish weighing between one and 2kg was exhilaration to fuel a lifetime of memories.
As we approach the dead of winter I am sure you will be able to place these techniques well and use them to improve your cold water fishing strategies.
*Roger Donaldson is an experienced journalist and knowledgeable bass angler who has enjoyed many enlightening hours with many of South Africa’s top, competitive bass fishermen. As a competitive angler himself, he also enjoys sharing his expertise with fellow bass fanatics in the hope that they find the same joy in this unique sport.