Changing from other baits to a crankbait is a tough decision to make unless you are a crank fanatic and just fish them all the time. I always have a rod on deck with a crank tied on and will throw it from time to time when worming is tough or little is ha
“Change to Cranks” Changing from other baits to a crankbait is a tough decision to make unless you are a crank fanatic and just fish them all the time – Lionel Crow
But this is just a guess and a chance, not a calculated decision, but if I’m lucky and trigger a reaction strike I will continue with the crank for some time. A calculated guess will be if I am fishing plastics and find that I am getting hit as I am retrieving faster to recast and fish take on the faster action, or if I see there is a lot of bait fish in the water and bass are actively feeding on them, and if the wind is pumping and the surface is choppy and fishing anything else is difficult. These are for me certain times for changing to a crank.
Selecting a crank to fish should also be as calculated as possible to attain the best results. Things to take into consideration are type and size and colour of baitfish for the time of year or dam you are fishing, the depth that the fish are feeding at, the depth of the water that you are fishing in and the colour of the water you are fishing in (baitfish will change their colour according to the colour of the water or structure they are found around). My crankbait box consists of one or two surface lures such as the Wake Shad, a number of Series 5 and 6 Strike King cranks and plenty of Red Eye Shads of different sizes and colours. Lipless cranks are my ‘go-to’ cranks almost every time before tying on something else. I find they match the baitfish better than most and the rattle attracts the feeding bass as well. As far as choosing the right colour to fish with, I will try and match the baitfish with natural colours first - I believe that the Red Eye Shad in Majjorra is the most natural looking of all the colours but will have its days when it needs to be replaced with a darker or brighter colour, but those are very few. I have found that if you are having trouble trying to match the hatch colour wise, a chrome Silver or Gold will normally match anything in our waters and perform exceptionally well in stained water. I was never a great believer in the notion that a rod and reel played a great role in my successes with cranks as I believed that as long as the crank was in
the water and being retrieved at the right speed and depth, it would have the same results. But I was horribly wrong as I discovered during a tournament at Goedetrouwe Dam a couple of years back. It was a tough comp with bites few and far between - I got a 4.2kg early in the morning at the outlet then struggled the rest of the day until I discovered the crankbait bite was on. I was fishing the banks opposite the hotel with a Series 6 Chartreuse/White crank catching mainly catfish (and some monsters at that) but soon started picking up big bass, most in the region of 4kg- plus but never put one on the boat because every time they jumped they threw the baits. I was fishing a 7.4 medium heavy rod designed for cranking but very heavy to throw, and even after a few days could certainly feel I had been cranking. My reel was a 6.3:1 ratio spooled with 20lb mono and I was willing to bend the hooks straight in order to retrieve a snagged crank - I thought I was well equipped, but did I learn a lesson!
Many factors affect the swimming of a crank and to be more effective it’s advisable to take some time and think about the action you need to achieve. The lip length and design will have the main effect on the way the crank moves but it is also be affected by line diameter, retrieval rate, rod position, rod action, rod length and the waters you are fishing, namely grassy, rocky structure or timber, choppy or calm waters and so on.
Starting with reels - and we can write a whole book on this – many will tell you the ideal cranking reel is a 5:1 or slower ratio reel. The reason they give for this is that the longer the crank is in the water, the better the chance of it reaching its desired depth and staying there, and that a slower retrieve has better fighting power, but the down side to a slow retrieve is its inability to take in the slack quickly enough if needed: for example if the fish jumps or swims directly towards you. Slower retrieve ratios are more suited for deep, open waters, subtle presentations in the shallows or powering through grass. A high ratio reel will be more effective for burning baits over grass beds or shallow waters, but can also be used in deep open water to bring a crank to a desired depth quickly (but then it takes discipline to slow it down once it is in the zone). A high speed reel also gives you more control when playing a fish.
Spooling the reel can also be crucial to the effectiveness of the crank - by far the best choice is a nylon or copolymer line, but I’ve seen guys fishing cranks with braid and fluorocarbon, usually in heavy structure where feeling your way through the rough stuff is essential, and braid is particularly good for top water baits as it floats better than most other lines and also keeps the action of the crank true instead of pulling it under.
There are many different rods designed specifically for cranking. The longer rods seem to be more popular than the shorter ones mainly because you can get better distance on a longer rod, and the further out the crank goes the better chance it has of reaching its effective depth when retrieved. But cranks come in many different sizes and weights and certain baits will be more effective on certain
rods - you obviously won’t find one specific crankbait rod that can handle all types of cranks. The rod also makes a difference in hook set and there are a lot of different views on this - the pros on TV seem to sweep the rod or reel into the loaded rod more than a heavy yank that will more than often pull the hooks. And the sweep is normally the instant you feel the rod load up or the crank stops its usual wiggle. Unlike plastics that are soft and feel natural to the bass the crank is hard and doesn’t feel right in its mouth and will be spat the moment it’s tasted (if you have seen Glen Lau s “Big Mouth Forever” there are some scenes of bass spitting cranks full of trebles with ease) so the sweep must be instant and striking is for free. Some pro anglers believe that the hook set is after the strike and once you have felt the weight of the fish on the rod, in other words striking and setting the hooks are two different actions. The rod is used for playing a fish back to the boat once hooked and a longer rod will give you the ability to play it better by keeping it out of structure, away from sharp propeller blades and so on, but remember that by keeping the rod high you are manipulating the bass into coming to the surface and urging it to jump. You have less control on an airborne bass and this is when they tend to spit the cranks the most. Another time is when you force the rod into the water to prevent the jump, but the moment the rod tip is in the water you will lose tip action and are in danger of over powering the fish and ripping the hooks.
My favourite area for throwing cranks is rip rap where I enjoy bumping the crank off rocks and trees; my second favourite is open flats where I take the boat out to the desired depth - especially if there is structure such as rocks on the bottom – and then work parallel to the bank at that specific depth. For example when throwing the series 5 Strike King cranks I position the boat at 3.5m, then I know the crank will be running just above the floor but will bump into anything that is sitting just off the bottom. Thirdly lipless cranks can be fished in many areas at any depth but I prefer to fish them in and around grass, and then also square-lipped cranks in structure such as timber and grass, basically areas where you would normally consider tying on a spinnerbait.
Cranks are very effective as they cover lots of water very fast and are competition winners; if you take the time to master them you will have another tool in your box that will help with your quest to beat the odds, whether it be in competitions or just socially. My suggestion is to leave your plastics and jigs at home and only take your box of cranks, force yourself to fish them - and don’t be scared to put them into structure and grass but get yourself a good lure retriever. Ideally you would want to hire a professional diver on your first couple of outings, but retrieving cranks is part of the lessons you need to learn if you are going to master them properly.
Quality speed clips (not swivels) allow for quick bait changes and enhanced bait movement
Keep colour selection simple- to match baitfish, water clarity and weather conditions
Red Eye Shad