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Basics of Crankbaiting Part I

Basics of Crankbait Fishing
Which artificial lure is the least understood by the average bass fisherman? Without a doubt, it is the crankbait! Second question: Which bait is most often fished incorrectly? Same answer: the crankbait! And if the third question were which effective lure is the most underused, you get the same answer: the crankbait! Of all the lures bass fisherman throw, the crankbait is the least understood, it is fished incorrectly more often than it is fished correctly, and it is underused. In this lesson we will try to overcome a few basic misconceptions concerning crankbait fishing. Please note the word standard in the lesson title. Here is how we are using this word: The cross-section of a standard crankbait is more round than flat, and the standard crankbait has a distinctive lip (diving plane) beneath its nose. This lure is the subject of this lesson. In later lessons we discuss other crankbait configurations: flat-sided, lipless, long, skinny crankbaits, and the like.

Standard Crankbait Techniques
If a person is to fish a standard crankbait effectively, this person must keep it hitting something! Perhaps the biggest misconception held by the novice bass fisherman is this: Since a crankbait tends to hang-up on cover and structure, it should be thrown where it can run unobstructed and will not hang up. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is true that a crankbait's treble hooks tend to hang-up. It is also true that a crankbait that is not hitting something doesn't catch fish. So, what's the bottom line here? The bottom line is this: basic to fishing a crankbait is learning how to bounce it off cover and structure without consistently getting hung-up. Just as basic is learning how to get a crankbait loose, once it hangs-up. And also just as basic: you are going to lose a few crankbaits. Let's take these issues one at the time.

  The Feel of a Crankbait
Fishing a crankbait requires more concentration than any other lure. When fishing a crankbait you must concentrate on the feel. Stay alert, you are constantly feeling the wobble of the crankbait and paying close attention to the feel of that wobble. As soon as the feel changes, the lure is near something other than water. More often than not, the line hitting something causes the feel to change. Before a crankbait hits a limb or a rock, the line hits the obstruction.
And the feel of the line hitting the obstruction is a signal to slow down. Then, when the lure hits the obstruction, you give it a few inches of slack, then retrieve it slowly past the obstruction; then you begin the process all over again. Most strikes occur during the two or three seconds between when you slow the retrieve and when you start retrieving again at a normal speed. Another thing that can cause a diminishing wobble of a crankbait is a bass. If a bass takes a crankbait from behind, you will not feel the bite. Instead, the wobble goes away. You should set the hook. At least fifty percent of the fish that strike a crankbait take it from behind and are not felt by the fisherman. Instead, the fisherman feels an absence of wobble. This phenomenon can happen anywhere, but it often happens after the lure has left its running depth and is getting nearer the boat. As the lure nears the boat, set the hook anytime you detect a subtle difference in wobble. More than likely you will catch a fish, but when you do not, the hook-set costs you nothing. When fishing a crankbait you are feeling for three different sensations. The first is the feel of the line hitting structure or cover. This feel alerts you to the fact that it is time for you to finesse the crankbait through cover. The second sensation is the feel of a bass taking the lure from behind. This feel tells you to set the hook. And the third sensation is the granddaddy of them all: a bass tries to take the rod and reel away from you. For many bass fishermen this is the only feel they know. These fishermen are not even aware that they are missing well over fifty percent of their strikes. Is there a difference in the feel between a crankbait sucked in by a bass and the line touching structure? Generally yes, but having said this, all crankbait fishermen from time to time set the hook on a twig, a small limb, or a weed. There is some structure that tends to feel like a bass has just vacuumed-in the bait, but most structure feels enough different that an alert fisherman knows when to set the hook and when not too.

Developing a Sense of Feel
When I was trying to learn how to fish crankbaits, the first thing I would do is load a sensitive rod and reel combination with fire-line or fusion-line, 14 pound test. Why fire or fusion-line? Because they are at least ten times as sensitive as monofilament, and to develop a sense of feel you should use sensitive line. I would also use a medium-light action graphite rod. Why? Because graphite rods transmit more of the feel to your hands than any other rod. Again, we are trying to enhance the feel of the crankbait as it runs through the water, as it hits structure, and as a bass takes it. Will this rig catch more bass for you? You bet. Particularly, if you have been missing bass because you didn't feel the bite. But we hasten to add, as soon as you have developed the feel, you should switch to monofilament and a rod designed specifically for crankbait fishing. Anyway you hack it, fishermen don't land as many bites when fishing crankbaits as when fishing spinnerbaits. This is fundamental to crankbait fishing. But the good fishermen land a surprisingly large percentage of their bites because the combination of monofilament and a quality crankbait rod has give, a controlled and precise give. This give delays the hook set by a fraction of a second and this delay increases the percentage of hook-ups considerably. This is why we do not fish fire-line or fusion-line when crankbaiting. The give of monofiliment is a decided plus.

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Crankbaits I
Crankbaits II
Crankbaits III

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