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If the Fish Aren't Biting, Change Your Presentation

A standard crankbait runs through water with a downward sloping profile. The bait is continually trying to dive deeper but buoyancy and the line are continually forcing the bait toward the surface. The combination of these three forces causes the bait to run with a distinctly downward tilt and at a constant depth. Also, mark this well: water friction causes the treble hooks to tuck in under the body of the bait. Thus, seldom is a hook the first thing to hit structure or cover. The line hits the cover first, then the lip, then perhaps a hook. Tucked hooks do not drop until the crank bait stops.

When the line hits structure, you feel it and this is a signal to slow-down. This slowing causes the lure to rise so that it clears the obstruction without hanging up. Sometimes, after you slow down, the lure's bill still hits the obstruction. This is a signal to stop the retrieve totally, pause, then give the lure about three inches of slack.

When you give a standard crankbait slack it backs up and it rises. When you give a crankbait slack it goes upward and in the opposite direction at a forty-five degree angle. This causes the lure to clear the obstruction. Then you begin a slow retrieve and the lure goes over the top of the obstruction.

You should not consider yourself a crankbait fisherman until you have mastered this technique of finessing a crankbait through a brush pile.


When you first detect that you are hung-up, do not try to pull the lure free with force. If this is your approach, too often you will bury the hook deeper and make the lure harder to retrieve. Instead, give the lure slack, and position the boat so that you can pull the lure free from the opposite direction. Most of the time, this will free the lure. If it does not, while still pulling in the opposite direction from the hang-up, put pressure on the line and see if you can pull it free. Put as much pressure on the line as you can without breaking the line. While this pressure is on the line, twang the line several times as if it were a guitar string. Often the pressure and the twang will cause the lure to free itself. When it will not, it is time to use a plug-knocker.

Use a lure knocker in a last ditch effort to retrive your crankbait,sliding it down the line and knocking it against the lure and obstruction to free it.
When a crankbait gets hung, and it will not come loose using the techniques described in the preceding paragraph, snap the lure-knocker onto the line, holds the line straight-up with tension, and lowers the lure-knocker until it comes into contact with the crankbait. Then he bounces the lure knocker up and down; giving it slack, then taking up the slack. About 90 percent of time the lure-knocker will free the lure. The remaining 10 percent of the time you may lose your lure. But if your going to lose the lure anyway, what do you have to lose in trying to free it? Also remember this: If you do break-off, wait a few minutes and see if the crankbait floats to the surface. It will surprise you how often the crankbait's buoyancy will cause it to free itself as soon as the line breaks. Good crankbait fishermen don't lose nearly as many lures as you might think.

Choosing a Crank Bait Size

The crankbait may be the most versatile bait you can throw. Crankbaits can be worked from depths of six inches to twenty-feet, and crankbaits can be effective under a wide variety of water conditions. Try to match the size of the crankbait to the size of the baitfish the bass are foraging on. This means that we tend to throw larger crankbaits in the spring and in the fall, and smaller crankbaits in the summer. Often, in the summer you will find us throwing a small crankbait with spinning tackle. If the lake has a 15 inch length limit, we are more apt to throw a larger bait simply because we will catch fewer short fish (big bass tend to bite big baits).

Another consideration is the depth we wish to fish. It is a simple fact: you cannot run a small crankbait as deep as you can a larger crankbait. When we are fishing deeper than ten feet, we will be throwing a larger crankbait to achieve additional depth. We also use larger crankbaits when we are fishing a deep-running crankbait shallow! This may sound like a contradiction in terms, but it is not. A crankbait designed to run deep has a large bill and it swims at a distinctly downward angle. Let us assume this bait's design causes it to run 15 feet deep, and we are fishing it in five feet of water. Here is what happens. That crankbait runs along the bottom with its bill rooting a path in the mud. It leaves a stream of mud behind, and when it hits a rock or a limb it makes a clunking sound, then deflects upward or to the side. This is a very effective way to fish a deep-running crankbait. Occasionally you will hang-up, but since the water is only five feet deep it is relatively easy to use the rod to get the bait lose.

We use a variation of this technique when fishing riprap. Here is how we fish riprap with crankbaits. We begin by casting at a forty-five degree angle to the riprap and we land the bait in about six inches of water. Then we start finessing the bait down and away from the riprap. This way the bait bangs from one rock to another, from six inches deep to eight feet deep, before it starts running clear. When we find the depth the fish are holding, we vary the presentation so that we are fishing more parallel to the rip-rap, and we waste less time running the lure at unproductive depths.

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