The Depth the Lure Will Run
The depth a standard crankbait runs depends on its size, its design, the line you are using, and how you crank it. All things being equal, larger crankbaits dive significantly deeper than smaller crankbaits. As far as we know there is no such thing as a small crankbait that can be fished deeper than 12 feet. No matter how the smaller crankbait is designed, it become unstable below about 10 feet.
Also, other things being equal the more surface area the bill has the deeper the crankbait will run. Therefore, to fish deep you have to choose a larger crankbait with a still larger lip.
I generally use ten to twelve-pound, green, monofilament line for crankbaits, and a fiberglass rod.
If the size line keeps the bait from running as deep as I would like, I switch to eight or ten-pound line, but at a real sacrifice: I lose more lures when fishing smaller diameter monofilament line.
Under these circumstances we may use fire-line or fusion-line so that I can obtain the depth we want with a line sufficiently strong that we get our lures back.
On the other hand, there may be times when I want my crankbaits to run shallower than normal. When this is the case, I tie on twenty-pound monofilament.
The length of the cast has a major influence on how deep a crankbait runs. The further you throw it, the deeper it gets. A lure swims along a parabolic path. When it lands in the water it is at zero depth.
Then as you retrieve it, it digs into the water deeper and deeper achieving its maximum depth after 20 yards of running; then, as it get near the boat it gradually ascends.
This means that you have to cast 40 yards from the boat to fish deep structure that is only twenty yards away. Novice fishermen think that the faster they crank, the deeper the bait will run, but this is not the case. When an angler over-cranks the bait, the lip bites the water at the wrong angle, and it loses depth. A crankbait achieves its maximum depth when cranked at a moderate steady speed.
Lure designers figured out a long time ago that the lip is the primary diving plane, but the lip must have something substantial behind it to work against.
This means that the same bill on a fat bait will run deeper than on a flat bait, and a longer bait will run deeper than a short bait. Some baits are designed to go deep while presenting a smaller profile.
When the bait is designed this way, its back becomes a part of the diving plane.
TUNING A CRANKBAIT
For a crankbait to work correctly it must be tuned correctly.
This simply means that it must run straight and the line must not hinder the lure's action. One of my friends regularly tunes his crankbaits in a neighbor's swimming pool.
He casts lures into the pool and then watches carefully how they run. If the lure is not running straight, he bends the eye slightly in the direction he wants the lure to run. He continues to do this until the lure runs absolutely straight.
After he has the lure running straight, he watches the wobble carefully. If the wobble appears inhibited in anyway he switches to a larger slip ring or he adds a snap between the slip ring and the line.
This fisherman knows that lures only achieve their design potential when they run true through the water.
We don't use a swimming pool, but we pay close attention to the tune of our crankbaits. As soon as one of them is not running true we bend the eye slightly in the direction we want the bait to run. We try not to over correct. Normally it only takes one or two attempts before we have the eye pointed correctly.
Now for a neat trick: We frequently tune a crankbait to run to the left or right on purpose. Why? To make the bait run underneath a boat dock, or to make it stay in contact with shore rocks.
When fishing a wind-blown, rocky shore, we often bend the lip so that the bait will run sideways in the waves and stay among the rocks. Under these circumstances, the additional time the lure is in quality waters is a strong plus, far exceeding any diminishing effect on lure performance.
KEEP CRANKBAIT HOOKS SHARP
There is no bait where hook sharpness it is more important than a crankbait.
Storm lures come with sufficiently sharp hooks, so do lures that say Excalibur or Gamagatsu on the box.
Occasionally we use different size hooks than those that came on the crankbait. We do this to change the lure's characteristics.
For example, by putting a slightly smaller treble-hook on the front hook-holder we can cause a crankbait to hang-up less.
And by putting a larger hook in this location we get more hook-ups, the lure runs slightly deeper and it suspends better.
THE CRANKBAIT RETRIEVE
Most people crank too fast.
When using a standard cranking speed and a 3.8:1 or 4.1:1 reel a Wiggle Wart will achieve a depth of about 10 feet, and the Wiggle Wart has its best wobble when pulled at this speed.
If the reel is changed to a 5:1 ratio, the depth will be slightly less than nine feet, and if a 6.3 ratio reel is used the lure will reach a depth of about seven feet.
But even more important: if you are high-speed cranking, you are losing the feel and touch that is so necessary to fishing a crankbait.
In a word: Slow Down.
Generally speaking, a moderate, steady retrieve works best for crankbaits, but herky-jerky, stop and goes techniques will sometimes induce a bass to strike when a steady retrieve is not working.