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AZ Lakes AZ Pros Matt Shura At Canyon Lake

Consider These Basics Of Crankbaits

Series: Arizona Lakes Arizona Pros | Story 42

A crankbait can easily evolve into one of your favorite go-to techniques any time of year.

Crankbaits = 'Idiot Baits'?

Crankbaits are sometimes called "idiot baits" because people have the idea that there is nothing to them but casting and winding. True, you can catch fish on a plug even if that is all you do, but if you take the time to figure out just which bait and retrieve to use a crankbait can easily evolve into one of your favorite go-to techniques any time of year.

Wobble, Wobble

Crankbaits wobble in the water. Some wobble a lot, some wobble a little. The wobbling displaces water and sends waves to a bass's lateral line, letting it know that something in the water is swimming a little weird. To a bass, this means a fairly easy meal. Sometimes the amount of wobble a bait has is the deciding factor. Fatter baits wobble more, as do wider bills. In general, less active fish prefer a tighter wobble.

Varying your retrieve is crucial to fishing crankbaits. Sometimes killing the bait occasionally will trigger a strike. A steady retrieve will catch a certain number of fish, but you'll catch a lot more if you do something to trigger the bites, such as crashing your crankbait into something. This something could be a stump, a rock, a piling -- whatever. If there aren't any obstacles where you're fishing, then crash into the bottom by choosing a deep-running crankbait.

Exceptions To Every Rule

There are exceptions to every rule. If you're fishing in the dark or in really muddy water, you'll have to keep your retrieve fairly steady in order for the fish to be able to home in on it. At night a darker lure is the best choice because it will show up better silhouetted against the sky as a bass comes up under and behind it. In muddy water, bright colors are easier for the fish to see.

Stocking Your Box

Buying crankbaits randomly, based on whatever looks good, can leave you scratching your head once you hit the water. You need to stock your tackle box logically. You need a variety of crankbaits that run shallow, medium, and deep. Matt Shura says that when he chooses a crankbait he buys three different models, each of which is designed for a different depth. The only thing that changes is the size of the bill. Deeper running baits have longer bills, but they present the same profile to the bass.

How Deep?

How deep a bait will run is usually printed prominently on the package, but sometimes this is an idealized goal. The actual depth you'll get out of a lure depends on the diameter of your line, the distance you can cast, and other esoteric stuff. Usually what it says on the box is a good starting point.

Despite what you may have been told, the speed of your retrieve does not affect the depth of your crankbait. How you hold the rod does, however. But try not to worry too much about that stuff. Once you've fished a bait a few times you'll know how deep it runs if you keep an eye on the depthfinder and notice when it runs into things. As with all things, your crankbait fishing will improve with practice.

Think About Colors

Once you've chosen a few models of each depth, it's time to think about colors and patterns. Some crankbaits are so beautiful that you almost hate the thought of putting them in the water. Remember that what attracts fishermen is not necessarily what attracts bass. What you need is baits that look like food. If shad are the primary forage in your lake, choose shad-pattern crankbaits. Shura likes to match either the shad or the crawdads, so he keeps colors basic. To start out, you'll need browns, whites, greens, and natural shad colors.

Out Of The Box

A lot of crankbaits nowadays are equipped with first-class hooks and good, solid split rings. This isn't always the case, though. Generally, if a crankbait has really good hooks on it they'll brag about it on the box. If it doesn't mention the hooks, you will be doing yourself a favor if you change them out. I've had big bass straighten out the cheap hooks on some crankbaits.

Even the best hooks can break or get dull after catching a few hundred big bass. Checking the hooks for sharpness and condition will pay off. Replace them as needed. Sometimes adding red hooks to a crankbait results in more bites.

Replace The Split Rings

You might want to put slightly larger hooks on the bait while you're at it. There are all kinds of different styles of treble hooks now. Gamakatsu has trebles with EWG style hooks, and Mustad Triple Grips are great, too. Whatever hook you choose, be sure to replace the split rings while you're at it. If a company is going to put cheap hooks on a bait, odds are they aren't buying first-class split rings, either.

While you're at it, replace the split ring at the front of the bait, too. Some lure companies are already using the oval split rings on the front of their lures, and they are fantastic. With an oval split ring, you don't have to worry about your line getting between the wires and getting damaged. They are incredibly strong, too.

Egg-Shaped Split Rings

There are also egg-shaped split rings that are made to spread apart with strong, constant pressure. You use them to attach the hooks to your lures, and if you get fatally snagged you just pull hard and smoothly and the hook comes off so you get your crankbait back.


Crankbaits need a little bit of line stretch. When you're choosing line you need to remember that the larger the diameter, the shallower your bait will run. Also, mono floats, so that will shallow up your bait, too. Fluorocarbon line sinks and has a small diameter, so you'll get a lot more depth out of it, plus you'll feel bites and get dynamite hooksets, too.

Just be careful to let the fish take the lure before you set the hook or you'll take it away from him. A soft rod is a big help. A lot of guys go with braid because of its small diameter and ability to cut through grass. For shallow-running crankbaits and topwater lures, mono is still the way to go, even for the high-tech crowd.

Graphite Rods

For a long time, everyone insisted that you had to have a glass rod for crankbaits. While it's true that fiberglass rods are slow and soft, making them great for crankbaits, it's also true that they are very heavy. Throwing a glass rod all day will flat wear you out. New technology has made dynamite graphite crankbait rods possible. They have all the greatest properties of glass plus the best of graphite, too. Most of the major rod companies have them.

Shopping for rods is a lot easier than it used to be. You used to have to know what action and power and length and whatever was best for the technique you'd be using the rod for. Now the rod manufacturers get pros who are known for certain techniques to design rods for them, and they put them in the stores clearly labeled: Crankin' Stick; Spinnerbait Rod; Worm Rod, etc.

Choosing Reels, Nets

Choosing a reel is pretty simple, too. With most anglers, a reel with about a 5.1:1 ratio is ideal for fishing crankbaits. A higher ratio will make you fish a plug too fast at a normal crank. If you're the hyper type who just can't slow down, you might even want to go to a 3.8:1 so you don't burn all your baits past the fish so fast that it scares them.

Nets make it easier to get a fish in the boat without sinking treble hooks into your hands, and coated nets are the way to go. If they're not coated they take the slime off the fish and that's pretty much a death sentence.

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