Tie on a crankbait for bass

When my dad and I started bass fishing back in the early ’90s, we used one style of lure predominantly to catch our fish: crankbaits.
Shallow-running, fat-bodied crankbaits do a great job of imitating fleeing crayfish, and they were our number-one lure choice when we started bass fishing.
The first year we fished the Kenora Bass International in 1993, I think we had a crankbait tied on every rod we owned.
Fast forward a few years and for about a six- or seven-year period from the late ’90s up until about 2005, I don’t think I even packed a crankbait in my boat to use for bass.
We just stopped using them, choosing jerkbaits and topwater lures instead to cover water.
There is a perception amongst many of the serious bass anglers across Sunset Country that crankbaits only catch small bass. Over the past few seasons, however, I’ve realized that isn’t the case.
Under the right conditions, crankbaits catch big fish and have been a key lure in high tournament finishes for my partners and I over the past couple of years.
Crankbaits have shined for me fishing the stained water on Lake of the Woods around Kenora and on the south arm on Rainy Lake, where crayfish are the main forage for smallmouths.
A crayfish-coloured Rapala DT4 or DT6 finds the bottom quickly and wiggles along just begging “smallies” to bite. Look for areas where sand meets up with boulders, places that you know crayfish inhabit, and you’ll likely connect with smallmouths all summer long.
I’m a big Rapala fan because they make a variety of great crankbaits that are well made and catch fish. The DT series they’ve had on the market for several years now stands for Dives-To (the DT4 means that it dives about four feet deep while the DT6 will dive six feet on a regular cast).
In this line, Rapala has you covered from one to 20 feet.
When you go about choosing a crankbait, you want one that will make contact with the bottom a little bit on the retrieve. Every time it hits a rock or log on the bottom, it will reflect in an erratic manner and this can be a major influence in triggering fish to strike.
At the International Falls bass tournament, held annually in late August, anglers fish one day on the American side of Rainy Lake and one day on the Rainy River. Scott Dingwall and I have enjoyed success at this tournament and catching bass on the river has been a key element to this success—we owe a lot of that to crankbaits.
They really work well in river situations or anywhere with current for that matter. We use them to not only catch fish during the tournament, but we rely on them to help us find fish during the practice period, as well, because we can use them to cover a lot of water.
One of the best-kept secrets has been using crankbaits for largemouth bass later in the season. From mid-August until the end of the year, crankbaits work great for catching largemouths.
Once fish start pulling out of the shallow, weed-filled bays, where they spawn and spend the early part of the summer, they become susceptible to being caught on crankbaits.
Jay Samsal and I actually did a TV show for my new program in late September, catching nice largemouths on Rapala crankbaits (look for it to air sometime in January).
The key to catching largemouths on crankbaits is to find green weeds and then run the crankbaits along the edges of the weeds. Largemouths lurk on these edges, waiting for something to go by that they can pounce on and crankbaits fit the bill.
I like slim profile baits for largemouths like Shad Raps and the DT Flat series, which have tighter wobbles than fatter models.
One thing to consider if you are going to get serious about throwing crankbaits, however, is your choice of rod, reel and line. The rod should be soft action so you don’t tear the small treble hooks out of the fish’s mouth during the fight.
I use Shimano Crucial models that are designed specifically for fishing crankbaits.
The best reels have a slow retrieve ratio, like 5.3:1, which will prevent you from reeling your bait in too fast. You want it to move, but slow and steady is usually best.
As for line, I like Power Pro braided line for nearly every fishing situation, except for fishing with crankbaits. You want to use traditional monofilament because it stretches, which will aid in keeping fish hooked up.
Stock your tackle box this winter with some crankbaits to cover various depths and by this time next year, you’ll be glad you did!

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