tips for advanced crankbaiting

So, whats the easiest lure to fish when it comes to targeting bass? most of you are probbaly thinking "crankbait", and you'd be right...


Well, most of the time anyways. The lure was designed to be cast out and retrieved, that simple. And most of the time, that will get the job done. However, along with being one of the easiest techniques in fishing, it is also a lure that is not always used to its greatest potential. Sure, “chuck and wind” will work, but a more varied approach to your crankbait fishing will lead to more consistent success.  

One thing you can do is go deeper. If you have been throwing crankbaits for any significant amount of time you already know that smaller line, longer casts, and a lower gear ratio reel like the Abu Garcia® Revo® Winch are a recipe for success. Not to mention a crankbait specific rod link the Abu Garcia Winch Casting Rod.

All these things coupled together lead to your baits reaching their intended depths faster and therefore spending more time in the strike zone. To help them go a bit deeper, try “kneeling and reeling”. This technique was popularized by Paul Elias during the 1982 Bassmaster Classic®.

Back in that day, your deepest diving crankbaits would only go about 12 feet. Many credit Paul with highlighting the need for a deeper diving crankbait. But enough of the history lesson, the technique itself is as simple as it sounds.

First, kneel and make a long cast, this may be a bit awkward the first few times you try it. Once you have gotten the hang of casting from your knees, stick your rod tip into the water. For you mathematicians out there, for every foot of your rod that is in the water, you'll gain an added foot of diving depth from your bait.

This is because you have eliminated the surface tension of line on the water and changed the pull point. Your 7-foot + long rod (which you should be using to get those longer casts needed for optimum crankbait performance) if submerged up to the reel will gain you an additional 5 feet in diving depth. That’s a HUGE difference.  

Line up of crankbaits

Another way to go a little deeper is to eek some extra length out of your presentation. It can be difficult for even the longest of casters to throw a lure farther than 55 yards or so with a conventional cast. One way to get around this is “strolling” or “long lining”.

This technique can be very effective when fishing areas like expansive drop offs or long points. The first thing you will want to do is make a long cast past whatever piece of structure you are looking to fish.

Now, don’t start your retrieve just yet. Instead, use your trolling motor to pull away from the bait in the opposite direction and allow line to come off your reel until you are 100 yards or so away from where your cast landed. Once there, begin your normal retrieve. 

Adding 30-50 additional yards of line before retrieving the lure will allow it to dive much deeper and spend more time in the strike zone. Combine strolling with a bit of kneeling and reeling and you could have a 25-foot deep diving crankbait like the Berkley Dredger seeing depths of 35+ feet.  

After putting all this new knowledge into action remember to be patient when you feel weight on the end of your line. There is a lot of line to bring in and you’ll want to keep steady pressure on the fish.  

On the other hand, if your crankbait is running too deeply, there are a couple easy fixes. First, switching to bigger line with larger diameter creates more drag. Going up a couple lines sizes (like from 8 lb. to 12 lb. test) will reduce the diving depth by a foot or two on shallow cranks and several feet on deeper divers. 

Just be careful not to go with line that is so large that it kills the action of your lure. A quicker fix, especially when you want to vary the depth on a single cast, is to raise the tip of your rod during the retrieve. Instead of pointing the rod tip at the water, point your rod at the sky and you’ll instantly make any crankbait a significantly shallower diver (the exact opposite of kneeling and reeling). 

Angler holding bass with crankbait hanging from lip

Another key to success with crankbaits is to match lure action to the bass’ metabolism. A general rule of thumb is crankbaits with more rounded sides have a wider wobble when compared to those with flat sides.

As we are all aware, the bass’ metabolism speeds up as the water gets warmer. And in contrast it will slow as water temperatures dip. So, when water temps are lower, around 55 degrees or below, something like the Berkley® Frittside(tm) with a tight wiggle is your best bet.

If water temps are above 60 degrees, something with a wider profile like the Berkley Money Badger is the ticket. And if the water is in that weird middle ground, you may just have to throw a couple of options out there to find the action they want.  

At the end of the day what is it that we all want our artificial baits to do? Imitate live forage, that’s right. One thing that live bait does that most lures don’t is change direction. I'm sure being able to quickly turn and go the other way comes in handy when trying to avoid becoming ole bucketmouth’s dinner.

Bait fish may also move up or down in the water column due to changes in the weather or change directions simply because they encountered a barrier. Regardless of the reason, these changes in direction are something that someone skilled with a crankbait can mimic.  

workbench with crankbaits, pliers, rod and reel

There are essentially two ways to accomplish this. The first is to run that bait straight into an object. Whether that’s rip rap along a dam, that stump along the bottom, or any other random piece of cover, the point is to make contact which will cause the bait to bounce off and hopefully trigger a massive reaction strike.

Believe it or not you can even get these directional changes by bouncing the bait off the bottom. So, next time your graph is reading 10 feet to the bottom, try throwing that 12-foot diver.  

This next technique is most effective with crankbaits that dive at least 10 feet. It is best if there is some depth between you and where the change in direction occurs. Every crankbait essential follows an inverted bell curve under the water during the retrieve.

There is the initial dive, the time spent at its running depth, and the climb back towards the rod. This can vary from crankbait to crankbait but most often the lure will start to make its upward climb once it is about 75% of the way back to the rod. This is key as this is where the final directional change takes place. Now, this is where, if set up correctly, you can cause two directional changes to occur in rapid succession.

Have your boat in a position where you can strike a piece of cover as the bait begins to climb upward. These two immediate directional changes provide more temptation than most bass can resist. Or if there isn’t any cover on the bottom, a momentary stop and go retrieve or pulling your rod tip upwards can make your lure appear like a fleeing baitfish and seal the deal. 

Pure Fishing Dock Talk

Abu Garcia Revo Winch baitcasting reel

Abu Garcia Winch Casting Rod

Berkley Dredger

Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon

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Shawn Smith is a native of Northwest Georgia and a graduate of the University of Georgia. An avid outdoorsman, he was introduced to fishing as a child and has spent the better part of the last 25 years with a rod in hand while venturing throughout the United States. As the Ecommerce Marketing Manager for Pure Fishing, Shawn is able to put his passion into practice while sharing his knowledge and love for the sport with others.

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