When it comes to fishing crankbaits, there are always a million questions, with just about as many answers. Some of the common questions of what kind, what colors, when and where to use them, are going to be answered in this guide. There will always be new products and new ideas that may or may not work, but hopefully the following guide will give you the answers to most of the questions that are constantly being asked by the beginner to the advanced angler.
"WHAT ARE CRANKBAITS?"
There are as many manufacturers of crankbaits as there are colors. Some of the more popular makers of crankbaits are Luhr Jensen, Mann's,Bomber, Storm, Berkley, Bill Lewis, Rapala, Lucky Craft and Rebel. There are of course, many more, including hundreds of custom made crankbaits by individuals and smaller companies.
Crankbaits are minnow imitating lures, that float and/or suspend in the water column, have different sized lips and body shapes, and some have no lips at all. They come in a variety of sizes, colors, shapes, and weights, all of which are designed for a particular action and depth, to closely simulate a fleeing or injured baitfish or crawfish. First we will start with the floating and suspending variety of fat and slim bodied crankbaits.
The different body shapes that are offered all have distinct advantages over each other at different times of the year, depending mostly on water temperature, and the size of the baitfish available in that particular body of water. There are always exceptions to the rules, but basically the slimmer, flat sided crankbaits, that float, and/orsuspend, are better early and late in the year, when the water temperatures are below 60 degrees. The flat sided crankbaits will mimic a fleeing crawfish early in the year, and the best colors at that time are shades of red or brown.
The proper depth is very important, as you want the bait as close to the bottom as possible to simulate a feeding or fleeing crawfish.
The lures with the flat sides have a neutral buoyancy, which is very important in making the lure perform like a real crawfish. I like to use a bait that has a bill made to bump against rocks and other cover to achieve this result without getting hung up or breaking. The flat sided crankbaits help me do this.
The Bomber Flat A is also a good choice for this, and catch a lot of pre-spawn bass with this bait, using a slow steady retrieve. In the fall, I use different shad patterns like Pearl, or Chrome, for bass that are suspending this time of year. I use a steady, slow to medium retrieve for this, sometimes bumping into objects, but most of the time a steady retrieve has worked best at this time of year.
In a tournament in the fall, I boated a 18 pound stringer, using this method, to win the tournament and take big bass with a 4 pounder.
I like to target the shores that are wind blown first, when working these baits, and a lot of the time, in some of the New York and New Jersey Lakes that have clay or tapering gravel banks, I throw these flat sided crankbaits, because I can catch fish in areas where there is little cover and most people don't fish!
The flat sided crankbaits are more for bass that are holding in water that is about 3-8 feet deep. Most of the flat sided crankbaits don't work properly any deeper than 7 or 8 feet. Most of the time I don't fish these flat sides in heavy cover, but there is one that was made by Poe's, that is called an RC3, that seems to produce well in heavier cover. In open water, I usually use a Shad Rap, made by Rapala, because I found that it produces some good bass in relatively open water.
I use spinning gear most of the time to throw these baits, like the Shad Rap, and I use 8-10 pound test line, with a Shimano reel. I do use a baitcaster in 7 foot, with a medium-action rod, like a Lew's or G.Loomis, with a Lew's reel or Shimano geared down lower. I don't really fool around with these baits as they are mostly made of wood, and they all have their own "personality" anyway. Sometimes I go through 10 or 15 crankbaits before finding 2 or 3 with just the right action. In the colder water I like the Shad Rap and I also like the Bomber Flat A best. When the water temperature is in the 40's and 50's I like it to wiggle a little tighter, and these baits achieve this action well.
Baitfish are the main forage of bass in cold water, so I always try to match the bait with the prey. The Flat A seems to look like a Shad or maybe a Bluegill, which is the main forage in a lot of the lakes I fish,and it works well in the lakes that have clearer water. I have used this bait with success over the tops of the Hydrilla beds in some Florida Lakes, as it doesn't pick up much grass because of the real tight wiggle. I caught several nice bass from Stick Marsh and Walk-In-Water on this bait before. It also produced good in Lake Jackson. I always try to use 8 pound test whenever I can, as it usually allows the crankbaits to achieve their maximum depth, and action.
Recently the best flat sided baits here in the northeast have been the Lucky Craft Flat CB and Mini CB, as well as the new Sebile baits.
These 2-inch master crank lures by Lucky Craft are essential components in the planning of tournament tactics today. To further increase productivity, you must correctly understand the different applications and effects of the Flat Mini SR, MR and DR baits and learn, through actual gripping sensations, the “sweet spots” of the respective lures. The unique screw of water flow generated by the flat side ensures the best luring movements, which are akin to those of the original Flat CB. Indeed, the SR, MR and DR are miracle baits that combine an optimal lip shape designed to quickly reach the strike zone, an effective gravity-center shift for maximal castability, and a longer stroke for attracting bass in a wider area. These Lucky Craft baits are some of the better new Flat Side crankbaits available.