Fishing With Crankbaits - Dan Spitzer

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Dan Spitzer

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Any discussion of fishing is much like a discussion of religion or politics - we all have our own, usually deep rooted and not always rational, ideas of the subject matter. This discussion of when and how I use crankbaits (broadly defined) is a discussion of my personal use of crankbaits at Lake Powell and is by no means meant to exhaust the subject. Pictures are for illustration purposes only.

First, I classify crankbaits as: (1) shallow divers, (2) medium divers, (3) deep divers and (4) lipless and sinking. The first 3 categories include floaters and suspenders. I also throw in hard minnow and/or jerkbaits into the discussion (you purists out there just settle down now!). Pictures are typical of the color patterns I most often use - various shad colors, sometimes silvery greens and "bluegill," and occasionally brown and brown/green crawdad. When I need to change things up a bit I go to oranges and reds.

Secondly, I most often use crankbaits when: (1) I want to cover large areas fast, (2) fish are active or are actively looking for shad, (3) the soft plastic bite is "tough" (in this category I often think in terms of "stirring things up" or "jamming one in their face") or (4) I've caught so many SMB on soft plastics that its time to do something different.

Crankbaits are great striper baits. We sometimes limit our striper fishing to topwater, spooning or "chovie dunkin" but I've been into great striper fishing, especially in May and late fall, when medium running crankbaits were the ticket.

Crankbaits can be worked fast covering large areas of water in a relatively short time. I sometimes call this "shotgunning" and resort to this especially when its windy and hard to work soft plastics effectively without anchoring or when the bite is "off" and I'm actively searching for fish. Active fish are easy targets for most anything, but crankbaits work well along mudlines and windblown point. The noise, vibration and flash of most crankbaits are great attractors. Try working a crank from a muddy shoreline into clearer water. A suspending model held just on the edge can be deadly.

In the fall, when a striper boil has ended or can't be found, try working shallow or medium running cranks while quickly moving from point to point - actually, I've had success with this in June.

Vary your retrieve! Bump cover! Hit bottom! When the bite is tough I try to provoke strikes with crankbaits. Under these conditions bouncing against anything in the water is the way to go. Practice! Over the course of the last few years I've come to appreciate a sensitive rod - not just to detect light strikes on soft plastics, but to feel brush or the bottom when cranking. I'm beginning to lose the touch from my (over)use of soft plastics, but a couple of years ago I was getting pretty good at "yo-yoing" a lipless crankbait up and over brush. Floaters are the safest in these conditions however. When an obstruction is felt, immediately stop reeling and push the rod tip forward to create slack in the line, and let the floater back off of the obstruction. Twitch the crankbait and hang on. A fish will often strike with the slightest movement just after clearing the obstruction.

Fishing out of a 12' boat for 2 years forced me into doing things I neglected to do in 2001. One of the things I used to do in the back of Blue Notch on windy days, was to anchor, cast a suspending minnow bait up against a windblown point or shoreline, crank it down, and simply deadstick it. The wind and surface action of the water created enough line drag to move the bait a little. With small forage fish being stacked up against shorelines/points and crawfish presumably being dislodged by wave action, fish of all kinds became active. I've caught good sized SMB, LMB and walleye with this technique right in the back of Blue Notch.

Size: I generally use crankbaits in the 2" size to match the general forage conditions found at Lake Powell. Sometimes I downsize, especially early in the year when the water is still relatively cold, or when casting to early July striper boils when the the forage is larval shad, or when the water is exceptionally clear. When nothing else seems to work go the opposite way. Sometimes an oversized crankbait is just enough to get a lockjawed bass all "riled" up and provoked into striking. On slow days I've even caught SMB dinks and sunfish on large crankbaits when nothing else seemd to work. Other colors: In stained water I like to give the fish something to see (or maybe I really like giving me something to see). A contrasting color (dark) or something in chartreuse (I like citrus shad) or fire tiger may just be the way to go.

More than anything - have fun and don't hesitate to experiment. Always help out someone in need of assistance. Respect the resource and keep it clean. See you on the lake.
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