The ABC’s of Crankbaits
article by Kenny Covington | photo by Brad Arender
Crankbaits have been around for decades. Their prominence in the sport actually came to light in the 70s when Fred Young introduced the hand carved “Big O” crankbait. These lures were so effective at catching bass they, like Rapala’s Shad Rap, were rented out to fisherman who paid as much as $50 an hour. That is a high price to pay for catching bass, I will admit, but at the time it was common place.
These lures still catch fish throughout the calendar year, but what lures to throw and when to throw them can be quite confusing. For this article and to keep things simple I want to focus on crankbaits from the 1-8 foot range. On our area lakes these lures will cover 80 percent of your fishing needs because there are probably more bass caught from this depth than any other.
Water clarity should be a determining factor in what color or even style of crankbait you need to use. For instance, if I am in relatively clear water such as I might find on Lake Claiborne, I will want to choose a shad crankbait that looks more natural than to choose a color that might be overbearing to the fish. If the water tends to have color to it or even appears stained or muddy I will want to use a lure that the fish have an easier time locating. Squarebilled crankbaits would get the nod in situations such as this. The wide body movements are easier for a bass to track with his lateral line even if he can’t see it. Bright colors such as red, chartreuse, and orange are good choices. One surprisingly good color for this water situation is black.
Seasonal patterns can influence crankbait colors and presentation depths as well. For example, in Spring bass will usually feed on crayfish so a crayfish colored crankbait that can be retrieved bumping the bottom would be a good starting point. In the Summer, shallow water bass tend to feed heavily on bream so a crankbait in a bream pattern would be my first choice. Often times these fish will suspend around cover so lures that run 4-6 feet are usually quite productive. In the Fall and Winter I have found that shad patterns generally outproduce the bream and crayfish patterns. However it should be noted that bass will usually gang up in schools during these times. So the proper depth of the lure you chose can be important.
THE 0 TO 5 FOOT ZONE:
The following are the lures that I find to be most effective in the shallow water zones. I like to throw these lures on a 6’6 medium rod with 15lb line. I will include the color and time of year I find to be the most effective.
Mann’s 1 Minus: Shad or bream colored. Most effective in late Spring or early Summer, can be deadly on schooling fish in the Fall. Used as an alternative to a topwater lure or a buzzbait.
Norman Tiny N (aka a Crappie Crankbait): I prefer shad patterns most of the time if only for confidence reasons. It is especially good on river systems or lakes with a high population of Kentucky (spotted) bass. A great choice when water is extremely warm.
Luck E Strike RC Series 3: Green minnow or Copper Bream are the two more popular colors. This squarebill is excellent anytime bass can be caught shallow or if the water color is stained to muddy. The key ingredient to this lure’s productivity is usually in the retrieve speed; as a rule the warmer the water the faster the retrieve.
THE 5 TO 8 FOOT ZONE:
To achieve maximum depth, I like to throw these lures on a 7-foot medium action rod with 12lb line. The added rod length and the smaller diameter line will give me greater casting distance and achieve maximum depth.
200 Series Bandit: THE crankbait in this area for as far back as I can remember. I would recommend this lure to anyone just getting started in bass fishing. The splatterback, chartreuse/black, and brown/orange crawfish colors will pretty much cover the anglers when it comes to color selection. This version of crankbait has proven to be effective year round in our area.
Norman Middle N: A great alternative to a Bandit crankbait. Shad colors have always produced better than the bream or crayfish varieties. This lure tends to run deeper than a 200 series Bandit and is most effective in the Summer and Fall.
Rapala Shad Rap: The #7 Shad Rap in the shad color is arguably the deadliest cold water crankbait ever made. Most productive in the Fall and especially Winter months but tends to do better in clearer water.
Hopefully the information provided above will give you a better understanding when choosing a crankbait on your next fishing trip. Remember to experiment with colors, sizes and retrieves because in bass fishing there are no absolutes. Be careful on the water and catch one for me!