Crankbaits as a Contact Sport | Great Days Outdoors

Bumping stumps and other bottom objects is the key to drawing strikes with crankbaits.

In baseball the coach stresses making contact with the ball. Without ball contact it’s difficult to gain any runs to win the game.

The main object of the game is to use the bat to hit the ball to get to a base. If each player can put the ball into play, the chance of scoring is much greater.

Bass fishing with crankbaits in the summer is not much different. To score or rather catch a fish, an angler needs to make contact with the lure. Dredging a lure along the bottom, bouncing off of stumps, rocks and other types of cover will draw a strike form a lazy bass. And that is a strike you want.

Crankbaits are popular lures for catching and have been the key in many tournament wins. Pro and weekend anglers rely on crankbaits to locate and catch fish during the summer months. An important key in fishing crankbaits successfully is to make contact with something in the water.


Different body shapes emit a different action on a retrieve. Photo by Charles Johnson


Gear Up For Contact

Some bass anglers may shy away from crankbaits. They believe cranking lures is too much work, especially during the summer months.

However, deep-diving cranking lures can be fished effectively and with little effort. One key to fishing crankbaits is utilizing the proper gear.

“A good cranking rod teamed with a top cranking reel makes fishing deep diving crankbaits fun,” mentions B.A.S.S. Elite pro Timmy Horton of Muscle Shoals, Ala.

Horton prefers a Duckett Micro Magic rod around 7- to 7 1/2- feet long. The rod should be a medium action with a soft tip. This setup gives the angler plenty of control over the lure. The longer rod allows for plenty of casting distance with any crankbait.


The longer, softer rod helps in the shock of the hook set. Also, the rod can take up more line when setting the hook. The softer tip also cushions the shock on the fish should it make a strong run near the boat. The strong backbone in the rod allows for control over the fish without ripping the hooks free.

The correct reel is also an important unit in cranking lures. Many reel companies boast of high-speed retrieves on their reels of 7.1:1 ratio or higher. Blistering speed is not what is required to fish crankbaits properly. Too much retrieve speed lessens the effectiveness of the lure and can cause fatigue for the angler.

“The faster reels create more torque on your reeling hand when using heavy crankbaits,” Horton explains. “After a few hours, your hands and arms will tire out.”

A good cranking reel is a bait-caster from around 5.1:1 to 6.0:1 retrieve ratio. The lower gear ratio provides more power and control over the bait. A reel that is too fast will not allow the lure to reach its maximum depth on a retrieve.

Line is another factor in fishing crankbaits effectively. Horton prefers fluorocarbon line in the 10- to 12-pound-test range. This size line has a smaller diameter and allows the lure to dive deeper.

Large diameter lines creates more resistance in the water, thus killing the lure’s action and causing it to run more shallow than designed.

Horton offers another tip when fishing crankbaits: always point the rod toward the baits. Some

cranking anglers load the rod to one side or the other. This creates more stress on the angler’s arms and hands. When cranking, anglers should position the rod tip at a 45-degree angle downward directly toward the lure.

Why Make Contact?

Understanding how crankbaits function on a retrieve is key to getting more strikes from bass. Some anglers may just make a cast and wind the lure back in.

This method may work sometimes, but with deep cranking it is important to understand the lure motion through the water column.

One of the masters at catching bass on a crankbait is FLW Tour pro David Fritts from Lexington, N.C. He says every crankbait has a dive curve. This curve is the path the lure follows on a retrieve.

When a lure is cast out and the retrieve begins, the bill or lip forces the lure to dive. At some point the lure reaches a maximum depth. It then begins a path toward the surface.

“This is why long casts with crankbaits are important,” Fritts advises. “You want to keep the lure in the strike zone as long as possible.”

Fritts also mentions that boat position is also important when casting to submerged targets. In 1993 in the Bassmaster Classic on Logan Martin Lake, he cranked up over 48 pounds of bass for a win.

Lining up his boat with some scattered brush tops, he would make repeated casts beyond the target to have the lure reach the proper depth when arriving at the brush.

During summertime, bass are not always willing to chase a lure. Making contact by bumping or hitting the bottom or an object will trigger a reaction strike. Oftentimes, when one bass hits at a lure, other bass in the school will become active.

“One key in making bass strike diving crankbaits is to make contact with the lake bottom,” says Horton. “The lure moving across the bottom imitates a wounded baitfish or crawfish.”

Lures that ricochet off an object like a stump or rock creates a sudden flash and bumping sound. The crankbait turns, flips and acts like an injured baitfish. The lure coming in contact with the object is not something the bass expects and it reacts with a strike on the lure.

Making contact with a crankbait can cause a strike if some cover is visible. Standing timber and boat docks are top spots to bump a lure into. These targets may require a little more casting accuracy, but the rewards are worth the effort.

Riprap along the shoreline or at bridge abutments is another area to make contact with crankbaits and bass. These rocks are home to baitfish and crawfish. Start your casts several feet from the shore and work in closer with repeated casts.

When making contact with any type of structure, stop the retrieve for a second or two. This slight hesitation will cause the lure to stop right in front of the bass’ face. Many times a hungry bass will grab the lure before it begins to move again.

Bass will react to a crankbait bumping an object underwater. Photo by Charles Johnson


Lures For Contact

There are probably more than a dozen different lure companies that offer crankbaits. Some lure

designs have long thick plastic bills or lips that drive the lure to depths of over 20 feet.

These lures are a wise choice for searching the channel ledges and drops in reservoirs. The large bill will help the lure get down quickly to the strike zone where the fish are holding.

Medium running baits in the 10- to 16-feet depth range are more popular among anglers. These baits cast easily for long distances and the retrieve is less grueling. Most of the cover in lakes and reservoirs around the state have abundant cover in 20 feet of water or less.

Some lure manufactures are returning to the silent lures. For years, anglers believed rattles or

other noisemakers were what triggered strikes from bass. However, anglers have begun using crankbaits that run silent without any rattles inside the body.

“I like a silent crankbait to sneak in on the bass,” Horton explains. “The lure is suddenly in their face and they have little time to react.”

Larger crankbaits can also result in larger fish. Horton says stepping up to a larger size lure can sometimes entice big bass to take notice. These heavyweight bass are accustomed to dining on larger forage. They don’t want to expend a lot of energy running smaller morsels.

Some crankbait models suspend in the water when the retrieve is stopped. This killed action lets the bass think the forage is dead or injured. Other models may begin to rise slowly toward the surface when the retrieve is halted.

Crankbait colors are not crucially critical in most cases. In clear water lakes, use a lure that has a more natural appearance. Shad, blueback herring, and bream colors are a top choice in clear water.

In stained or darker waters, brighter colors with chartreuse or orange trim work well.

Making crankbait fishing a contact sport can and will put more bass in your boat. And anytime that happens, it is a great day outdoors.


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