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Crankbaiting makes the fish go crazy

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Bouncing a crankbait off an underwater stump is like lighting the fuse on a firecracker.

Anglers who specialize in fishing crankbaits say the secret is in getting their lure to bump cover and structure. A bait that ricochets off a big stump is almost certain to entice an explosive strike if a bass is in the vicinity.

Over the years, crankbaits often have been in my game-day plans at lakes such as Mosquito, Berlin, Milton, Pymatuing, Shenango and the Ohio River. When I first began to get serious about bass fishing, I always had a crankbait tied on and ready for action. I continue to hold them in high regard.

Crankbaits have come a long way in the past 40 years, when they were more commonly known as “plugs.” Our grandparents fished wooden plugs to which metal lips were screwed and caught their share of bass, pike and walleyes.

Today, wooden baits still have a revered following, but many anglers opt for hard plastic lures with diving lips integrated into the bodies.

The number of companies that make crankbaits has grown and today the marketplace is overstuffed with varieties that dive deep, run shallow, wiggle tightly, wobble widely and “hunt” their way through the cover where skilled anglers guide them.

Crankbaits are famous for generating aggressive reaction strikes from bass – largemouths and smallies – that might not necessarily be in a feeding mood.

Most of my fishing this summer has been in weedy waters where crankbaits are not the best choice due to their treble hooks’ tendency to snag every strand of greenery they touch. But I visited a lake recently where big stumps are scattered around on humps that rise above deeper nearby water.

I left the ramp with a bulky Strike King Model 5 tied to my seven-foot cranking rod and reel spooled with 10-pound-test fluorocarbon line.

It’s the perfect set-up for hurling cranks a long way. Its limber action helps handle surging fish at those critical moments when they might pull free of the trebles.

A good sonar unit helps locate the good structure where big bass might be lurking. Mine was set on split screen to show the depth and structure on one side and my position relative to the GPS mapping of bottom contour lines.

I found my waypoint, dropped a marker buoy and fired the chartreuse and black plug on a line that would put it on a collision course with the stumps littering the hump.

My second cast resulted in a jarring strike after the bait caromed off a stump nine feet under the surface. The rod bucked under the strain of a strong fish pulling toward deeper water. Seconds later, the fish was gone, the hooks having failed to find a sure grip.

But three casts later the crankbait bumped another stump and I hooked up again. A five-pound bass jumped with my lure securely stuck in its mouth. I finished my pass over the stumpy hump with one more largemouth pushing three pounds and a 12-inch white bass.

Crankbaits will catch fish even if they don’t glance off cover such as wood or rocks. But they darn sure are a lot more effective when the angler can get them to deflect and a nearby predator recognizes it as an opportunity to pounce.

Jack Wollitz is a lifelong angler who enjoys trying new fishing tactics, but has a lot of confidence in his tried-and-true presentations. He also enjoys emails from readers. Send a note to him at