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Why Crankbaits?
by Johnnie Crain


At nearly every seminar I perform people ask me how I got the nickname-"Crankin' Crain". Fellow writer, Dan Galusha, stuck me this moniker, but the answer is simple and complicated at the same time. I love fishin' crankbaits! I more or less grew up in the Ozarks and was taught to fish by my Grandpa who used old wooden crankbaits and since I mainly fished out of his "box" well, I learned to fish crankbaits. We always caught fish whether from the massive White river lakes, Bull Shoals, Table Rock and Taneycomo or from streams I could jump across. Naturally I grew to love crankin' as it is now called.

There's been a lot of positive changes in tackle and lures over the years but I still ALWAYS start my fishing day with a crankbait. To me, there is no better tool to find out what the bottom is made of, how active the fish are and how deep the fish are. I most likely have more crankbaits than most anglers. I am a lure field tester for several companies so have the opportunity to try many different type, styles and colors of crankbaits.

Crankbait Revelations
As I said before, a crankbait is a great tool for determining the bottom makeup of a lake or river. I start casting a deep diver, usually a B&D Custom Lure's Dredge'R. These baits really seek the bottom and dig into it. I can find out if the bottom is mud, gravel silt, rock or weedy. On my first cast I'll really dig the bait down into the bottom. Then I look at the diving bill and hooks. If the bottom is rocky, you'll be able to feel the bait hitting the rocks and bouncing off. If the bottom is mud or silt, there will be mud on the diving bill. Gravel will feel like gravel, simple as that and there will usually be some sand and gravel particles on the diving lip. It's easy to tell if the bottom makeup is weedy. There will be weeds or moss on the diving bill and hooks.

Plastic Or Wood
Most baits today are made of plastic and they are very good, but there are also times I prefer wood baits. In clear water or cold water I like wood. Most wooden crankbaits like my favorite Poe's 300/400 series lures, don't rattle. I don't want them to. I believe a rattle in clear water can turn bass off. Besides, those treble hooks and hardware on a wood bait make plenty of noise as they crash over rocks or careen through fallen trees. Wood cranks are denser so they're movements are slower, they rise to top slower and this is an asset in cold water. Not enough anglers fish crankbaits in cold water. I guess they believe the fish won't be very active in cold water. I have taken limits of quality fish on crankbaits in 36 degree water. When the water's that cold, I use the Poe's 400 wood bait. It dives in excess of eighteen feet and will stay at that depth at a slow to medium retrieve. It's hard to achieve that depth with a plastic lure. The plastic cranks have built-in air chambers that make them float, these same air chambers keep them from diving deeper.

When I encounter good looking chunk rock banks with a depth of ten feet or less I'll throw a firetiger Model Fat A Bomber. These little fat baits do a great job of stirring up the bottom and act very much like a crawfish trying to hide under a rock. Bass can't stand that.

Tools For Crankin'
I use long, sensitive and somewhat stiff rod so I can feel the vibrations of the bait, when a crankbait isn't vibrating it's either fouled by debris or a fish has it. When that bait stops wobbling, set the hook. I prefer 12 to 14 pound test line when crankin'. This allows the bait to achieve its maximum depth and has enough strength to haul in a hawg. I also always attach the bait to the line with a bass snap. I never tie directly to the split ring. It doesn't happen often, but sometimes a line tied to the split ring can wedge in between the coil of the ring and get cut just enough to weaken the line and its goodbye bass and lure. Snaps also give the bait a little more freedom of motion. Some "pro" anglers will tell you you must have a slow speed retrieve reel. I use crankbaits with any reel. Most of my reels are high speed, so I simply slow down my retrieve. I can't afford to buy special occasion reels. Another thing I like to do is replace the front hook with a Tru-Turn Red treble hook. I truly believe this causes fish to strike the front of the bait more often resulting in a lot less lost fish. A fish hooked on the front hook can't use the lures weight for leverage making it harder for the fish to throw the bait.

If you are squeamish about casting a six dollar lure into heavy cover purchase a lure knocker, there are some good ones that don't cost much. This will give you more confidence to use cranks in areas riddled with cover.

Color Selections
If you are casting straight into the bank, the two main colors the fish will likely see will be the belly and side of the lure. Shad patterns are great, fire tiger works anywhere and crawfish colors are good. If you're fishing deep water the fish will see more of the belly of the bait, so throw a bait with a good color on the belly. If the fish are suspended, the fish will probably see the side or back of the bait as they look down on it. Try to have colors that match the hatch on the back and top of the sides. In my opinion, it's hard to beat a fire tiger color, followed by shad, bluegill, perch and crawfish. Give these tips and techniques a try any time there's open water, you'll learn a lot about the area you are fishing and you WILL catch fish. God bless and good fishin' Johnnie "Crankin" Crain.