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The Crankbait Trilogy, Part 3 - When and Where to Use Crankbaits

Welcome to the final part of the Crankbait Trilogy! So far, we’ve discussed the anatomy of the crankbait and the gear to use while fishing with them. Now, it’s time to get to the whens and wheres. By now, we know that crankbaits are all-rounders – they fare well in many different situations. But there has to be more to it, right? Well, you can bet your tackle box there is! A steady stop-and-go retrieve works well throughout the year, but there are some specifics you’ll want to consider before rummaging your collection of baits. Let’s get into it!

Cranking Throughout the Year

Spring

In springtime, the big ones start their journey to the shallower waters for spawning. This presents a golden opportunity for shallow-running crankbaits. Take a red crankbait, let it dive to the bottom, and retrieve it fast – this mimics the behavior of a scurrying crawfish, and the fish won’t know the difference! Of course, different waters are inhabited by different prey fish – take that into account while choosing the color of the bait.

Summer

The warmer the water, the faster you’ll want to crank your handle. During summer, the predators’ metabolism kicks up, meaning they’ll be hungry for fast food. For summer, I recommend using crankbaits that can be retrieved fast. As the water warms up, fish will also look for deeper waters to cool off. That’s why you might want to try some deep-diving crankbaits during those long and hot summer days. 

Fall

Fall is arguably the best season for crankbaits. This is when the baitfish hit the peak of their activity, resulting in fast-paced races between them and the predators. For waters that have shad, I recommend fast retrieves with white or shad-colored crankbaits. Fast-running baits are also good for searching an area for fish.

Winter

During winter, flat-sided crankbaits take the crown. In winter, lures with a wide wobbling action aren’t as effective as during other seasons due to the low water temperature. That’s why flat-sided crankbaits and slow, steady retrieves are the picks of the season. 

Different Locations

Platforms

Crankbaits make an ideal choice for casting from a dock, as they can be used to lure predators lurking nearby. Piers and docks often have caches and shadowy areas where predators can remain unseen while stalking their prey. By casting the crankbait downstream, you can retrieve it along the quay. And don’t be afraid of bumping the bait against the docks – in fact, these bumps are excellent for triggering reflex attacks from fish caught off guard! By now, I’ve lost count of how many perch, zander, black bass, and pike I’ve caught with this method.

Open Water

When fishing from a boat, it’s mainly a question of depth. Unless you have a sonar at hand, I recommend exploring the water columns with baits that run at different depths. When you have no underwater structure to spice up your retrieves, playing and experimenting with speed and pauses becomes a necessity. My favorite for open water cranking is the Scatter Rap family – their diving lips produce a superb and animated swimming action that the perch find impossible to resist!

The Bottom

Heading somewhere deep? That calls for a technique called bottom tapping! First, reel the crankbait to reach the bottom. Then, drop the speed and you’ll get the lure bouncing on the bottom. The crankbait’s lip will hit the bottom (or rocks at the bottom), lifting clouds of sediment while at it. This is exactly what prey fish would do, so you know you’ll have predators chasing the lure in no time. When going for the bottom, I suggest you tie on a crankbait with the longest lip – it will protect the hooks from contact with the bottom. 

And there you have it – The Crankbait Trilogy! This is where the journey really starts. Because when it comes to angling, there are always new things to learn. So, go out there and experiment! Come up with your own wild theories on how to get the biggest catches. Exchange ideas with your fellow anglers (while keeping some of the best secrets to yourself). And, when in doubt ¬– tie a crankbait on!