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“Of the Outdoors” Crankbaits

Entered by Gary Howey

Former tournament angler, hunting and fishing guide. Inducted into the National Freshwater Fishing "Hall of Fame" in 2017. Active member of the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers (AGLOW), Past Executive Director (AGLOW). Howey has been an outdoor communicator since 1980 with his award winning syndicated "Of the Outdoors" columns appearing in magazine, newspapers, and tabloids throughout he upper Midwest and nationally.

October 15, 2018

“Of the Outdoors” Crankbaits

by | Oct 15, 2018 | Gary’s Thoughts from the Field

Crankbaits have been around forever. Some look like a minnow while others resemble a frog, crawdad or other aquatic species. Then there are those that do not look like anything that I have ever seen.

Most anglers are familiar with crankbaits, for those of you that are just starting to fish crankbaits, they are a lure that imitates gamefish, baitfish, and crawdad, baits you cast out and retrieve or trolled to give them action. There are numerous crankbaits out there, including Rapalas, Shad Raps, Berkley’s Flicker Shad, and Digger. Dredger, Storm’s Thundersticks, Pradco’s Wally Divers and Bombers are a few of the more common crankbaits on the market.

They twitch and wiggle from side to side as they move through the water giving off vibrations, others have sound chambers inside, with BB’s or lead shot that rattle that attract the fish through their lateral line and hearing.

Used in so many ways, they are very versatile baits and used almost year around, with fall being an excellent time to troll crankbaits.

You can cast them from a boat, from shore, trolled behind a boat or drifted downstream and the retrieved back against the current.

How do you go about finding a crankbait that will attract and catch the species of fish your after?

The first thing you need to do is to find out what the prey fish are feeding on. If the fish in the lake are feeding on creek chubs or shiners, you will want to use baits that resemble those species. Check with a local bait shop, as most of them know what type of prey fish inhabit the area waters.

[et_pb_image_n10s _builder_version=”3.15″ show_in_lightbox=”on” image_as_url=”off” overlay_orientation=”to right” overlay_orientation_hover=”to right” src=”” caption_overlay=”Crankbaits work on all species of fish. Guide Paul Steffen and Team Member Larry Myhre along with the author caught 12 pike, a salmon and smallmouth bass in less than 3 hours on this trip to Lake Oahe using crankbaits.” n10s_type=”seattle” text_font_size=”18px” text_font=”Droid Serif||||||||” /]

If they are feeding on crawdads, then look for a crankbait that resemble a crawdad.

The type of fish you are going after can also make a difference when it comes to choosing a crankbait.

If you after Smallmouth Bass, you will want to use a smaller crankbait, because of their smaller mouth. Largemouth Bass anglers use larger baits, the alphabet style bait. Larger and fatter than baits used for other species because a Largemouth Bass will go after anything that he thinks he might be able to swallow. Ducklings, baby birds, snakes, frogs and mice are just a few of the things that a Largemouth will try to inhale.

Walleyes on the other hand are more apt to take a thinner minnow shaped bait, something that resembles a shad or minnow.

Panfish also love smaller crankbaits, but need to be much smaller for these tiny mouth fish to inhale.

Pike, Tiger Musky and Musky all prefer larger crankbaits but really are not too particular about what size or shape and if they are in the mood, will attack anything they feel like attacking, because they are the big guys in the pond.

Crankbaits work on all species of fish. Guide Paul Steffen and Team Member Larry Myhre along with the author caught 12 pike, a salmon and smallmouth bass in less than 3 hours on this trip to Lake Oahe using crankbaits.

Crankbaits work on the surface, suspended, diving when cranked or trolled. Several things affect the depth a lure will dive.

If not tuned correctly, your bait will run off to the side, and will not attract fish and tangle with your other lines.

There’s a new tool on the market that allows you to tune your crankbait quickly, allowing it to run straight and true. The Off Shore Tackle EZ Crankbait Tuner lets the angler adjust the bait without over-tuning or damaging their bait. Check it out at

Number one is the size of the bill on the front of the bait; shorter billed bait will run shallow with larger billed baits diving deeper. Most boxes that the crankbaits come in now will give you the approximate depth the bait will run, so you will have a good idea on where it will be running.

The second thing that will affect the depth the lure will run is your line diameter. A larger line diameter has more resistance and not allows your bait to dive as deep.

The last thing affecting the depth is the speed at which the bait is being retrieved or the speed it is being trolled. The faster the bait is running, the deeper it will dive.

Crankbaits account for larger fish than any other bait. The reason for this is that you are covering a lot more water with a crankbait, showing your lure to more fish. Since crankbaits are quick presentation baits, you catch the aggressive fish.

Crankbaits are something that the angler should have in his tackle box, as they help you to catch almost all species of fish.

The more time you spend using crankbaits, the more ways you learn just how an effective bait in your fishing arsenal.

Next time, we will look at choosing the right color crankbait for the body of water your fishing.

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