Crankbait Bassin’ 101

By Capt. Josh Hagemeister

Of course, I fish every day. Mostly walleyes because of demand by clients. But a few trips a week, I get the request for bass—largemouth or smallmouth bass. The conversation starts with questions from the clients: Are we using spinnerbaits?—“I used them as a kid” or plastic worms?—“I used them as a kid” they ask/say. My answer is: “Whatever works!” There are three types of basic baits for bass: 1. Surface baits (floating surface baits) 2. Mid-level (spinner baits or diving cranks) and 3. Bottom (worm baits—Texas, jig etc). Yes, VERY BASIC CONCEPT, but easy for most to remember. I start at the top and work my way down, and depending on the activity level of the fish, will settle on one of the three—and many times it’s the crankbait—which will catch both active and non- active bass because of it’s unique characteristics!

The beauty of the crankbait is that it is extremely versatile much like the spinner bait—fast, slow, deep, shallow, etc., and many color pattern variations to choose from. The main difference is the tight or loose “wobble” and possible rattles sounds that most spinner baits do not have. Frankly, most weekend bass angler rely on spinner baits far too much! Crankbaits are far more when used correctly and deadly when other baits are not! I was reminded once again of the importance of crankbaits just the other day when everything seemed to produce minimal results!

I’m a huge fan of the Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap series MR-6 crank or the actual Rat-L-Trap itself. Both bass species (along with bonus pike) will crush them! Weedy flats in the 10-14 ft. range with weeds reaching about 4-8 ft. below the surface is ideal. The MR-6 dives down around 5-6 deep and the Rat-L-Trap will go as deep as you can count (it sinks so use the countdown method). Vary your retrieve—fast, slow, erratic—experiment until the perfect retrieve is found.

Comb the flats by trolling and fan casting large areas throughout the top of the weedy complex. Do not forget the edge of the weed beds—the inside weed edge towards shore and the obvious deep weed line on the lake side of the drop off. If all is well, the baits will run through the weeds catching a few once in a while. If the bait gets snagged on a weed top—give it a quick “snap” to free the bait and keep “crankin” Keep the boat in deeper water and cast the bait up onto the shallow weedy flat and retrieve back to the boat running down the slope of the break. And try it visa-versa—meaning, sit shallow up on the weed flat and cast deep water and retrieve back to the boat towards the shallows. Do the same on the shallow inside weed line (ignored by most anglers) facing shore. And yes, it will be shallow so you may need shallower diving crankbaits!

Pick colors based on the environment. Stained/dirty water means bright annoying colors—chartreuse, florescent orange etc. Clear water tends to dictate a need for more natural colors like perch, sunfish, baby bass patterns etc!

So next time you’re bass fishing, branch out and try a crankbait! I love worm fishing or chuckin’ spinner baits just like the next angler, but trust me, crankbaits should take up a large chunk of your tackle box portfolio! Lotsa Fish! Lotsa Fun! Minnesota Fishing Guide Service, Capt. Josh Hagemeister, 218-732-9919, 320-291-0708