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Staying in Contact

By Mark Romanack

Crankbaits are awesome lures for “staying in contact” with the bottom or
cover like weeds, rock and wood.
It’s always nice to stay in contact with the people we care about. When it comes to targeting walleye, bass and other species with crankbaits, staying in contact with the bottom, rock piles, weeds, wood and other cover is often critical to fishing success. Sure there are times when fish suspended in the water column will hammer a crankbait that wobbles past, but day in and day out the way to get the most from these lures is to fish them tight to cover.

Crankbaits for the most part have methodical wobbling actions that if the true were told can be a little too mechanical at times. A bait that moves along at the same speed and with the same vibrations may or may not trigger strikes from nearby fish. When a crankbait comes in contact with the bottom, weeds or other cover that methodical action is suddenly interrupted  and this is precisely when a crankbait is most likely to get hammered by a nearby walleye or smallmouth.

Most anglers understand that a crankbait rebounding off a rock or other debris in the water is a good thing. The problem is when crankbaits are fished on monofilament or fluorocarbon lines it’s not always easy to tell when the bait is making contact with bottom.

Low stretch super braids are the answer for reading a crankbait to be absolutely certain the lure is diving deep enough to contact cover. Spectra braids like Maxima’s eight strand braid are more abrasion resistant than fused lines and the ideal choice for both casting and trolling crankbaits near cover.

A short three to four foot leader of fluorocarbon line can be added to create an invisible line to lure connection.

When fishing with low stretch braids the rod tip will telegraph exactly what the bait is doing below the surface.  Every time the lure touches bottom, weeds or any other object in the water, the rod tip will tell the story. This is precisely why avid crankbait fishermen tend to favor rods with a light tip and fast action.

Crankbaits like this jerk bait fish best when they are
contact with bottom or cover where baitfish and
gamefish species like this largemouth bass spend
the majority of their time.
A crankbait that’s making frequent contact with cover will soon provide another tell tale sign that the bait is in the strike zone. Closely examine the lip of the lure to see if the paint is getting worn off the bill or if the bill is getting sanded down from pounding into rock, sand and gravel. If the bait isn’t getting marked up, it’s not getting to the strike zone.

Dull treble hooks are also a sign that the bait is contacting the bottom and fishing properly. A flat file is the best way to put a quick edge back on any treble hook that starts to feel a little dull.

Crankbaits achieve their best action and diving depth when they are carefully tuned to dive straight down in the water. The process of tuning a crankbait is a trial and error effort that takes both time and patience to accomplish.

When a crankbait is out of tune it will run either right or left of center when retrieved at a high rate of speed. To adjust the bait simply use a needle nose pliers to bend the eye tie attachment on the lip of the lure the opposite direction the bait is running.

A little goes a long way when bending the eye tie of a crankbait. Very subtle adjustments dramatically influence how the lure runs and this is precisely why it takes patience and determination to get a crankbait perfectly tuned.

The effort required to tune a crankbait is more than worth it. Getting your mind wrapped around the importance of hand tuning crankbaits is a good thing because the process never stops. Not only do most “new out of the package” baits need tuning, once a bait has caught a few fish chances are it will get knocked out of tune and need some further adjustment.

There are other ways to get the most from crankbaits. Lure manufacturers vary on the type of eye tie attachments provided on their lures. Some baits come with nothing other than a wire sticking out of the nose or lip of the lure. Other baits feature a split ring on the wire eye tie and still others come with a small snap attached to the wire eye tie.

Note this Mag Lip crankbait is attached to the fishing line using two cross
lock style snaps. This rigging configuration allows this wide wobbling
bait to achieve maximum action.
Generally speaking the best way to attach a crankbait to the fishing line is with a round coast lock
style snap. A round snap is lightweight and provides the lure ample freedom of movement. Snaps also make it easy to change out lures quickly and as needed.

A snap works great with lures that have split rings and also lures with just a wire loop sticking out the nose. Most anglers however are reluctant to attach a snap to their line if the bait already has a snap on it. Attaching a snap to a snap may seem redundant, but this unique attachment point actually provides the bait more freedom of movement and additional action.

Certain lures that are designed to “wander” in the water like the Yakima Mag Lip series are a good example of a bait that fishes best when a snap is attached to the end of the fishing line and then attached to the snap that comes supplied on the bait.

Yakima calls this wandering wiggle a “skip beat action” and there is little doubt that this irregular darting motion works to catch fish. Other lures also enjoy a more “open” action when two snaps are used to attach the lure to the fishing line. In general, the more aggressive the action of the crankbait in the first place, the more likely it will fish better when two snaps are used.

Crankbaits are fish catching machines. When fished in contact with the bottom or cover crankbaits are at their best. Make sure to use low stretch fishing lines, tune your lures routinely and insist on round wire snaps to attach all crankbaits to your fishing line. Sticking with these crankbait fishing fundamentals virtually guarantees bass and walleye success.