Crankbaits key tool for hot summer bass

Big bass bite big baits, but fishing today’s hottest crankbaits can mean more than a handful without the right gear. Rod, reel and line combine for the full package. (Kevin Tate)

Big bass bite big baits, but fishing today’s hottest crankbaits can mean more than
a handful without the right gear. Rod, reel and line combine for the full package. (Kevin Tate)

By Kevin Tate
Outdoors Writer

When the state’s waters reach their peak summer temperatures and the bass go deep, a good crankbait setup becomes one of the best tools in the box.

“You’ve got to have it in your boat,” Clay Coleman, of Clay’s Bait and Tackle, in Tupelo, said. “It’s just a staple you’ve got to have.”

The ideal crankbait fishing setup includes a rod, reel and line – each tuned to the task.

To allow the lure to spend the maximum amount of time per cast in the deep zone with the fish, the first key for a crankbait setup is to allow its user to cast as far as humanly possible.

Throwing for distance comes into play because the further the lure can be cast, the more time it will be able to spend in the deep zone with the fish. The transit from the water’s surface to the lure’s maximum depth takes up a certain amount of distance, and at some point in the retrieve the proximity to the rod and reel begins pulling the lure back up. What remains in between needs to occur where the fish are.

“Be sure you’re able to throw well past the cover you’re fishing,” Coleman said, “otherwise the dive of the lure will miss the area with the fish. You want a long, medium-heavy cranking rod, one made just for crankbaits.” He recommends a rod in the seven-foot, 11-inch range, again stressing it should have a softer action tuned for crankbaits for best results.

Parabolic whip

“You want to be able to get that parabolic whip into your cast to get as much distance as possible,” he said.

The ideal line should be strong enough to fight bass in deep cover, light enough to provide good feel and thin enough to offer minimal resistance to water, allowing the bait to dive.

“We use 12-pound-test fluorocarbon line,” he said. “It has the same diameter of 10-pound-test monofilament line.” The extra strength comes in handy and the narrower diameter helps the bait get down where it needs to go.

Gear it down
Next, a lower gear-ratio reel helps the user crank the bait down. Many baitcast reels have gear ratios in the 7.3:1 to 8:1 range for fast retrieves, but dredging big crank- baits along with these is unnecessarily tiring.

The number before the colon indicates how many rotations the reel’s spool will make for each complete turn of the handle, and pulling a big crankbait at depth with these is like taking a steep hill in high gear in a car. A lower gear ratio reel, something in the 5.1:1 or 5.4:1 zone, Coleman says, is ideal for crankbaits.

“Some guys use the old, old reels with a 3.1:1 or 3.4:1 ratio,” Coleman said, “but that’s unusual.”

Next, lure color should be tuned to the water’s clarity, Coleman said, leaning toward natural, shad colors on clear days and chartreuse hues in cloudy water or on cloudy, overcast days.

Finally, Coleman recommends a lure retriever with chains as a solid investment.

Saving the money
“If your bait’s not crashing into something, you’re not catching fish,” he said, a scenario that will result in deep hang-ups. “If (the lure retriever) gets one crankbait back, you’ve paid for it. They work, and can be worth their weight in gold.”