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Summertime Bass With Deep Diving Crankbaits

I don't know who first came up with that oft-repeated tale that says fish won't bite during "the dog days of summer" but I suspect it was someone who would rather sit under a shade tree and sip lemonade than go out in the heat and catch fish. I am basically a spinnerbait/plastic worm fisherman but for the past several years, I have watched David Fritts catch bass using crankbaits in B.A.S.S. tournaments and toyed with the idea of catching fish on them myself based on his methods. The past two years I have been using deep-diving crankbaits to make impressive catches of big bass during the heat of summer.

I decided that to do it right would require some specialized equipment, so my first acquisition was a 7' Lews Crankn' Stick made entirely of fiberglass. This rod allows me to cast crankbaits a long distance and also lets me fight big fish with a high degree of control. Crankbaits have relatively small hooks, and the large size and weight of the lures act as a lever to help big bass "throw" these baits when they jump. A 7’ rod combined with the uniform flex of fiberglass absorbs the sudden shocks to the line caused by a fish's antics and is a tremendous aid in keeping fish securely hooked. While graphite rods are the current standard in the fishing industry, most of them are too stiff to function as crankbait rods.

The next ingredient I needed was the proper line. Two years ago, Stren advertised their new line, Sensor, as the answer to every crankbait fisherman's dreams. While I have never been a fan of Stren fishing lines, I decided to give this one a try. In its favor, it did have increased sensitivity over other monofilaments allowing you to easily feel the lure bumping bottom and was a very low stretch line, providing positive hooksets. Negatives included poor knot strength and excessive susceptibility to line damage caused by the slightest backlash. Sensor’s two flaws caused me to switch to Sensithin this past year. Sensithin has the same low stretch characteristics as its Stren counterpart, but is a more castable line that is easier to knot. As far as I can tell, other than price, its only fault is lack of shock resistance.

The next critical equipment factor is a baitcasting reel with a very smooth drag. I use an old, dependable Quantum 1310 MG but any high quality reel with a relatively low retrieve ratio should work. I’d love to try one of those new Shimano’s but for now I’m content with what works.

Next, make sure to add a high quality snap (not a snap swivel) to the end of the line. I prefer Bill Norman Speed Clips but Duolock snaps work just as well.

The final component is the lure itself. Crankbaits come in a vast array of styles and colors made by a multitude of manufacturers. For summer fishing I recommend large, heavy-bodied baits in shad color patterns. I would have some with no internal rattles (such as Bagleys and Poes), a few rattles (Down Deep Rapalas or Fat Free Shads) and lots of rattles (Bomber Fat A's or Mann's Loudmouths). These are all baits that have been working for me.

Color doesn’t seem to be as critical as the amount of noise the lure makes. Fish that are very aggressive seem to be even more turned on by baits that make a lot of noise, while less active fish like fewer rattles.

Once your equipment is lined out then its time to find the fish. I look for schools of shad that are holding near the bottom along dropoffs in water anywhere from 10’ to 20’ deep. Visible on your sonar near the bait fish should be the larger echo returns of larger fish.

Presentation of crankbaits is the next step. It is essential that the lure be making bottom contact at regular intervals throughout the retrieve. Long casts give the lure more time in the strike zone. After each cast I rapidly reel the lure down until it hits bottom and then I begin the retrieve. I try to move the lure with a steady or stop and go retrieve that keeps the lure working along the bottom, always feeling for the lure to touch bottom and anticipating the strike. Big fish like to crush crankbaits so there is rarely any doubt when they hit. When you have a fish on the line, use the length of the rod to keep the line tight as you lead the fish around the boat until it is ready to land. Don’t try to horse in a fish with this outfit and watch out for that mouth full of treble hooks!

Next summer, when it gets really hot, leave your shade tree for awhile and pack plenty of lemonade in the boat. Try working some deep-diving crankbaits across the bottom in deep water and get ready for big bass action that matches the temperature!

Merle Schmierbach
Angling Innovations

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