How do you fish a diving crankbait?
Response by Andrew Kidd - Dated 09/28/2002

Diving crankbaits are typically plastic or wooden lures made to resemble a swimming fish, having a bill on the front made of plastic or metal that causes the bait to dive and wobble from side to side. Diving crankbaits come in many sizes and shapes, but can be divided into three basic categories: Shallow, medium and deep diving. Each bait's construction causes it to have an action unique to it's shape.

Seasonal/condition usage:
As with many baits, crankbaits are used almost any time water is not frozen. Most find the bait to be effective when the water reaches 50 degrees, all the way through to the highest water temperatures the fish can tolerate. Presentations are often adjusted by the temperature of the water. Day to day, examples of diving crankbait usage can be found when the fish are actively hunting food away from shoreline cover, are awaiting ambush opportunities within cover, are staging on points, or suspending next to bluff walls. With practice, diving crankbaits can be used effectively in cover, as the bill creates a makeshift "guard" against hang-ups.

As with all baits, colors vary greatly in diving crankbaits. Many people prefer natural color selections in clear water, more aggressive colors schemes like chartreuse/blue or Fire Tiger (chartreuse base with darker striping) when fishing stained or muddy water. Seasonal differences can be found in springtime, when many favor crawdad appearance in their crankbaits, while others find shad presentations to work year round. The best bait is often determined by whether you are trying to match the current forage, or trying to stand-out, like in muddy water.

Weights of crankbaits are most useful in affecting casting distance. Since many crankbaits float, they occasionally rely on weight to affect the presentation. The depth these baits dive to is most often determined by the shape and length of the bill on the front of the bait, and not their weight. Lighter baits are generally more buoyant and will often be used in situations where a quick rising bait, is desired. Many anglers add additional weight to their baits to make them neutral buoyant, where they neither rise or fall in depth when the bait is stopped. This is usually referred to as suspending.

Erratic retrieves are often successful when fishing a crankbait. After reeling a bait down to it's target depth, collision with cover and structure is desirable. This often entices a strike from nearby bass. The floating action of buoyant crankbaits is often used when a bait is worked in cover, allowing the bait to be reeled against a branch, for instance, the reeling stopped, the bait allowed to float up, across the cover, and the retrieve is continued. Many people help crankbaits reach deeper or shallower depths by controlling the angle they hold the rod tip. To have a bait run shallower then normal, a rod tip held high will work. To get the bait a little deeper, hold the rod tip low to the water, or submerged. When working floating baits in heavy cover, it is important to work the bait slowly and deliberately, while paying close attention to the contact with the cover. When an obstacle is met, it is often best to slow or stop the retrieve momentarily allowing the bait to rise far enough to clear the obstacle before continuing your retrieve.

Hooksets with deep diving crankbaits are most often a sweeping action. This is often accomplished at the waist, with a quick twist of the upper body. The hookset generally occurs when the bait has stopped it's tell-tale wobble, pulls back, or generally feels "not right". Much like spinnerbaits, many fish hook themselves when attacking crankbaits, making them as beneficial for beginners as they are for experienced anglers.

Equipment for deep diving crankbait is a matter of preference, as with most other style fishing. Because of the tremendous pull that some deep diving crankbaits exert on the equipment, baitcasting reels are commonly used. A good quality 6 to 7 foot rod with a longer handle can be helpful in managing hand fatigue brought on from fishing one of these baits for long periods. They are also good in varying the presentation, as described above. Fishing line weight varies as widely as the situations you can effectively use the deep diving crankbait. In open water, relatively free of cover, snags and abrasives (sharp rock, etc), 10 lb test line can easily be used. Lighter line will generally make a bait dive deeper then thicker line. Worked on heavier rock structure, a 12-14lb test line might serve better. When working a diving crankbait in heavy cover, heavier line weight becomes a possibility from the perspective of less depth being desired, and the increased chance for fish to tangle into the heavy brush.

Other factors/considerations:
To be effective in fishing deep diving crankbaits, you must stay away from a "cast and wind" mentality. To effectively fish this bait, as much thought should be placed into its action as is put into any other bait. Sometimes, a stop and go retrieve works well, other times, a constant retrieve is in order, while other times a "burn" action should be employed, where you fish the bait as fast as possible. It is important to try several actions to determine what the fish are looking for on that particular day. Once a fish or two are caught, concentrate on that action and location type to help catch more fish.

Close window