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Fishing Tips

FOLLOW THIS PRO’S TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR CRANKBAIT SUCCESS

Posted 9/23/2010

Terry Bolton doesn't remember the first bass he ever caught on a crankbait, but he can always remember the most recent one. That's because the Yamaha Pro always has several of the diving lures tied on and ready to cast, no matter what season of the year he's fishing, and he uses them regularly.

"I think crankbaits offer several distinct advantages over other types of lures, regardless of whether you're fishing in three feet of water, or 20 feet," says Bolton, a nine-time qualifier for the Forrest Wood Cup® championship. "They're excellent lures for finding bass because you can cover a lot of water quickly with them, and they can trigger a school of bass to starting biting because of their erratic action."

In tournament competition, Bolton is known for his deep water crankbaiting success, but even when fish begin moving toward shallow water as they are now as summer comes to a close, he follows a strict set of crankbaiting guidelines he's established through more than a dozen years of national competition.

"The most important aspect of crankbait fishing is making certain your lure is running properly," he emphasizes. "If it isn't, the lure won't have a normal action and it certainly won't run as deep. A lot of things can cause a crankbait to get 'out of tune,' so I always check by making a short cast and reeling the lure back quickly to see how it runs.

"If the crankbait runs to one side instead of coming straight back on the retrieve, twisting the line-tie on the bill in the opposite direction usually corrects the problem. For example, if the crankbait tends to run to the right, hold the lure with the bill pointing to you and with a pair of pliers, twist the line-tie slightly to your left.

"Cast and retrieve again and make very slight adjustments until the lure runs true."
The Yamaha Pro also suggests checking each of the split rings holding the hooks and making certain they're free of any paint or epoxy that might impede hook action; as the lure wobbles during a retrieve, the dangling treble hooks swing from side to side. If the hooks don't have this free motion, the lure may roll and it won't run as deep as it should.

"The next most important part of fishing a crankbait is making sure the lure is hitting the bottom during your retrieve," continues Bolton. "As the lure digs along the bottom and hits rocks, shells, and other cover, it glances off erratically, and this is what generates purely instinctive strikes. Bass may not be actively feeding or even really interested in the crankbait, but a fast, erratic retrieve will get their attention far more often than a plastic worm or lizard.

"If the crankbait you're using isn't hitting the bottom, switch to a deeper diving model, or change lines so your lure will run deeper. If there isn't a lot of heavy, thick cover where I'm fishing, I'll often use eight or 10-pound fluorocarbon line just to get my lure deeper."

Bolton's third rule for basic crankbaiting is to fish from shallow water to deep. That is, he keeps his boat in deeper water and casts shallow so his retrieve brings the crankbait down an incline or from a flat across the edge of a breakline.

"It takes time and experience to learn to fish a crankbait effectively," cautions the Yamaha Pro, 'but by retrieving from shallow to deep, your lure will be hitting the bottom and telling you what's down there. Initially, when you're fishing a long, sloping point or a ledge, you don't know exactly where the bass are located. You won't spook them by keeping your boat in deep water, but you probably will if you move shallow. Besides, you can always ease slowly across the structure after you've covered it with your casts."

One of Bolton's most important crankbait fishing tools is a market buoy, which he keeps on the boat deck near his trolling motor foot pedal. Whenever he gets a strike or hooks a bass, he kicks the buoy overboard.
"If you hook a big fish that takes time to play and land, or if you're fishing in current, your boat can drift quite a distance from the spot," he explains. "Often, bass are concentrated in small areas and casting to the same spot is critical, so the buoy helps me re-position my boat. I use the buoys wherever I fish and always have them ready."

Bolton occasionally changes the hooks on his crankbaits, but rather than put on larger trebles as most pros do, he puts on smaller ones, such as replacing Number 2's with Number 4's. He believes this makes the crankbaits run better, especially deeper diving lures.

"In shallow water, we normally use smaller crankbaits that have smaller hooks, and we catch plenty of bass with them," he points out, "so I don't have any problem using smaller hooks on my larger crankbaits. The smaller hooks definitely let the crankbait run deeper, and I think the baits wobble better, too.

"Crankbaits are really pretty versatile lures, but just a few changes in how you fish them can easily make them even more effective."