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Time to Get Cranking

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Time to Get Cranking

The end of winter is in sight. Throughout the cold months, many of us at Tackle Underground have been making crankbaits to pass the time. Others have broke the bank and finally purchased that custom crankbait that they always wanted to try. With all of these new crankbait warriors out there chomping at the bit, I am starting to get allot of email asking me, ?When should I start throwing a crankbait??

What I am about to tell you works anywhere in the country and it does not matter where you live. The reason that I can make this statement is because everything in my crankbait strategy is conditional. As long as the area you are fishing meets the conditions, then you should be able to catch fish with a crankbait.

We all watch the pros on the fishing shows practice and put a strategy together and catch sacks of fish that most avid fishermen can?t seem to duplicate. Whether we are fishing for fun or fishing for money, the first thing that most of us must realize is that we are not professionals. Most of us do not have a 6th sense of finding fish, or spend 200 + days a year fishing. We have a very limited time in the day to find the fish and put some in the boat. Therefore, we must have a solid plan that can be executed with precision that can give us the maximum opportunity to catch the bass without wasting time. To be successful you have to give yourself a chance.

The first thing that I consider is the surface temperature of the water. If I can find a surface temperature of 48 degrees or greater then I can get serious about cranking up some fish. At this temperature or a little greater, fish start to move. Nothing is happening fast, but things are happening. Most of the fish are in deeper water. Their metabolism is slow, but they know that it is time to start moving. Now you are probably wondering, ?Moving where?? At 48 degrees baitfish generally move up and down within the water column to feed and take advantage of any warmth that they can get. The bass will do the same. They will follow the bait fish, feed, and enjoy the same warmth of the shallower water. And don?t forget that around 50 degrees the crayfish are starting to emerge from their winter dens and mate.

My second consideration is water clarity. Personally I like a visibility of 2 feet or greater. Light penetration is better in clearer water. Sun penetration in will warm clearer water quicker and signal fish in the deeper water that it is time to start moving. Normally clearer water this time of year is found in the mid to lower sections of the lake.

My third consideration is to find a hard lake bottom. Clay, rock, chunk rock, or pea gravel are some examples. Areas with hard bottoms will have the clearest water. Banks with this type of composition absorb rays from the sun which aid in warming the water.

I will start on main lake structure where I would normally find fish in the heat of the summer. Stumps, channel bends, rock piles, humps and ledges in less than 15 feet of water all make good starting points. If that does not work then I will move to main lake points that are at the mouth of major creeks. I will look for points that have structure on them and have a channel nearby. I usually have two crankbaits tied on. One bait will reach the 10 ft. mark and the other will run down to 18 ft. I will start on the end of the point and cast across the tip and work my way up to the 10 ft. mark. The reason that I cast across the tip and not up on the point is because I do not want to spook any fish that are on the point. If I throw a crankbait from the tip straight up the spine of the point, then when my bait lands it may spook fish that are positioned on the point. I start on the down current side and throw across the deep end. I work my way up the side of the point. At the 10 ft. mark I switch to another shallower running crankbait and work my way on up to the base of the point. If that does not work then I will go to the end of the point and work my way straight up the spine of the point. Then I will move to the other side of the point and work my way up the side of it just like I did when I first started fishing the point. I will try several main creek points. If that fails then I will move up into the creeks and fish any rip rap near the creek channels or secondary creek points. I will fish these points just like I did the main lake points.

If you follow this strategy then eventually you should find some fish. You will have to experiment with retrieves just like any other time of the year to find out how they like it on that particular day. If you follow this metheod and you don't catch any fish, then you can feel confindent that you covered your areas thoroughly and completely. On the next trip you can repeat the process again until you connect with the bass. It will happen. It is just a matter of time. There is one other thing that you MUST remember. During this time of the year, the fish have a definite dinner bell. There are certain times of the day that the fish will become active and feed. If you watch the water you will see bait fish jumping around just like they do in the fall. The fish are feeding and you need to hit them while you can. You can load the boat with some real heavy weights real fast when this happens. Last March I saw some bait fish jumping on a main lake point. I started throwing a flat sided coffin lipped crankbait that I make. I caught three fish in four casts that weighed a combined weight of 17.5 lbs. It all took less than 12 minutes to catch them. Then the bait fish went away and I could not buy another hit. Everything quit biting. Normally there are two feeding binges that take place at different times throughout different sections of the lake. If you pay attention and mark these times in your head, then the times will hold up for about 3 weeks or more. Then the fish will be gone for good. In the next article I will tell you where they went.


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The only difference that I have found with river run lakes is that as a general rule the fish will be shallower. I really don't know why. My theory is the current causes this. I would start in the mouth of the feeder creeks and use a lure like the one I sent you. Run it through every piece of wood that you see (and don't see) down to about 8ft. This is where they should be. 8 ft. is the deeper end of things. But if you have current they more than likely will not be any deeper than that. Even though we are talking about cranking, a jig or plastic something works well flipped into wood this time of year.

Fishing the mouth of a creek on back is a real indicator of what stage the spawn is in. If you get into the mouth of a creek and start to catch only 1 lb. males, and then you get back in the creek about 50 yds and you quit catching them then the males are starting to think about migrating back into the creek to start making beds. If you get back into the creek and start catching only the small males again, then that means that the males are starting to make the beds and the females are not there yet. Move out to the points at the end of the creek and fish down to about 8 ft. there. In a normal resivoir the fish could be down to 14 ft. The females move from the deeper spots on the lake and move up on the points to stage outside of the creek. They may also follow the creek channel back into the creek. When everything is ready the males go to those points and escorts a female back to the bed. When she is done the male stays and guards the nest. The female will retrace her path back out to the end of the creek and eventually to the deeper summer spots. But she will stick on or around that point for some time before she moves to the summer home. On a river run lake she may go back out to the main river and get on steeper banks with vegetation. Also, channel swing banks would be a great place to try also.


Snake heads definitely are not my specialty. My suggestion would be that you keep a journal on water temperatures along with time of year, weather and water conditions for one full year. Fish regardless of species do certain things all of the time under certain conditions. You can always refer to your notes and they should help you figure out where the fish should be and what lure you used to catch them.


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Just came across this article today. Exceptional! :D I'm going to get my son to read your article. His theory is, throw any lure you want, as long as it's a crankbait. :lol: Works for him as he produces with c-baits. Continue to write articles - you have a gift.


Make a fishin' pact - don't ever stop!

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