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Crankbait Fishing in the Early Spring

Article Written By: Kate Stewart

April 19th, 2022

When it comes to reaction bites there are few techniques that can top a solid crankbait bite. It is a universal bite that when fished correctly allows anglers to cover a lot of water quickly and can produce monster bass no matter where you live.


Crankbaits include multiple style baits varying in both size and depth range. But because of the hundreds of different choices they can be intimidating for a new angler in regards of where to start. For example, a Strike King KVD Square bill is often used to target shallow fish in the 3-5 ft depth range. In my own personal experience, I turn to this style crankbait when fishing shallow rock walls that tend to have grass lines such as levy walls in the California Delta. The larger body and square bill tends to create a different action than traditional diving crank baits that can be fished both slow and fast with their wide wiggle action.

Another popular style of crankbait for early spring is the shallow to medium depth crankbaits such as a SPRO Rock Crawler, Strike King XD Series, or the Rapala DT Series. These baits have a longer bill and slimmer profile. The longer bill allows these baits to run at a deeper depth keeping contact with the lake bottom longer and creating extra noise that cause more reactions from roaming bass during the pre-spawn.


During this time of year, the warming water temps push the bass up to shallower water, even in the deep canyon lakes found throughout California. So there really is no need for a deep diving crank that exceeds the 12-foot depth range.


Copes Tackle and Rod Shop Employee Wyatt Moore holding a largemouth he caught on a Strike King 6XD

When it comes to choosing colors, this can also be an overwhelming task. Almost all anglers will have a specific color that they prefer, especially depending on the body of water being fished. The best place to start is with a shad color, and a crawfish color. Each body of water you fish is going to have specific baitfish that you may want to try and match but a safe shad pattern choice that will produce fish in generally all waters will have a blue back, or silver. A safe choice for a craw pattern will either be an orange craw or red pattern.


The one thing to remember when fishing a crankbait is that you want it to have contact with either the bottom of the lake or structure such as trees or rock piles. Casting angles are also important to keep in mind when fishing a crankbait. If you are in a boat or kayak you want to keep your bait in what is referred to as the "strike zone" as much as possible. Ideally you want to line your boat or kayak up parallel to the bank in the depth zone you are wanting to fish. If you are walking along the shoreline you can create a similar casting pattern along the bank, however don't get frustrated if it is more difficult to stay in the depth you are targeting. Regardless of how you are fishing you want to either stay parallel with the bank or create a fan casting pattern rather than just casting straight in front of you and bringing it back to allow your bait to stay within the strike zone for the maximum amount of time.



Guide and Professional Angler Rusty Brown Shows Off His Largemouth Landed On a Rapala DT Series

The type of gear to effectively throw crankbaits may also vary based on the angler’s style and preference. Reel choice is not as crucial as some other techniques however many anglers prefer a low gear ration such as 4.1:1 or 5.1:1, although a 6.3:1 ratio reel will do the job too and allow for a faster retrieve when throwing square bills. The slower gear ratio allows the angler to slow the bait down easier and creates more power when fighting bigger fish. Some suggestions for beginning anglers looking for a solid reel at a good price point include the Shimano Curado 200 K Series in a 5.0:1 and the Daiwa Tatula Elite in 6.3:1. Both reels have a large line capacity which allows for longer casts in order to cover the most amount of water.

Rods can be a little more specific to create the best action from the bait and wear the angler out the least. An angler can throw a crankbait on a graphite rod, but by the end of the day you may feel as if you’ve lifted weights for 6 hours and find yourself rather sore the next day. Most anglers prefer either a composite rod which is a mix of glass and graphite or just a straight glass rod. The Phenix Rods X-series is a popular choice for a composite rod choice. The Daiwa Tatula Elite Series Glass Rods are a popular choice among anglers preferring an all-glass rod.


Finally, the last thing to consider when getting ready to throw crankbaits is line type. You want to choose a line that has very little stretch. It is important to keep in mind that the bill of the crankbait that allows the bait to dive is going to create resistance against your line. If there is too much stretch, you will tend to lose  control of your bait. Line with too much stretch also has less sensitivity. This means it will be harder to know whether your bait is touching the bottom or not when retrieving the bait. Another factor when throwing crankbaits is that you want a line that sinks. The goal is to keep the bait running along the bottom as long as possible. If you are using a sinking line, it will allow your bait to remain deeper longer increasing your opportunities to put that bait in front of a fish. This means that fluorocarbon is your best option for cranking. Fluorocarbon has much less stretch than monofilament or braid. It is also less visible than monofilament or braid. Some good options for fluorocarbon include Seaguar Invizx. P-line Tactical Fluorocarbon, and Gamma Edge.


With the right combination throwing a crankbait can produce both numbers and quality fishing when it comes to early spring bass fishing. During the early spring bass are preparing for the spawning season forcing them to push into shallower waters and causing them to be more reactive to moving baits. Now that you have the basics get out on the water and send us your crankbait fish to the link below!

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