Deep Cranking Basics
The Art of Catching Summer Bass
Bruce Callis Jr
During the hot dog days of summer, bass love cooler water just as much as we love to hit the shade. For a bass, that means either the cooler water under the grass mats or going offshore into deeper water. While anglers base their style of fishing based on the water they grew up fishing, deep water cranking can and should be a technique they add to their angling arsenal.
A crankbait has been described as a “no brainer lure” because it provides it’s own action and an angler can cast it out and reel it back and catch fish. While this is basically true, learning to use a crankbait to it’s ultimate potential and to be consistent takes a lot of time and practice.
Fatigue is one of the top reasons most anglers do not fish deep diving lures enough, or give up on them all together. The secret is to learn to let the rod and reel do the real work. When you make that long cast, the first 4 or 5 turns on the reel are all about getting the bait down to it’s working depth. And the way you hold your rod to your bait has a lot to do with fatigue. Retrieve your lure back with the rod pointed towards the bait, not at your side. This will stop a lot of fatigue on your elbows, shoulders and everything else involved in the retrieve. The only torque you will have is right in your grip. Another tip is to not try to crank the bait all the way to the boat. Instead, let the rod be your friend. When you get the lure to the boat, use the rod to lift your bait, and reel up the slack after each lift. These simple tips will take a whole lot of fatigue out of your deep cranking.
During the summer, you need to focus on the main lake, fishing the deep drops, humps and other features that hold bass. The bass can really group up in schools when they go deep. Using your electronics with downscan and side imaging, helps finding the right depth range so much easier. Once you know the depth they are holding in, look for structure in that range and there the fish will be. This can be points, humps, or channel drops in that range. And because they will school up, you can potentially catch them cast after cast.
Having the right set-up is key to getting your bait down to the bass. Some anglers prefer a 7’11” medium heavy action rod, but your height also plays in this. If you are shorter, you may want a little shorter rod, but a 7’6” is about as short as you really want to go. The rod action is key to everything, from launching the bait a long distance, to fighting the bass. You want a rod with enough backbone to fight the big bass, but a tip with enough give to launch the bait and not rip the lure out of the bass’ mouth. The reel is the next part of the set-up. You need one that is slow enough to let you work the bait properly, but yet fast enough to get your bait down in a hurry. Why most prefer a 6.3:1, you can go down to a 5.3:1 if you need to, but generally the faster of the two is a better choice. It allows you to get the lure down fast enough, but still slow enough that you aren’t fighting the lure back to the boat. The 3rd element is the fishing line itself. Fluorocarbon is by far the best choice for this technique. You can use a 10-12 pound test line, which will help give you the maximum depth on your lure. If you use too big a line your lure will not be able to achieve a maximum depth. Braid and monofilament are great lines, but for this, they will not allow you to get as deep as they have a tendency to float. The smaller diameter of lighter line also allows for you to make much longer casts.
The idea is is to have your lure hitting in the strike zone at the right time. You want your lure to be at the right depth before you get to the bass. You want your lure to run through that strike zone as you get to the bass, creating a reaction strike. Your lure should hit the bottom at about the time when you get to where the bass are.
Lure choice is the major factor. More than color is the ability of the bait to hit bottom. If you are in 20 feet of water, you don’t want a lure that runs at a maximum depth of 16-18 feet, as you will never hit bottom. You want a bait that will hit the bottom consistently. For me, the choice would be a SPRO Little John Super DD 90, which has a running depth of 16-25 feet, depending on line size and casting distance. It is 1.25 ounces and 90 mm long, and comes in 7 different paint schemes. The SPRO Little John DD 70 is another great choice, but it has a running depth of 16-20 feet, and unless you downsize your line size, will not be constantly hitting that 20 foot depth consistently. It comes in 20 different paint schemes and at 70 mm, it weighs 3/4 of an ounce. The Strike King 10 XD is also a crankbait that dives to 25 feet, weighting in at 2 ounces and comes in 21 different color schemes, and will hit bottom consistently. The Z Boss 22, weighing 1.5 ounces and 3 3/8” long, is designed to dive to 15-18 feet, and comes in 23 colors to help match the baitfish. While the Z Boss 25, at a length of 4” and weighing in at 2 ounces, achieves a maximum depth of 22-27’ and comes in 19 different color schemes.
Remember, make a long cast, let the rod and reel do the work, and make sure to hit the bottom consistently and you are on your way to some deep cranking fun. It is not for everyone, but even if it isn’t within your comfort zone, it is a technique you need to learn and practice to become a better angler. And if you dream of that big stage, you will need it. Now go have fun and make some memories.