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The Four

The Four "B's" of Crankbaits.

Author: Tom Waynick

Knowing how to get the most from your crankbaits often makes a big difference in numbers of bass by the end of the day.

Large bass often fall for crankbaits, all season long.
Since the Big O was conceived, over 30 years ago, and anglers discovered they could catch fish on a lure by simply casting it out and reeling it in, fishing has not been the same. The Crankbait has been going through changes ever since. The industry is comprised of big conglomerates like Pradco who now owns most of the longtime recognized names like Rebel and Bomber. Some big players like Pure Fishing, a.k.a. Berkley, have designed, tested and marketed their own versions. Berkley's Frenzy series spent months in the test tank until the perfect vibration and fish attracting sounds were developed.

Weeding through the collection of styles, sizes, depth ranges, and shapes seems impossible so we tend to just grab the first one that looks good. You'll catch fish using the "grab" method, but if you want consistant success, consider the Four B's. Bill, Body, Buoyancy, and Bottom.

The Bill
Short, long, straight, or angled. The first consideration is to determine how deep you want to fish. The longer the bill the deeper the bait will run. Most small deep - diving crankbaits like the Deep Wee "R," and Norman Deep Little N will run around 8 feet deep. When reading the packaging most companies indicate greater depths than the bait will actually attain under normal fishing conditions. That is not to say they are making false statements to the fishing public. They project the optimum results. Long cast and thin line will get a few more feet in depth out of a lure

The angle of the bill determines how quickly a bait will dive. The more angled the body to the bill, the sharper the angle of descent. You may say so what? Think about it, the sharper the angle, the quicker it dives. The quicker it dives the sooner the bait hits bottom. The result, the bait remains in the strike zone for longer periods. Remember too, baits with the line tie on the lip dive deeper and quicker than those with the line tie on the nose of the bait.

The bill also influences how well the bait glances off objects, eliminating lost fishing time due to hang ups and lost lures which trash the fishing budget. Baits with bills that are wider at the front and narrower at the bait body will maneuver around rocks, stumps, and logs the best. Wordens even has a series of baits called Timber Tiger that have a bill with a modified cloverleaf shape. The side extrusions are designed to allow fishing a crankbait in places formerly thought impossible.

Cabela's Real Image cranks, show the many styles and types of crankbaits available.
Finally, consider whether the bill is clear or colored to match the body. From the fish's point of view, a lure with a painted bill appears much larger than one with a clear bill. When matching the hatch, inspect the entire profile of the bait as if you were a fish. A plug with a colored bill has a silhouette one third again as large as the body of the bait.

The Body
The body shape influences the entire performance, but mostly it effects vibration or water displacement. In recent years there has been a trend toward flat - sided baits, getting away from the rounder alphabet plugs that became popular when the Big O emerged. Still, there is a place for both in the arsenal. Flat-sided baits have a tighter wobble when paired with a narrow lip. A flat lure with a wide lip will exhibit a wider wobble and the fat plugs will displace the most water and offer the widest variable.

Use a tight vibration when the water temperatures is 60 or below. You will be amazed how many times a flat - sided bait, fished slowly with a stop and go retrieve, will catch fish when the water is in the 40's.

Tight swimming baits, similar to the Shad Rap, shine in clear water. Narrow tracking baits appear more natural, and do not trigger a fish's defense sense, which usually results in an escape maneuver.

Crankbaits at the right depth are sure to produce bass.
Round, wide-wobbling baits are most useful when the fish are active. The water has warmed, the feed is on, and they are chasing down everything that moves. In addition, choose the fatter plugs when water is murky. The wider wobble, coupled with internal rattles allows the fish to zero in on the target even during times of low visibility. Speaking of low visibility, try the baits at night. Night fishing round-bodied crankbaits has been a tournament-winning secret of local dogfight participants for years.

Buoyancy is something many anglers consider only to the point that they are deciding between a floating lure and a sinking/suspending lure. There is much more to be considered. Choices in body materials allow the serious cranker to fine-tune the game plan. The two major body materials are wood and plastic. Some manufacturers like Suddeth Bait in Georgia use dense polyurethane foam injected bodies.

There was a time when plastic and balsa wood were the most widely used materials for crankbait production. It was simple then. Plastic was heavier, cast further, dove deeper and quicker than balsa. Balsa had the remarkable ability to trigger reaction strikes. When you hit a stump and stop a balsa bait, it rises very quickly appearing to the fish to be escaping.

Then entered Poe's with a diving bait made from cedar wood. It dove deep, fast and offered something in-between as far as ascending ability.

Polyurethane foam ranks somewhere between cedar wood and balsa. The foam baits will vary as to buoyancy due to miniscule air pockets suspended in the injected material.

Cedar also is inconsistent in density. Some baits seem to work better than others according to David Fritz, the best known crankbait artist in the pro ranks. "When I get new baits I first fish every one of them in a swimming pool to see which ones run and suspend like I want. I also mark them as to the real depth they will run. I discard some and put the best ones in the boat. Once on the water I always find that there are a few that will catch more fish than others. These go into my tournament box. Sometimes I will go through two dozen baits and find two or three that I will use in a tournament."

When fishing crankbaits, fish them on the bottom. Choose a lure that runs a little deeper than the depth you are fishing. Let the bait dig, kick up mud, rock, debris. Hit cover with it and watch your catch ratio increase with each ricochet

Rick Clunn, who has qualified for more consecutive Bassmasters Classics than any other angler offers this suggestion, "When fish are shallow, tie on a big deep - running crankbait and fish it in two to five feet of water. Cast to the shoreline, and let the bait dig a trench back to the boat. This technique catches some huge bass at times. During the spawn, a big crankbait dredging through a bed will produce an anger strike quicker than dropping a gitzit or jig into the bed. It is also very effective, after the spawn, when the females back off to the first break line."

The next time you open your crankbait box, take some of these tips with you. The Four B's will soon become the Five B's. Bill, Body, Buoyancy, Bottom and Bass.

For a complete selection of crankbaits, click here.

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