There’s no denying the fact that crankbaits are extremely versatile offerings with numerous fish-attracting attributes. While these long-standing artificials are a hit with bass anglers, these shallow diving lures also deserve a spot in every inshore angler’s tackle bag. Similar to their ability to effectively imitate a fleeing predator in freshwater, crankbaits evoke the image of a wounded baitfish in saltwater.
As their name suggests, these offerings must be cranked, or reeled to achieve the desired action. Your style of retrieve will also play an integral role in their running depth and attitude. Crankbaits are available in many shapes and sizes as well as a wide range of color patterns. While manufacturers are constantly trying to top their competitors, the one constant among brands is the lip or bill on the front of the lure that causes the lure to dive. Generally outfitted with treble hooks, crankbaits are particularly effective during winter months when lethargic game fish are too sluggish to chase down fast moving prey. Staged in deep potholes to soak up the warmth afforded by dark bottoms or along rocky outcroppings to cash in on disoriented forage, inshore game fish find it hard to resist the life-like attributes determined anglers are offering up.
It should come as no surprise that crankbaits effectively match the hatch. After years of research and development manufacturers are realizing the importance of certain design facets including imitation, presentation, and vibration. Each and every manufacturer designs their lures with varying shapes and attributes to emit unique vibrations and pulses. Crankbaits come in two distinct styles—minnow and shad bodies. Minnow baits are long, thin and are often referred to as stickbaits. These lures provide a pronounced side-to-side action that’s best suited for a jerk-style retrieve. Shad bodies have a large head and taper down to a thin tail section. Because of the enlarged head, these offerings swim through the water column with a tighter wobbling action and are ideally suited for bouncing off heavy structure.
A crankbait’s diving depth is determined by the size of its lip. Shallow diving crankbaits with small lips dive to three-feet and generally have a more vertical lip design. Medium divers reach depths of 8-feet and have lips that are more horizontal. In general, the faster you retrieve a crankbait the deeper it will run. You can also hold your rod tip in an elevated position to run shallower, and consequently point your tip towards the surface to make the lure run deeper. It’s also an effective technique to work your bait with a bit of slack to make a more pronounced jerk effect. Consider for a moment if you were a baitfish being chased by a hungry predator. Would you casually swim away in hopes the intelligent game fish would eventually give up? Certainly not, and this is precisely why changing the speed and direction of your retrieve can instinctively entice fish to strike.
Crankbaits are also designed with specific densities and weights that determine the lures swimming attributes. Floaters will dive upon retrieval but when you stop reeling the offering will slowly rise to the surface. Suspenders dive too, but when you pause your retrieve these lures maintain a constant depth until you start reeling again.
Recent advancements within the tackle industry have resulted in the most life-like lures ever produced. Sebile has a line of unique crankbaits that are designed with a twin-fluid system that creates an artificial bleeding effect. Yo-Zuri recently introduced the Sashimi Minnow, a shallow diving lure that has a chameleon color scheme. Baitfish change colors to blend in with their surroundings and also to alert nearby fish of feeding or distress scenarios. Yo-Zuri’s new line mimics these color changing behaviors. One thing is certain; manufacturers are designing new-age lures that will take mimicry to a whole new level.
Crankbaits can be fine-tuned to achieve optimal performance and while replacing stock hooks is a good idea under certain circumstances, be careful; beefing up the hooks can be problematic. The additional weight of heavy-duty hooks can cause the bait to swim with undesirable characteristics and basically disable its fish-attracting attributes. It’s also important to make sure that the hooks have a free range of motion. Even a tiny flake of paint on a hook holder may cause your offering to veer to one side. The lure’s main eyelet can also be adjusted until the lure tracks perfectly straight.