Crankbaits 101

About the author

Lee Sisson

Lee Sisson

Lee Sisson built the first deep-diving crankbaits and has designed lures for dozens of companies over the years. At the age of 63 he became an Elite Series rookie. Now retired from the Elites, Lee consults for Bagley Bait Company from his shop in Winter Haven, Fla.

Crankbaits are a standard part of our fishing and part of every fisherman’s arsenal. All we have to do is throw them out and reel them back, maybe vary the retrieve a little, right?

Not so fast. The basics of crankbaiting are just as important as the basics in other sports — like blocking and tackling in football.

The first basic involves getting the lure to run the way you want. Most of the time, this means getting it to run straight. This is achieved by bending the line tie the way you want the lure to go with the lure facing you. If the lure is running to the right when you retrieve it, hold the lure so that it's facing you and bend the line tie to the left. This will make the lure run more to the left, straightening it up. Usually it takes a very slight adjustment to correct the problem. You may have to make several adjustments to achieve just what you want.

We all know that changing retrieve speeds, using a stop and go retrieve or pulling the lure to depth then fishing it similar to a jerkbait are effective methods of cranking. But these are just the beginning of ways to use a crankbait.

One very effective way to fish this lure is to tune it to run just a little to the left or right. I use this a lot when fishing vertical structure such as boat docks and standing timber. By getting the lure to run to the side, you can run it under docks. Once under the dock, the lure bounces off each pilling it passes.

You can also try stopping the lure as it bounces off the dock pilings. On floating docks you can reach areas which are nearly impossible to fish any other way. In standing timber this ensures you hit the cover as the lure passes, stimulating strikes.

I've also used this method when fishing bluff walls and deep boat docks. Position your boat against the wall and tune the lure to run into the wall so the lure bumps the wall all the way back to the boat. On many lakes with bluff walls, wave action has washed out spots leaving hiding places that bass like to lurk in. This may be the only way to get to them.

Once when river fishing with my good friend William Davis of Davis Baits, he asked why my lure wasn’t being pushed downstream by the current. We were fishing the upper reaches of Lay Lake, and there was a lot of current. When he retrieved his lure, the current pushed the lure away from what we were fishing. I had tuned my lure to come back to the boat straight, compensating for the current. This kept my lure in the strike zone longer.

I always keep a small pair of pliers handy when fishing so I can make slight adjustments throughout the day. I also like lures which have wires which are not hardened. In the old Bagley days we used brass wires for this reason. Now Bagley uses an annealed stainless wire which has the same properties but will not corrode. The softer wire also allows you to bend the nose wire (the line tie coming out of the nose of a lure) up and down a little. By moving the wire down, you will usually get a little quicker action, while moving it up slows the action down. This also works well on minnow style lures (jerkbaits), such as the Bagley Bang-O-Lure.

In our next lesson we'll discuss other advantages of the crankbait. I've always believed that man’s only limiting factor is his own imagination, and fishing is no different. Don’t be afraid to use it.

Originally published February 2012

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