The coolest bass rigs you aren't throwing

Three-way crankbait rig

Reaching depths beyond traditional crankbait limitations with shallow-running baits is no problem with the three-way crankbait rig, a popular tool on the Great Lakes.

It should work anywhere there’s a rocky or clean bottom,” says Frank Campbell, a Niagara Falls, N.Y., guide. “It’s an effective way to fish on windy days and through areas where the bass are piled up.”

The setup is pretty simple. Tie a three-way swivel to your main line (he uses 10-pound ­fluorocarbon). Add a 6- to 10-inch leader tied to a heavy sinker on one prong of the swivel and another 4- to 6-foot leader on the other prong and attach that to a crankbait. Campbell uses 1- or 1 1/4-ounce “pencil” sinkers on his drop line. The cylindrical sinkers don’t snag as easily as others when bounced over a craggy bottom.
  “I use this rig where there is current or enough wind that I can drift with the current,” he says. “But you also can cast it over deep water and wind it along the upside of a reef.”

The rig allows him to fish baits that normally dive to a maximum of 10 feet in water as deep as 25 feet. His favorites are the fire tiger Bomber 6A or 7A for stained water and the Lindy River Rocker (alewife or aunt creepy colors) in clear water. “You can match the forage better with smaller crankbaits, which are more realistic than the big billed, deep diving baits designed to get to 20 feet or more,” he explains.

When fishing breaklines, he sets the boat sideways and uses the current and wind to propel his boat and casts his bait at a 45-degree angle along the dropoff. It’s critical, he says, to get the bait to the bottom where it glances off rocks and structure.

Three-way crankbait rigThree-way crankbait rig
In fact, he adds, the combination of the sinker tapping along the bottom followed by the bait banging behind it is an added attraction. “I think it looks like a baitfish chasing something and that excites bass into striking,” he says. It’s not a rig to fish in heavy grass or wood, but the lure doesn’t hang up as easily in rocks as one might expect. “One trick we use is to remove the front or middle hook,” Campbell says. “We did some experimenting a few years ago and found out that the hookup with fish was even better at times.” While Carolina rigging a crankbait may seem like a more practical means of getting crankbaits deep, Campbell says it doesn’t work where zebra mussels exist. The line will fray on the sharp edges as it drags on the bottom. “With this, the sinker and the bait spend more time than the line on the bottom,” he explains.