Lester: Cranks will be the thing at BASSfest

This week, the second annual BASSfest kicks off. Just like last year, this event will be held on the Tennessee River — this time on the legendary Kentucky Lake.

June in this part of the country for bass fishermen means one thing — offshore ledge fishing. Kentucky Lake is arguably the best ledge fishing lake in the country, and there’s no doubt this tournament will be a slugfest.

Ledge fishing baits have come so far in the past few years, but the one staple that always remains in everyone’s offshore arsenal is the deep diving crankbait. When schools of bass first get out to the ledges in the summer, the big ones want the crankbait. Sure, you can catch them dragging worms or jigs around, but I’ve seen it time and time again: If I can get five to eat the big plug, they will far outweigh the worm draggers’ fish every time.

I think the biggest reason for this is the fact that the fish on the Tennessee River feed on big shad when they’re out there, and the big crankbait does a really great job of mimicking them.

Crankbaits have come very far in the past few years and now several companies make good baits that will get down to 20-plus feet deep. In years past, if you wanted to fish past 20 feet, you would have to go to a bottom-bouncing bait. But with today’s baits, some of them will hit 28 to 30 feet on a normal cast.

Baits such as the Strike King 10XD have become popular the past couple of years, and sure they’re big and hard to throw and require you to beef up your tackle a bit, but they will get you the big bites it takes to win tournaments point blank.

My favorite ledge crankbait day in and day out, though, is the Strike King 6XD. For everything up to 20 feet, this bait is the deal. I feel like it is the perfect size. It dives steep and gets to the bottom quickly, and it doesn’t kick out when you reel it fast.

My tackle for big cranks is a MHX-CB-907 for all my normal size plugs. For oversize baits like the 10XD, I use a CB-968 blank that I cut down to 7-6 to reduce the weight a little. Both of these rods have just the right balance of power and bend for cast and fighting fish.

I always put new Mustad hooks on the baits. Round bend trebles are my preference.

For line, I use 10- to 12-pound-test Vicious Fluorocarbon for the 6XD and 15- to 17-pound on the 10XD.

I like a slower 5:4:1 gear ratio reel to help them dive to their deepest depths.

I am so excited to be fishing on the best river system in the country this week, and I hope you will come out and enjoy the event and help strengthen the new annual tradition that is BASSfest.

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