Fritts and the crankbait

Editors note: With David Fritts leading after Day 1 at Lake Oahe we wanted to re-run this story about his background for newer, younger fans.

Crankbait. If a single lure can be tied to David Fritts' angling legacy, it is the crankbait.

In the 1990s, Fritts cranked his way to the top of the bass fishing tournament scene. He won the 1993 Bassmaster Classic — as a rookie — and followed the feat by winning the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year in 1994. By end of the decade, he won five B.A.S.S. titles and the FLW Cup. Chalk up most of the wins, Classic and Cup included, to the crankbait.

Fritts, now 60, intends to make a comeback. This week he makes his debut at the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open #1. Next month he starts the nine-event Bassmaster Elite Series. He's in the Elite Series after accepting one of two slots reserved under the Legends status. Paul Elias, another crankbait wizard, accepted the other invitation.

Altogether, Fritts plans to compete in a dozen B.A.S.S. events this season. The question is, after an 11-year absence, is he ready?

Part of the answer is yes. When contacted, he didn’t hesitate to accept the invitation. There is more to come, he hopes.

“Fishing is my life and I made my name fishing B.A.S.S.,” he said. “It just felt like the right thing to do and I’ve missed it very much.”

Fritts recognizes the challenges he faces coming back at such a late stage in his career. Instead of complaining about the physical drawbacks he takes the mental high road. That very attitude is the name of the game played by winners like him.  

“As you get older some of your mechanics aren’t quite as good as before, but wisdom and knowledge can give you an edge, he said.

Sore muscles and weary bones aside, Fritts hopes to conquer a greater challenge while digging deep into his wealth of angling knowledge.

“What I look forward to the most is adjusting to the changes between then and now,” he added.

There is much work to be done and not all of it mental.

Back in the 1990s, orange blips flashing on a narrow, circular screen signaled fish and structure on depthfinders of the day. Deepwater crankbait wizards like Fritts developed an uncanny skill of deciphering the blips. Triangulating boat position visually with landmarks was required to line up with the hidden casting targets.

Today, the likes of the side scan sonar imagery, displayed in high definition color on a wide screen, makes the task of finding offshore fish easier.

“It also puts me competitively at a disadvantage,” he continued. “But it’s good for the sport overall because now just about anybody can fish off the bank now.”

Fritts recognizes he needs another edge. For him that might come via the very lure that he claims made his name on the tournament trail.

“Everybody needs a little motivation to get back in the game and I’ve found it,” he said. “It’s re-energized me, made what’s to come very exciting.

The inroad to the excitement is a new crankbait under development for Berkley.

Fritts described the bait as hydrodynamic in how it runs deeper with less effort by the angler.

“It’s the way water flows over the bait to make it run deeper, outside of the water pressure on the lip created by cranking,” he said. “It’s remarkable how much technology can change the game in fishing, be it electronics or lures.”

Fritts also recognizes the power that tournaments bring in launching new, innovative products like his crankbaits.

“I want to get out and show everyone how good those lures really are, but I also realize the power tournaments have as a way of marketing,”

Fritts hopes performing well in the Elite Series and Opens returns his name, and namesake category of lure, back into the spotlight.