The offshore game is no longer an art practiced by only a select few zealots glued to their flashers. As space-age electronics have become more widespread and crankbaits have been fine-tuned for specific situations, everyone from weekend warriors up to Bassmaster Classic champions have turned away from the bank. That democratization of information means that key schools can be heavily pressured, and individual fish can be finicky, and in turn has made the tools that directly connect the angler to the bait – rod, reel and line – all that more important.
Despite all of this attention and analysis to key cranking strategies, Elite Series pro Keith Combs is surprised that even among many pros comparatively little thought is put into the choice of a reel, and that they don’t know what to look for in a rod. Combs has won hundreds of thousands of dollars with a diving bait, including a victory in the 2013 Elite Series Rigid Industries Falcon Slam, and he’s carefully evaluated every aspect of his system from boat positioning to equipment down to body mechanics. He believes that just picking up a reel labeled “Cranking” and applying it in a one-size-fits-all manner is a recipe for disaster. He’s just as picky when it comes to rods, believing that a good cranking system is only as strong as its weakest link – and he tolerates no weak links.
The Right Choice
Many of the supposed best reels for cranking have slow gear ratios, in the 5:1 range, and Combs will occasionally employ a 5.5:1 Shimano Curado in cold water, but he likes the same model in a substantially faster gear ratio for the vast majority of his crankbait fishing.
“A high-speed reel is necessary,” he said. “There are times when I use that high speed for retrieving, but more than anything it’s important when a fish is hooked. When that fish comes up and jumps, that’s when you need to be reeling your hardest to keep the line tight and your hooks pinned. When that happens, even a 6.3:1 reel might not be up to the task. You can’t compensate if the fish does anything abnormal.”
Most of the time a medium-paced retrieve with a 7.2:1 Shimano Curado gets the job done. If the fish demand a warp speed retrieve it’s up to the task, and except for those limited times when only a super slow crawl will do forces him to a slower Curado, he can simply ratchet back the pace of his retrieve as required.