Weather Forecast


Crankbaits for early action

This morning there were two inches of new snow on the ground. Winter doesn’t want to let go, but like it or not, winter is going away.

When it does, I’m going fishing. And I’m going to be using a bait that many anglers don’t use early in the year. I’m going walleye fishing in a nearby river, I’m going to be wading, and the bait I’ll be using is a crankbait!

Many anglers use crankbaits, but they mostly use them later in the year when the water has warmed up a bit. Crankbaits are very good in warm water, but they can also be very good right now. You can use crankbaits to catch walleyes, bass, pike, and big crappies year ‘round. Following are some crankbait tid-bits.

I got turned on to this early season crankbait bite a couple of years ago. I was fishing with walleye ace Scott Madison on the Missouri River near Yankton, South Dakota. We were trolling and we each had two lines in the water. I had my favorite crankbaits on my lines, Scott was using something else.

Scott was catching more and bigger walleyes than I was. I switched crankbait colors and sizes. Scott kept catching more and bigger walleyes. I continued to switch, Scott continued to catch. When Scott was up something like 10 to two on me I gave in and asked him what he was using and, “Did he have any more of them”? He said the bait was a No. 5 Salmo Hornet and that he had some extras.

I had heard of Hornets, but had never used one. Scott was kind enough to share his Hornets, and I started catching fish. I was reminded by that incident that crankbait shape and action can be just as important as crankbait color. In fact, more often than we might think, shape and action are more important than color.

On that day, I re-discovered that fact. I also discovered that those Hornets have an action that appeal to fish more often than most other crankbaits. I now have a boxful of Hornets in various sizes and colors and have been catching fish on them when other crankbaits just won’t produce.

One of my favorite ways to fish crankbaits is to troll them over flats and along weedlines. Trolling is preferred because it enables me to cover a lot of water quickly and efficiently. Much of the time, especially on shallow flats, say less than 10 feet, I’ll put planer boards on.

Boards enable me to get the bait away from the boat, which reduces spooking. Boards also enable me to fish more lines more efficiently. I use Off Shore boards with Tattle Flags because they allow me to “read” my baits so much better. If the bait picks up a small piece of weed, the flag reveals that.

When trolling behind the boat, I prefer a medium action seven-foot casting rod spooled with 14/6 braided line. The braid has no stretch, so if you do pick up a piece of grass, you can usually just snap the rod and the grass will come off.

Experiment a lot with crankbait color and size. There are lots of times when these factors have a big impact on your catch.

Crankbaits are easy to use. If you’re fishing with inexperienced anglers, they can just hang on to the rod or watch it in the rod-holder. No finesse is involved: When a fish eats your bait, you’ll know it.

Now is a great time to start using crankbaits, and they’ll only get better as the fishing season progresses. I’ve gotta go now, I have a meeting planned with some walleyes on a nearby river. I hope the walleyes remember to show up.

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