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Want to catch the biggest fish on the lake? Try a crankbait

The last number of weeks my articles have been focused on classic and standard techniques for catching fish from our area lakes. We have discussed jigging, live bait rigging, fishing with slip bobbers, and last week was focused on spinners. It is obvious we need to talk crank baits next.

Fishing with crank baits has become its own art form. Crank baits come in a wide variety of sizes, colors, shape, and action. For simplicity, I will break them down into two basic categories; shad style baits or minnow imitators. Minnow imitators tend to be long and slim (sometimes referred to as "stick baits") and the shad style bodies are wider and fatter in profile. Both styles come with a shallow diving or a deep diving series of baits.

Crank Baits can be pitched or trolled. Pitching, or casting crank baits is usually a very target specific approach to fish holding to some type of structure. Most times the structure will consist of rock piles, weed beds, current edges, riprap, docks, or deadfall wood in the lake or river. When they are trolled, the art is being able to match speed, lure action, color, size, and depth to create success.

Popular baits to pitch for success in our area include the Rapala baits including: Shad Rap baits sizes 5 & 7, Husky Jerks, Long Cast Minnows, Rattlin Raps, Rattlin Fat Raps, and TailDancers. Other popular pitching baits include the Salmo Hornet, Cotton Cordell's CC Shad and Wally Diver series, and the Strike King series of baits.

The above-mentioned baits are also good for trolling, along with other baits that include, but are not limited to, Bomber Long Deep Diver series, Storms Thunderstick and Hot N Tot series, Reef Runner Deep Diver and Little Ripper series, Smithwick Rogue, and the Berkley "Frenzy" series of baits.

Most of these baits when trolled will be at speeds of 1.8 to 2.2 miles per hour. Experienced trollers will sometimes troll baits as fast as 3-4 mph. It takes time and practice to learn what baits can handle that kind of speed and still maintain good action and not "spin-out."

Most trolling now is done with line-counter baitcast reels spooled with one of the new super lines such as "fireline" or "powerpro." They make the lures dive a little deeper, maintain good action, and it is easy to tell if they have become fouled with weeds. A hard sweep of the rod can clear the line many times without having to reel in to clear the weeds. The super lines are also used more frequently with softer tip rods for pitching the baits because of the high action of the lures have when retrieved. The fluorocarbon lines become the next most popular choice because of the high sensitivity and lower stretch nature of the line.

For anyone that trolls or is interested in learning how to troll, I recommend you pick up a book called "Precision Trolling," written by Dr. Steven Holt, Mark Romanack, and Tom Irwin. It is referred to as the "The Trollers Bible" for a good reason. It has dive curves for most crank baits. It has information on trolling with leadcore line and using snap weights to help maintain depth control of you lures.

When you start adding crank baits to your tool box you will be opening up a new world of fishing that will take more time on the water to become proficient and effective. Crankbaits can produce in all seasons, but really excel in the peak summer period. Crankbaits also have a reputation of being able to produce the biggest fish swimming in any body of water. Get out and give the "cranks" a try!

(Laabs runs Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)