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By Charles Stuart

If you have never tried to use a crankbait for catching bass, walleye or any of the pike family, or have had little or no success, read on, I might convince you to give it another try.

To begin, let us focus on the largest member of the sunfish family, the bass. During certain times of the day bass like to move into deeper water. There are many reasons why this "transition" from shallow to deep water occurs, one of which is to get away from the fishermen who pound the shoreline with a variety of lures that they get to see week in and week out! When you cannot find the fish you

are looking for from the shoreline, start looking to deep-water structure.

The structure could include, large rocks, areas of sunken forest, abandoned cars or building ruins that were flooded by the Corp of Engineers when constructing a new watershed or reservoir. Often this information can be obtained from survey maps of a lake or reservoir prior to impounding. Once you have established the depth you want to fish, select your crankbait
according to its capabilities. Most of you will know that the larger the plastic "bill" on the nose of the bait, the deeper it will dive. I like to paint the number of feet a lure will dive on the belly of the lure. This helps when it comes to selection time. If I am fishing in 20 feet of water I like to start with any two brightly colored crankbaits I have to hand. The reason for brightness as opposed to color selection is that I am looking for a lure that will reflect even a little light in the darkness of deep water. The first crankbait will run at between 15 and 18 feet. With this lure I will determine if the fish are looking upward and are in a feeding pattern off the bottom of the water. If the first choice fails the second lure of choice would be a crankbait that can dive deeper that the depth I am fishing. The reason is simply, I want to present frantic baitfish bumping into structure. This lure will make small thumping sounds as it hits solid objects, or if it strikes the lake bottom the lure will cause clouds of silt, gravel or sand to billow up in the water. The noise and vibration will attract fish and provoke a strike. If I cannot get to the fish because they are in 30 or 40 feet of water, I attach a crankbait to a one-ounce Carolina rig, exchanging the worm hook for the crankbait. In a shallow situation, crankbait color choice becomes vital, as the lure can be seen more clearly. Try to match the size and color of the baitfish to the size of your lure. As with any crankbait lure presentation always start moving the lure quickly. If no strikes come, change your retrieve to a stop and go or slow it down to a crawl. Once the fish "tell you" how they want the bait, you will have found the pattern to fish and will catch more of them as a result.

Walleye and Pike are two fish that will strike at crankbaits in many situations. Walleye like deep water, really deep water, so once again, you must find a way to get your bait down to the fish. Fishing from a boat is the most productive way to catch them, trolling lures behind a boat with a Plano board at depths of 30, 40, or 50 feet. For our shore-bound anglers, you should use heavy weights attached to the line in a similar fashion to the Carolina rig mentioned previously and use various speeds of retrieval, until you find the speed they like. Whilst I do not think color is important to a walleye, scent or fish paste on the crankbait can be an additional incentive for them to strike at the lure.

Northern pike and pickerel will hit crankbaits at any level, remembering that the pike family prefers cold water. The best pike fishing is during the fall and winter. At that time, the fish get closer to the shoreline and feed ferociously. Their teeth are sharper during the colder months, so use wire leaders, or you will lose your crankbait! Best crankbait color for any pike in my opinion is white and red.

Muskie's should be fished for with a lure presentation similar to that for walleye. You should however, upgrade to the largest lures you can find 10 or 12 inches is not too small for a muskie! (NB saltwater lures will work well) and if you have feather dressed treble hooks, so much the better, the muskie seems to like feathers! Lures retrieved over points and drop-offs will bring these monsters out of hiding. Just remember to carry some heavy duty gloves, long nosed pliers and a damp cloth the handle these fish. If you are under 16, I strongly suggest you take an adult with you. Muskie's, like sharks can inflict severe wounds unless they are handled firmly and quickly. Take pictures if you have to and release them as soon as possible as muskie's have a tendency to die quickly if not returned to the water.


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