Lakecaster Online Archives - July, 2003


By Len Fairbanks
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Len Fairbanks

The Fourth of July can be depended on for a number of things in Lake Livingston Country. Lots of good bar-b-que, one of the best FREE fireworks displays you will ever see in your life, plenty of hot weather and the some of the best deep crankbait fishing of the whole year.

We didn't have much of a spring and thermometer is going over 90 just about every day that it doesn't rain. The surface water temperature is starting to stay up in the 80's and a lot of the bass down on the south end of the lake have moved out just a little bit deeper. Early in the mornings (usually until about 8:30), I can still catch fish on a spinnerbait out of shallow cover, but after the sun gets on the water, the crankbait becomes my primary bass catching weapon.

This month, I am mainly going to be talking about deep diving crankbaits. When I say deep diving, I mean baits that dive between 8' and 14' on a normal cast. My favorite deep diving crankbaits include Berkley's medium and deep diving 3/8 oz. Frenzy, Norman's Deep Little N, DD14 and DD22, Mann's 15+ and 20+, Pradco's Fat Free Shad and Storm's Magnum Wiggle Wart. I realize that this is quite a list, but I have caught fish on each and every one of these baits many times and almost consider them interchangeable.

There is definitely something positive about showing the bass something different, so it doesn't hurt to change up sometimes. I have and will continue to experiment with color pattern, but I can't seem to find any color more consistently productive than "firetiger." Different lure companies have slight color variations and maybe different color names but the "firetiger" that I am referring to consists of chartreuse sides with a lime green or black back and orange belly. Usually the sides will have either black stripes or dots. I suppose that the bass think that this color looks like a bream, but I'm not sure. Chartreuse/blue back will catch a lot of fish and on sunny days, chrome/black or blue back can be good, but if I had to choose just one crankbait color for Lake Livingston, it would be "firetiger."

Regardless of color or model make sure those hooks are razor sharp. I usually change all of my crankbait hooks to the next larger size and always use VMC Vanadium Round Bend trebles, usually the short shank models. Many, many times, a bass strikes at a crankbait and only gets part of the bait in its mouth. With those razor sharp hooks, you stand a much better chance of hooking any bass that even looks at your crankbait.

The crankbait got its name from the fact that it was a bait that a fisherman could cast out and crank back and catch fish. And sometimes, it is just that easy.

But to become a crankbait master, you must develop a "feel" for the bait. If you have ever thrown a crankbait, you probably figured out that the main problem with them is how easy that they get hung up. Please understand that if you are not getting hung up, then you aren't fishing in the right places. Start out the day with the idea firmly planted in your head that you are going to get hung up, not just once or twice but many times. That way you'll be mentally prepared to get hung up, and the process won't be nearly so frustrating.

On a normal day of crankbait fishing, I will probably get hung up 40 or 50 times. This isn't a big deal, since there are many methods available to get your bait back. To start with, position your boat directly over the hung up bait with your trolling motor and reel all the way down until your feel the bait hit the tip of your rod and just push. Usually the bait pops free immediately. Sometimes you may have to give the bait a little coaxing to get it loose, but almost always the bait can be recovered with some effort. The problem with these deep diving crankbaits is that they dive deeper than we can reach with our rods. Various devices are made to help in these situations. Some are heavy lead weights that you attach to your line and lower down to your bait to "knock" it loose. The one that I use the most is a lightweight telescoping aluminum pole about 16' long. These poles have a means of attaching the end to your line and can then be used to push your bait loose. This may seem like a lot of trouble, but at $3-$6 per bait, I'm willing to spend a little bit of time trying to retrieve my hard earned dollars from the bottom of the lake.

Your defense against getting hung up is developing that "feel" that I mentioned earlier. This "feel" is not something that you are going develop by reading this article. This takes time on the water with a crankbait on the end of your line. The first thing that you need to learn how to "feel" and the thing that will save you the most hang-ups, is the feeling of your line rubbing against a tree limb or log. When you get this feeling, stop reeling and use just the tip of your rod to move the bait, very gently up and over the limb. If you just keep cranking hard, you'll get hung up almost every time. One of the quickest ways to figure out how this feels is to throw your crankbait over a log that you can see just barely under the water. Then you can watch your line and bait and "feel" how that line feels rubbing on wood and how that bait feels when comes up and over the limb.

Where most people miss fish with a crankbait is they get hung up just before the bait goes over the limb or log. Most strikes occur just after the lure has passed over the limb, so if your bait gets hung up before it goes over, it doesn't pass through the most productive strike zone. So, if you can develop that "feel" and decrease your number of hang-ups, you can greatly increase the number of fish that you will catch with a crankbait. With just a little bit a finesse, you can bring a crankbait through some amazingly thick cover.

Why do we want to go to all this trouble? Why not just fish a Texas rigged plastic worm that hardly ever gets hung up. The reason is that a crankbait can be presented to a much larger number of fish in the course of a day, because we fish it so much faster. A worm is a very slow way to fish and that makes it a very slow way to find fish. This is why the crankbait is one of the best search baits or fish-finding baits available.

Let's briefly touch on equipment. For line, I prefer fresh, premium quality 10-14 pound test green monofilament like Trilene XT, Berkley Big Game or some of the new abrasion resistant Berkley IronSilk. The lighter the line, the deeper your crankbait will dive and the crankbait will have more action, but there is a trade-off. That lighter line is going to break easier and have to be changed more often, so go lighter with caution.

I use a 7'0" medium action fiberglass Fenwick rod (model FT 70M). Many people feel more comfortable with a 6' or 6'-6" rod, but I really like that 7 footer because it increases my casting distance and lets me get that crankbait down and keep it in the strike zone longer. Regardless of length, I feel that a rod of this type (100% fiberglass or fiberglass/graphite composite) is very important to successful crankbait fishing. This increased fiberglass content seems to decrease the sensitivity just enough to force us to let the bass "have" the bait long enough to get hooked. All theory aside, I just know that I hook and land more bass on a rod of this type than a pure graphite rod. Also, I like to use a quality, high-speed baitcasting reel with a thumb bar release like an Abu Garcia 4600C3, UC4600C or one of the new Torno's.

I sincerely hope that at least some of the information that I have provided was enlightening or maybe entertaining but most of all helpful and educational. If you would like some first hand instruction on black bass fishing on Lake Livingston or Sam Rayburn, I guide full time on both of these lakes and can be reached at (936) 563-5454 or you can email me at If you get a chance, check out my web site at and let me know what you think. Between now and next month, catch all you can and release all that you catch. Good luck, be safe out there and may God bless.

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