Lakecaster Online Archives - June, 2004


By Len Fairbanks
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Len Fairbanks

Happens every year 'bout this time. The kids get out of school, the thermometer starts bumping 90 with annoying regularity and the bass on Lake Livingston start eating crankbaits. Crankbaits will remain one of the most productive bass catching baits throughout the rest of summer. Early in the mornings (usually until about 8:30), I can still catch fish on a spinnerbait or a buzzbait, 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 shallow diving crankbaits. I'll probably talk about deep diving crankbaits next month. My favorite shallow crankbaits include Berkley Frenzy, Bagley's Killer BI, Norman's Deep Baby N, Poe's Series 200, RC1 and RC2, Storm's Wiggle Wart and probably one of the most dependable, the Bomber 6A. I realize that this is quite a list, but I have caught fish on each and every one of these 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."

The crankbait originally 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, a fisherman must develop a "feel" for the bait. If you have ever tried 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, and you won't be nearly so frustrated. On a normal day of crankbait fishing, I will probably get hung up 40 or 50 times. This isn't a big deal, especially with the shallow diving crankbaits that I mentioned because most won't dive any deeper than your rod. So just 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 very worst thing to hang up on is an old piece of trotline or anchor rope tied to a stump. The easiest way to get one of these baits loose is to take your landing net, run it down your line and get your crankbait hooks hung in the netting. Then you can usually pull back with enough force to straighten the hooks and get your crankbait back.

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 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.

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 Berkley Sensation. I use a 7'0" medium action fiberglass Fenwick rod (model FT 70M). 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 and a 5.3:1 retrieve ratio like an Abu Garcia 4600C3 or UC4600C.

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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