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Jim Porter fishing articles


DEEP CRANKING

By Jim Porter


Crank plugs - boy, I like to burn those lures and feel a big old bass slam into it! The harder I crank, the harder he seems to hit it, too.

Sometimes, the lure just stops, almost like it caught a log. Then, it starts to throb as the bass begins to shake his head and jerk back on the resistance of the line. I set the hook hard with the no-stretch Fireline, the bass now realizes he is danger, and it's off to the races we go!!

While topwater is exciting and sudden and the worm makes you feel like you have fooled the fish, nothing else in bass fishing is quite as satisfying as a bass grabbing onto a fast crank plug. In most every location I come to, the first lure I cast is a diving crank plug that gets to the bottom. I select it by the depth of the point, bar, or drop-off I plan to present the lure on. I also want it to be a stable lure that will run tight and true at high speed.

If a bottom location is fairly clean and hard, bass appear to prefer a diving crank plug that is in contact with the bottom. If the fish are active (and those are always the ones to target first), the fast retrieve, coupled with that erratic action associated with bottom contact and the noise it creates, seems to really turn them on.

Once we have the active fish in the livewell, we can always attempt to finesse up the rest. But, one of the 'facts of fishing' is that a bass that sees another bass chase prey will usually turn active, himself. I suspect it is the competitive urge that does it, rather than pure hunger. So, it is not unusual to catch a good number of fish from a location on a fast crank plug and then find there are no others left for the worm or jig to harvest.

'Ripping' (i.e., cranking at high speed) a diving crank plug is the best way I know to limit out on keepers quickly on tournament day. We can cover a lot of water and a lot of potential fish-holding locations very fast, taking the active fish that are available. Then, we can always go and toss worms and jigs in the thick cover looking for a big fish, or two.

Here are a few things I have learned using the diving crank plugs successfully.
  • First, ALWAYS know the depth of the location you will be fishing. Then, add about 3 feet to that and select a crank plug that runs at the cumulative total (if the bar is 9 feet down, select a plug that runs at 12 feet). This is important, because we want the lip of that chosen lure to literally 'eat' the bottom up.
  • We want it to be in solid contact with the bottom, making noise and throwing up puffs of sand and soil. The intent is to make the lure look as though it is something alive, and that it is scared and hauling it to the next county. A predatory bass has a hard time letting something like that go by.
  • Next, we want to be sure the selected plug runs straight and true. If it does not run straight, it will not reach its normal operating depth. 'Depth' is the most critical selection criteria for crank plugs.
  • We crank as fast as we can, until the fish tell us that is not going to entice them. There have been times when a slow, tantalizing retrieve across the bottom was all that would work. Occasionally, it might take a 'stop-and-go' retrieve. But, 95% of the time (excluding Winter), a fast retrieve is always the ticket.
  • The new super lines, such as Fireline and various braids, have virtually no stretch and provide excellent 'feel' of the lure and its contact with the bottom. Plus, when the bass takes the fast moving lure, he hooks himself. If you hit a snag, the solid line seems to allow the lure to pop off and over the obstruction, rather than pausing with the normal stretch of monofilament and hanging. Learn to use these lines. They bring more bass to the weigh-in.
  • On structure, the bigger bass are often deeper than the others. That is the reverse of what we find in cover zones. In grass and brush, big bass are usually shallow. But, when there are points, channel edges, humps, and other structure features involved, the big Mammas seem to take up deep locations. Sooooo ------ we really like to fish deep-diving crank plugs! Lures like the 3-inch Fat Free Shad and the Bagley DB-3 are good example.
  • Deep crank plugs can really tire your rod-holding arm and shoulder quickly. You can overcome some of the strain, however, by sitting sideways to the direction of your retrieve and resting the rod along the inside of your leg.
  • The strain of a bass slamming a fast crank plug, coupled with our hook set heave, very often causes damage to the hooks. Check them often and carry the proper size spares. Also, check the split rings at the same time. They can deform and start to come open.
  • When selecting a crank plug by depth, remember that you can vary the active operating depth 2 ways - 1) the height at which you hold the rod tip; and, 2) the size of your line. The variation can be as much as 4-5 feet, if you properly use both techniques.
  • A stiff rod is much better than a whippy one. The same principle as the no-stretch line and the snag above applies, as well as the better 'feel' you will have of what the lure is doing.
Cranking a big plug deep and fast has produced more big bass for me than any other technique, even in Florida. It can do the same for you, too!



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