Crankbaits, a comprehensive guide

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~ Courtesy of Audrius "Mioskus" Pilypas and "Hurch" - community members ~


Crankbaits are perfect lures for big predatory fish. Pikes, Muskies and Bass just can't resist them. Big perch, walleyes, salmon and trout like them too. Using good techniques and the right color crankbaits you can achieve results which other baits or lures simply can't provide. Some fish like deep holes, some love shallows. Using crankbaits you can reach and catch fish at almost any depth. The goal of this guide is not to show the best times or locations for big or unique fish species. Guides for catching large or unique fish already exist. Our target is show how to use, what retrieve technique and presentation is good for specific fish types and how to go about choosing the most attractive crankbait.

Choosing Correct Crankbait

Everyday people are asking what color crank is good for muskies, which works well for pikes or other fish. Trust me, after few thousands caught fish I can confirm - every crank works. And every day number one (we call it "killer") is different. When you heard how someone says "Blue&white crank for muskies, perch for pikes..." - just ignore him. Those words have some truth, blue&white works, perch works too, but all other cranks works well too. Your goal is identify "killer" of the day. This is important if you wanna catch unique fish everyday, alot regular and trophy with every cast. If you are lucky, you can had luck with first crank you try, but after 1-2 good and productive fishing days (irl days) You will be surprised how your "absolutely the best, number one and irreplaceable" crank has stopped working. No more fish in the lake or time to test and find another "killer" ? Sometimes predator attack looks like he worry and are not sure "is this thing edible?" I call these weak hits "mom kiss". Using trial and error method you need find crank who predator will attack without a doubt "passion kiss". No worry, when you will figure "killer" crank, he will work for whole real day, doesn't matter how many in-game days you will play. Almost always "killer" crank for sunny and for cloudy days is different. So you need figure out 2 best working cranks every real day. It can be done easy in zones where is high predators concentration. Cast once or twice with every crank (use stop&go or wait&go) and check what crank fish attack most strongly, winner will be your "killer" of the day. It takes some time, but knowing the best bait will drastically increase your quantity of fish caught and chances of catching a unique.

Tackle suitable for crankbait fishing

Rod action is not very important for crankbait fishing, use anyone you like. Just be aware that for bigger fish you need a strong rod and for long cast, a moderate-fast one is more helpful than a fast one. Any reel that match the rod line weight is good.

Retrieve & Presentation Tips and Techniques

According to target fish, water conditions, weather conditions and chosen crankbait, picking the right retrieve and presentation method is the key to success. Here are the most common ones:

Method #1 - Straight Slow

Worst and not recommended method. Crankbait it is designed to catch fish from many water layers. Using crankbait and "Straight Slow" technique is a big wasting of time - crankbait will attract only fish from very limited distance. You will "catch" all available snags. Average fish/cast ratio is about 1-2 fish every 10 cast. If you can not catch fish using any other mentioned bellow techniques - better switch to another bait/lure.

Straight Slow.png

Method #2 - Straight Slow Improved

Can not call this method "Stop&Go" - it's just slightly improved "Straight Slow" . Slow (speed 1 or 2) reeling and letting the crankbait rise about 1/2 depth. This method will slightly increase your chances. Big pauses will give more time for slow or lazy fish attack lure and will attract not only bottom feeders, but predators that are in other water layers too. You will still "catch" all available snags. This technique is recommended for striped and other kinds of bass, salmons fishing.

Straight Slow Improved.png

Method #3 - Wait & Go

My favorite and most productive method. In a good days you can catch a lot of fish with every cast. Reel speed 3. Reel 1-2 m (3-6 ft), let crank rise and float for 1-2 sec. For example: reel 1 m (~ 3 ft) - let float 1 sec, reel 2 m (~ 7 ft) - let float for 2 sec, repeat. Of course you not need use watch or stopwatch, principle is easy - reel more - wait more. Negative thing - this technique is slow and if you are not sure that crank you use is good in this lake, or not figured out where are best spots - use "Stop & Go" (method #5). This technique is recommended for large pikes and muskies fishing.


Method #4 - Slow Wait & Go

Recommended method for Alligator Gar and Longnose Gar fishing. Gar is a slow and lazy fish. There is not much chances he will follow your lure like pike or bass. Gar lives and hunts near or under reeds or lily pads and love low depth water, shallows. Because of this there are two methods to catch him - use float or cranks. If You are lucky owner of Predator Hunter Pack , using crank you can start catching Alligator Gar from first game day avoiding a lot of time requiring leveling (for float fishing you need high level match rods and high quality, expensive baits). I don't recommend you to try catch these monsters without having any experience due to high risk broke your rod or reel, but you can. Unlike catching pikes, bass or other fast and aggressive fish, gar need more time to pay attention to your lure, so use slow retrieval with long pauses - Reel speed 1. Reel 0,5-1 m (2-4 ft), let crank rise and float for 3-4 sec, repeat. It's enough if crank will sink only 0,5 m (2 ft).

Method #5 - Stop & Go

Very good method to test crank, scout new lake or old lake area. Reel speed 3. Reel 1-2 m (3-6 ft) let crank rise, but unlike previous method ("Wait & Go") don't make pauses or let float only every 5-6 m (16-20 ft). This technique is recommended for large pikes, muskies, smallmouth, largemouth and butterfly peacock bass fishing or for scouting new large fishing areas.


Method #6 - Mixed retrieve

Assuming that "hot spot" (zone where you are getting most hits, where you can catch unique and trophy fish) is 65-55 m (213-180 ft). Of course you wanna be sure that you do everything to catch big fish. Use mixed retrieve to maximize your chances - switch to other technique when your crank reach hot spot middle. Start with "Wait & Go" and after few meters switch to "Stop & Go" or conversely. Sometimes you can catch good fish away from "golden zone", so after leaving hot spot switch to "Straight Slow Improved" technique. Good way to earn "Angling Machine" achievement.