Tuning Your Crankbait by Ben Team
The falling Autumn temperatures signal bass to gorge themselves on food in preparation for the long, hard winter, when food is scare and life difficult. Because most lakes and ponds are overflowing with bite-sized baitfish at this time, the resident bass become especially piscivorus in the Fall.
Shad are the primary staple of large-water lunkers, while bluegill are more important prey for bass inhabiting ponds and creeks. In either case, a crankbait is one of the most effective lures for exploiting this tendency, so anglers all across the country begin chucking them hither and yond as the days begin to shorten.
Because many of us will be throwing crankbaits for the next few weeks, it seems appropriate to discuss a few techniques for getting the most out of your lures. Specifically, we’re going to talk about three different ways to customize your crankbaits in order to alter their function and “behavior.”
Use Paint Markers to Alter the Color and Pattern
Sometimes a little extra flash is all that is necessary to turn a so-so day of fishing into one for the record books. Paint markers provide an easy (and relatively inexpensive) way to do this on an as-needed basis. For example, you can load up on crankbaits in all of the “standard” colors – silver, white, gold and chartreuse – and then experiment with different accents until you hit upon the magic recipe.
While I am personally skeptical that bass interpret these color accents as eyes or gills, as is so often hinted at on the packaging of these products, there is no doubt that subtle color and pattern changes can have an immense impact on your fishing success.
Add Weight to the Lure
Most anglers alter the presentation depth of a crankbait in either of two ways: They select a lure designed to run at a different depth or they alter their line size, which contributes to the depth of the lure as well (the less resistance created by the line, the deeper the bait will run). However, you can also alter the depth at which your crankbait swims by adding weight to the lure.
There are a variety of different ways to add weight to a crankbait. Some weights are designed to be clipped onto the hook-eyes, while others are akin to a weighted leader – these are simply tied in front of a crankbait. You can also use stick-on weights or add soft solder to the shank of the leading hook to increase the weight of the bait.
But depth isn’t the only reason you may wish to add weight to your lure. You may just need to be able to cast the lure farther. In this case, you’ll need to compensate for the additional weight by making adjustments to your line selection and crankbait choice.
Weight changes also affect the way in which the lure rises (or even sinks) when the retrieve is paused, so be sure to consider how this should alter your lure selection and fishing approach.
Swap the Hooks to Tweak the Action
You can change the hooks on your crankbait to alter its action or weight. For example, by swapping out the stock treble hooks on a crankbait for a pair that are one size larger, you can increase the weight of the lure. Alternatively, if you want a wider wobble out of your crankbait, you may be able to achieve this by downsizing the treble hooks.
You can also swap out the stock treble hooks on your crankbaits for weedless treble hooks to avoid dragging out eight pounds of weeds on each cast or snagging your newly customized lure on an underwater log.
Tuning Your Crankbait
While it is more of a maintenance technique than a customization, it is important to understand how to tune your crankbait to keep it from veering to the side during the retrieve. Using a pair of needle-nose pliers, bend the lure eye in the opposite direction to which the lure is pulling. For example, if your bait is swimming to its left during the retrieve, bend the eye a little bit to its right.
Try some of these ideas out for yourself as you carve up the Autumn water, and let us know how they work out for you. If you have any suggestions that we missed, let us know in the comments below.