Field & Stream Online Editors
Field & Stream Online Editors

Fishing hard-pulling crankbaits that break the 20-foot barrier may be the most labor intensive of all bass tactics. So why bother using them when you can get deeper with a simple Carolina rig? Because these baits trigger reaction bites from big summer largemouths holding over deep structure. But to reach these fish, you need to do more than just tie on a diver and start casting. Here’s why.

**Crankbait Mechanics **
To research their 1999 book, Precision Casting (Precision Angling Specialists, 2000), Steven Holt and Mark Romanack studied the diving curves of more than 150 crankbaits by retrieving them past submerged measuring pipes spaced 10 feet apart. As the baits wiggled past the pipes, a scuba diver tracked how deep they were running. From this data they determined that four factors were influencing how deep their baits ran.

1. Longer casts let crankbaits dive farther, but at about 20 feet from the rod tip, the bait reaches the maximum depth that cast will allow. If you’re fishing a crankbait that dives to 22 feet and you want to bump a brushpile at that depth, position your boat 20 feet from the cover and make a long cast beyond it.

**2. **Retrieve speed has little effect on a crankbait’s dive. A moderate retrieve imparts a lively wobble to your lure without wearing you out.

3. Thin line gets baits deeper. Divers tied to 8-pound-test monofilament run about 20 percent deeper than those on thicker, more water resistant 14-pound-test line.

4. On the retrieve, a high rod tip reduces depth; a low one increases it. And for every foot you shove the rod tip into the water, you gain a foot of depth. This trick will get lures that normally run at 18 to 19 feet down past the 20-foot mark.

Holt and Romanack found that only two crankbaits dive deeper than 20 feet out of the box on a 100-foot cast with 8-pound-test monofilament: Luhr-Jensen’s 3/4-ounce Hot Lips Express digs to 23 feet; Mann’s 3/4-ounce 30+ dives 221/2 feet. Also, Storm’s Lightnin’ Shad, Luhr-Jensen’s Deep Secret, and Mann’s 20+ come close, reaching depths of 19 to 191/2 feet.

Filing and Drilling
Some anglers modify baits to make them run even deeper. Tennessee crankbait ace Ricky Shepherd thins the fat bill of his Mann’s 30+ with a file. He’s careful not to change the bill’s outside dimensions, as this would hinder the lure’s action. Shepherd claims that this shaved 30+ digs to 30 feet.

To modify one of your baits, thin the bottom of its lip with a fine metal finishing file or a grinding wheel. Thin evenly from one side to the other, and make sure you don’t file off too much material. If the lip is too thin, it may chip as it bounces off hard objects on the bottom.

Texas pro Alton Jones drills a 3/16-inch-diameter hole through the shell of his hollow Bomber BSD6F Suspending Fat Free Shad Jr. between the front hook and the base of the diving bill. He fills the hole with silicone and pushes a depression into it with a pencil eraser before the silicone sets. Once it dries, Jones fills the cavity with molten lead, trims it with a Dremel tool, and smooths everything off with sandpaper.

Where and How to Fish Them
Retrieve these crankbaits over long, tapering points, humps, and ledges on the main lake. The best structures extend farthest into the lake and drop off close to a channel. Isolated brushpiles or stumps in such places usually hold big bass.

As you reel in, bump the lip of your bait against cover and structure. When you feel it hit, hesitate for a moment. This will keep the lure from hanging up and will also give pursuing bass a chance to strike. And when your bait starts rising at the end of your retrieve, twitching and pausing it may trigger strikes from bass that followed but didn’t take.