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Used to be I had a lot of trouble with crankbaits. I had several different colors, styles, and brands, but I never used any one of them enough to get good at working it. The answer lay in a bit of organization.
So I bought a bunch of Bandit baits in sizes 100, 200, and 300. Each series dives to a different depth, but the baits are otherwise similar. I figured using one brand and style would make things easier.
Then I set a few small buoys at different known depths and anchored a short distance away. By casting beyond the buoys and retrieving the bait I would know if I was hitting bottom or not at a specific depth. I learned a lot this way.
I could then, when I marked some fish on the sonar, pick the size most appropriate for the fishes’ depth. That seems elemental, I guess, but it helped a lot.
I also learned eventually that it was often better to refrain from a simple, fast crank. What worked more often was fast cranking at first to get the lure down to depth, followed by cranks and twitches interspersed with full stops. Not enough of a stop to allow the lure to float upward, just a brief pause. And I then started to get many more strikes on that sort of intermittent retrieve. (The 9-pound largemouth in the photo was taken that way.)
So that’s my crankbait tale. I still don’t fish them as often as I probably should, but when I do at least I don’t feel totally ignorant.