Something I’ve noticed lately among crankbait gurus is that they’re throwing the term “hunt” around a lot when talking about their favorite fall baits. So what exactly is a crankbait that “hunts” or a crank that’s “hunting”? I believe it’s just a blanket term used to mask inconsistent action of a crankbait, whether it’s caused by imperfections in the manufacturing process or poor tuning. If the bait tracks sideways under a dock, they say it’s “hunting.” If the bait has no defined wobble whatsoever and it randomly tracks either left or right for no apparent reason, it’s “hunting.” I could go on and on.


By my calculations, the term popped up around the same time the popularity in handmade balsa crankbaits spiked. Balsa’s density varies more than plastic, as does the thickness of the paint job slapped on by some dude in his garage. Plus, hand-carved lures are naturally going to have inconsistencies because they’re not machined. A textbook manufacturing process with synthetic components and stringent quality control doesn’t allow for the inconsistencies necessary to kick out good “hunters.” At least it shouldn’t, yet I’ve heard guys say they’ll fish a ton of the same big brand store-bought baits before they find the “hunter” in the bunch.

I’m not 100 percent percent sure what they’re looking for, but in my best estimate, those irregularities in tracking on a straight retrieve, or following a deflection off of cover, seem to be the moments the baits are “hunting” before returning to a normal cadence. The theory is that this irregularity creates reaction strikes that otherwise would not have occurred. But why you’d need to fish 100 brand-name baits to find a “hunter” I have no idea. I don’t see why de-tuning a bait with pliers, taking a Dremel tool to the bill or body, or adding sticky weights to the belly wouldn’t turn any out-of-the-box crank into a “hunter.” Maybe I’ll just try banging my crankbaits off the rocks a bunch of times. Do you put stock in “hunters?”