Cranking to beat the wind
Efren Saurez was admittedly surprised that we were even catching a few redfish and trout on a day better suited for drying clothes outdoors, but he wasn’t enamored with my choice of lures. Unable to even get into the lake once again, we were forced to fish semi-protected stretches of the ICW and the Sabine River channel with lures better suited for duping bass.
I had been doing well enough the week before slow rolling a single spin spinner bait with a BLURP Sea Shad trailer along the rocks and bulkheads, but they were having none of it today. Even my follow-up bait, a 5-inch Die Dapper or Flats Minnow XL rigged weedless and fished like a jerk bait had attracted the interest of only one small redfish before it, too, was relegated to the bottom of the tackle box.
The lure that was putting the fun back into fishing was a shallow running crank bait. Excessive speed of drift due to a big incoming tide and gale force winds at our backs made it difficult to effectively cover very much territory with each cast, but it was the only game in town. We would have been best served had we been able to parallel the rocks and keep the entire cast in the strike zone, but that was not a safe option.
Virtually every strike took place immediately after the lure glanced off a submerged rock or any other piece of hard structure. The limiting problem was that because of the angle of our casts, the lure was in the strike zone less than 10 percent of the time. It was still more effective than anything else we had tried and our options were too limited to look elsewhere.
While this was not what Efren nor I had hoped to do when he booked the trip a month earlier, he was not unhappy with the catching part. What he did not like was the idea of having to throw a crank bait at trout or bass.
The list of reasons he voiced on more than one occasion all had some merit, but in the guiding business you do what you have to do to catch fish.“There is no way I am going to get back in the crankbait business,” he announced after catching and releasing his first slot red.
“I bass fished for years and never had enough of the right color or right size. They are too hard to throw any distance in the wind, they are depth specific making them cost prohibitive, every fish out here has teeth so the paint jobs don’t last long and I am too old to crank my butt off all day long,” he pointed out before making his next cast.
Over the course of the morning he occasionally added to that list, but he never tied on anything else. I whole heartily agreed with him on every point and fish a crank bait only when I have to, but there is no doubt that it is an under used weapon in the brackish waters of the river and area bayous.
The lipless Rat-L-Trap is a favorite for many local fishermen, but it is difficult at best to properly fish over rocks or any hard structure and I have never had a lipless crank bait careen off anything it came into contact with. It is a deadly lure, but you better have a box full of extras. A shallow or mid-range diving crank bait, on the other hand, will usually float back off a snag once you quit reeling and that brief pause also attracts a lot of attention from interested fish.
Charlie Atkinson recently gave me a crank bait that had worked very well for him in the bayous, but to maximize its effectiveness you had to be more aware of the surrounding cover and tempo was absolutely the name of the game. The secret was getting the lure down quickly and keeping it at that depth throughout the retrieve.
When that is the case, vibration and color are much more important factors than they are when banging your lure through the rocks. The gear ratio of your reel and line size are also critical factors. Because braided line floats, I find it to be a very poor choice when fishing a diving crankbait. The lure has a much better chance of doing what it is designed to do when fished on 10 or 12-pound test mono and the stretch factor results in a higher ratio of solid hook sets.
Kenny Vaughan and I found the redfish with a shallow diver last week and he wore me out fishing with mono before I stopped long enough to switch rods. The lures that have been the most effective are designed to dive only three to five feet deep, but they won’t even achieve those depths when fished on braid or heavier monofilament.
If your choice of crankbaits comes packaged with a split ring attached to the tie-on eye at the nose of the bait….use it. The lure was apparently tested with the ring and performs best when fished that way. If, however, there is no split ring attached, tie the lure on with a loop knot rather than opting for a snap swivel. The loop knot, which I use for everything from tails to top waters , enables the lure to move freely whereas the heavier snap tends to bury the front end of the lure.
Unlike with bass fishing, I am not married to any particular brand of crankbait. I will not be fishing one any deeper than 3 to 5 feet deep anyway so I prefer something with the smaller 3-inch body and a square bill.
Hopefully, the wind will quit blowing in a month or so and we will be back out in the lake fishing more conventional baits, but until that happens…your best saltwater lure just might be hiding in your bass fishing box!