Early Summer Crankbaits

By Mike Mladenik - June 1, 2006
While fishing is seldom easy, there are times when finding a productive pattern requires less effort. Spending most of my life on the water I have seen many patterns change from year to year. Much depends on water levels, weather and forage, the things out of the angler's control. For me, figuring out the pattern is often a challenge that is more rewarding than the catching.

However, there are a few distinct patterns that I can count on like clockwork, which is important when you fish for a living. One pattern that has proven effective for me throughout the years is cranking the weeds during early summer. The best thing about this pattern is that is works in all types of water and for all species.

After spawning river smallmouth will recover quickly and go on the feed. With weeds being limited on most rivers, any weedgrowth at all can attract a huge concentration of smallmouth. A crankbait will quickly let you know if smallmouth are present. If you fail to catch a smallmouth with a crankbait, the odds are that no smallmouth are present.

Smallmouth will hit a variety of crankbaits and different retrieves, so you will need to fish the area effectively. Some smallmouth will be holding over shallow weeds while others will hold along the weedline at the same time, and both are aggressive. You could have a situation where you will catch five smallmouth on five different presentations.

That is why I prefer Yo-Zuri crankbaits since they are the most versatile on the market. The Yo-Zuri live bait series crankbaits are deadly on smallmouth bass. This May I had great success with Twitch'n Minnow and can't wait to use them on the river this summer. The flexible soft body, exciting dipping and diving action makes it irresistible to any smallmouth. www.yo-zuri.com

On many walleye lakes the weed bite can be phenomenal. While most anglers are aware of the weed bite they can have trouble locating walleyes. Tossing out a slip bobber and a leech may work fine once you locate walleyes but it can also be a waste of time. That is where crankbaits are deadly. For covering weeds quickly it is hard to beat either a Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow or a Crank'n Shad. Use the Floating Crystal minnow over the weeds, the sinking Crystal minnow over the edges and the Crank'n Shad along the weedline.

The right equipment will make crankbait fishing more effective. If your rod is too light you won't get a good hookset and you will also be working harder than need be. I prefer a medium action 6' 6" casting rod like a Lamiglas XC 661 when fishing shallow weeds. www.lamiglas.com The new Lamiglas XMG 50 series, in particular the EXC 705 would also be a great choice. My reel is spooled with 10 or 12 pound Yo-Zuri Tournament Hardcore X-Tex Cobra or Yo-Zuri Hybrid.

For musky hunters June is a time for numbers. While you might not catch a wallhanger when you do locate a musky the odds of catching that fish are high. Find a fresh cabbage bed in early June and I can guarantee that muskies will be roaming the area.

Twitching shallow running crankbaits not only produces lots of muskies but it is also a fun way to fish. The weeds are sparse and you can easily twitch a bait over the fresh cabbage. Under sunny warming weather the cabbage can grow quickly and change on a daily basis. Look for open pockets within the cabbage to hold the active muskies. The weedline will hold more muskies but they tend to be less aggressive.

When twitching the crankbait over the cabbage be prepared at all times. While guiding I watch many of my clients miss a fish because they are not ready for the strike. Strikes can occur right when the bait hits the water. Make a low cast to ensure as little slack in the line as possible. Start with a slow short twitch and gradually lengthen your twitch and speed up the retrieve.

I use both wood and plastic baits with much depending on the weather and weeds. A wood bait like a Crane Bait is buoyant and will ride easily over the top of the weeds. The slower action of the wood bait is also deadly after a cold front. However a plastic bait like a Jake is deadly when muskies require a bit more noise and erratic retrieve. A 6' 6" or 7 foot rod, like a Lamiglas LGM 66 XH or a LGM 70 MH works well and is a personal preference.

So whether you are looking for walleye, bass or musky, find some weeds and toss a few crankbaits. This early summer pattern has proven consistent for me year after year. If you give it a try it should also be good to you.

Author Mike Mladenik
Mike Mladenik
Mike has been a Wisconsin Fishing guide for 25 years, authored several books, and has his own Television Show "Fishing with Northwood's Guide Mike Mladenik". Sponsors include Sylvan/Smokercraft Boats, Yamaha Outboards, Zieman Trailers, Lamiglas Rods and Peshtigo River Rentals. For more information go to his website www.bigsmallmouth.com