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Catch More Fish with Crankbaits

By Bob Jensen - July 1, 2002
Most of the larger gamefish throughout the Midwest have several things in common. One of the things is that they all are very susceptible to crankbaits right now and will be throughout the rest of the summer and into the fall. There are a lot of very good reasons to use crankbaits. They come in variety of sizes and colors, they can be worked shallow or deep, they can be cast or trolled, and best of all, at times, fish will really slam them. Here are some ideas for catching more fish on crankbaits in the next few weeks and months.

An angler can cast or troll with crankbaits. If you are trying to fish a small spot, maybe a point in a weedline or a shallow sunken rockpile, casting is a good bet. By casting you can keep your bait right in the fish zone more of the time.

If the fish are spread out along a fairly straight weedline or structure, trolling is the way to go. You can cover a large area quickly, and that's a big advantage when the fish are spread out.

Walleyes and northern pike usually like long thin crankbaits such as a Frenzy Medium Minnow.

Largemouth bass go for the shorter fatter baits such as the Frenzy Divers.

Smallmouth bass eat whatever comes by.

The long, thin bait for long thin fish and the short, fat bait for shorter, fatter fish is a simple guideline to start with. In the summer in particular, many fish don't pay attention to guidelines. If you put a crankbait by them, much of the time they will eat it.

In areas that allow multiple lines, it works well to troll a line directly behind the boat, and another line off to the side of the boat with the aid of a planer board. Many expert trollers select Off Shore planer boards simply because they allow an angler to cover the water effectively and simply.

Eight or ten pound test Trilene XT is a great trolling line, but if additional depth is desired, try 10/4 FireLine. When a fish hits, the hook will be set automatically. Too much jerking or pressure on the fish will often enable it to come off.

A seven-foot medium action Lightning Rod with a long handle teamed with an Ambassadeur reel makes for a great trolling outfit. Some folks like spinning equipment, but for the long haul casting tackle is the way to go.

Now all you have to do is get out there and start trolling or casting. The strikes are usually pretty hard, so there's no finesse or wondering if something is nibbling at the lure. Experiment with colors (firetiger is a favorite among walleye chasers) and keep changing colors and sizes until the fish show you which one they want. Before long you'll find why so many anglers like to use crankbaits this time of year. They're easy to use and they're effective, and that's a combination that's tough to beat.

Author Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen is the host of the Fishing the Midwest television series, a series of television fishing shows that highlight fishing locations and techniques throughout the Midwest. He also writes a syndicated fishing column and does fishing seminars throughout the Midwest. He is a former fishing guide and tournament angler. Visit Bob's web site at
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