If you’ve ever fished beside an exceptional cranker, you probably can relate. You’re both casting the same model and color of crankbait to the same sorts of cover, but the results aren’t even similar. You feel like you’re picking good spots and making quality casts, but the fish keep coming into the other end of the boat.
Occasionally it just happens that way, and the results could reverse after lunch. Other times there’s some gear distinction, such as mono instead of fluoro, that is altering the running depth or the way the bait deflects cover to prompt more strikes. Usually, though, there’s some little something that veteran crankbait fisherman is doing differently that is trigging strikes. And it’s very possible that he adapts so intuitively that he couldn’t even tell you at the end of the day why he caught so many more fish.
In one sense crankbait presentations are as simple as it gets. You cast out your lure and reel it back in, and if you’ve chosen the right crankbait and are throwing it where the fish are, you should catch fish. That said, veteran crankbait fishermen do many specific things that cause them to catch far more fish. Some are obvious, like causing the lure to deflect off cover or kick off the bottom to trigger strikes. Many things are far more subtle: a speed adjustment or change of the rod angle; or the addition of hesitations or rod tip twitches to presentations.
There’s no silver bullet. It varies by things like cover type, water depth and crankbait model, along with the mood of the fish. One day the rod tip needs to stay low to keep the lure in contact with the bottom. Another day, it needs to be high to swim the sure over submerged grass and tick the top of the vegetation without digging into it. Sometimes when the lure hits bottom, the key is to grind the bottom slowly, pulling the lure with sweeps of the rod instead of cranks of the handle. Sometimes little rod snaps or pauses in retrieves trigger strikes. Other times, just finding the right pace is critical.
The best crankers envision the structure and how the lure is moving through it, and they do little things to bring it to life. They also experiment continually and are able pattern presentation variances that make a difference any given day. They also pay attention to changing conditions and even to one another. If you catch a few doing something unique, it won’t be long before they try doing the same thing.
A few veteran anglers do that kind of thing without consciously thinking about it. Most of us need to be quite intentional about mixing things up and paying attention to results. If you ever find yourself at the short end of the cranking game, consider the little things you might need to do differently.