Crankbaits…at Night?


Norm “Doc” Klayman introduced me to night fishing with worms and jigs and black lights on Bull Shoals Lake back in the 1980s. It’s still my favorite way to beguile bass when the rest of the normal world is sleeping. But it isn’t the only way to fish at night. Just about every type of bait used during the day has its nighttime devotees, except crankbaits. I’m not particularly fond of crankbait fishing in general, but I do love night fishing and experimenting with different baits and techniques.

So a few years ago, I got to wondering: Why not crankbaits?

Since bass have little trouble spotting a dark worm slithering through the ebony depths at night, surely they can see a crankbait wiggling and bumping about. And if buzzbaits speeding across the surface bring bass up at night, surely the average crankbait doesn’t move too fast.

Many use spinnerbaits at night too. So why do crankbaits seem to be about the only bait type that’s allowed to rest? Why is it one can easily find black versions of every bait type, except crank baits? Maybe there was a practical reason for the crankbait’s exclusion from the dark hours.

I started asking other night fishermen if they’d ever tried crankbaits at night. The common answers were, “I just never thought of it” or “I’ve just never tried it.”

No one gave me a practical reason, so off into the night I went with big Poe’s baits attached. If you’ve just never thought of it or never tried it, maybe you should. The big bass most definitely will hit crankbaits at night.

My favorite method is to fish large, deep-diving crankbaits in relatively shallow water. It’s a method I learned from David Fritts one day on Kentucky Lake years ago. I retrieve them very slowly with frequent, short pauses. I’m constantly bumping the bottom with this retrieve, and I only pause a second or two, but it takes almost as long to complete a retrieve and make another cast as it does with a worm.

The strikes come during the short pauses, and on a slack line so you’ve got to pay attention. Sometimes all I feel is a tick or a bump, similar to a worm bite. Sometimes the line just goes completely slack. Quite often, however, I get this slight wiggling sensation—weird, unlike any other bite.

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Now, I’ll admit this is my favorite way to fish crankbaits at night because I’m basically a finesse fisherman. I find simply casting something out and cranking it back a bit boring and far too much work for someone who fishes all the time. But it is far from the only crankbait method that works after dark.

After using large crankbaits at night for a few months, I mentioned it to Dave Stewart. He is probably the best bass guide on Kentucky Lake.

“Funny you should mention that,” Stewart said to me, after I’d told him. “I haven’t used crankbaits at night since I moved here, but I used to win a lot of night tournaments with crankbaits when I lived in Frankfort. I didn’t throw big ones, though; won every tournament throwing a number 7, Black/Silver Shad Rap on shallow points. But I had it digging the bottom as much as possible.”

Dave said most of his strikes were hard, but I assume that was because he was using a smaller bait that must be retrieved faster to dig the bottom. Whether you’re fishing during the day or at night, all crankbaits work better if they’re digging there.

Recently, I read a report of Dale Hollow fishermen catching big smallmouths on the pea gravel points and main-lake banks at night with Magnum Wiggle Warts in crawfish patterns. Obviously, a few other fishermen have been asking each other, “Why not crankbaits at night?”

No telling where it might lead or what it might produce.

The possibilities of crankbait choices and techniques for night fishing at this point are only limited by the imagination of fishermen. It’s things like these that keep the bass fishermen coming back with renewed enthusiasm, decade after decade. And it is, above all else, a thinking man’s sport.

Now, I’m wondering if anyone has ever tried suspended jerkbaits at night?