Crankbaits are Terrific for Summer Bass

Summer fishing for bass in Iowa is about as good as it gets. The bass are active due to the warm weather and water temperatures. Worms, minnows, bluegills, shad, crawfish, snakes and any young of the year fish are all fair game as a feeding fish in the summer months.

Fish can and will be found almost anywhere from early to late summer. They may be feeding on flats one day and in ditches or creek channels the next. Anglers need to choose a selection of baits that can cover various depths and be fished slowly or fast as dictated by the fish. Crankbaits may be the best lure for the job. They can be fished shallow, deep, at mid-depths, slow, fast, paused, or burned as needed.

Match the hatch with lure color?
Bass tend to follow shad schools as much as possible and when they force shad pods to the surface, fishing can be fantastic. Some anglers go to great extremes to “ match the hatch” with shad color patterns for their crankbaits. Others go to the opposite extreme favoring to not “match the hatch,” believing that adding one more silver colored shad to thousands of real shad doesn’t make much sense. The important thing about crankbaits is they elicit reflex strikes either way.

Where to Chunk that Crankbait
Few places are better to try for summer fishing with crankbaits than flats. Flats with sparse cover can be great places where fish of all species can attack shad and other baitfish. Flats that border deeper water are always the best bet. The tops of the flat is usually about three to six feet deep, so good crankbait selections should include baits that will run on or near the surface such as a Mann’s Waker or a lipless Rat-L-Trap. These crankbaits should be fished fairly fast and can cover a lot of water in a short time. The sun keeps the surface warmer and baitfish, carp and waves keep the water slightly off-color, which is always better fishing. No finesse here, just long casts and crank and wind. If fish are active on one flat it’s likely they will be on other flats as well. Good color selections include, chartreuse, shad, chrome, silver and green. Fish on the flats are looking for baitfish. Fish feeding on flats target shad, bluegills, shiners, minnows and even smaller game fish.

Drop-offs Near Flats
When the fish move off the flats to drop-offs, anglers will need to switch to slightly deeper diving crankbaits. The baitfish and crawfish tend to move to deeper water and will most likely be found near rock or wood cover. Crankbaits that run from five to 10 feet deep are great for fishing these depths. Good examples include the Jackall Aragon, Bomber Model 6 Fat-A and Poe’s Super Cedar 300 lures. Colors include crawfish, baby bass, silver and fire tiger. Crawfish and bluegills become the main feeding targets at these depths. When fishing these depths anglers should make sure the baits remain in contact with cover. Crash the bait into trees, stumps, rocks, scratch them along the bottom or dig them into gravel or mud bottoms. Stir up some silt, gravel or mud. Get those fish to react to a reflex action and bite. It’s often wise to start using larger size baits as summer progresses. The fish are looking for a food source with plenty of protein, which turns into fat and energy for the fish and can be stored for lean days. Often, casting parallel to drop-offs works best. The baitfish and crawfish are cruising the shorelines looking for hidey-holes or something to eat. Long casts with a medium speed retrieve should do the trick.

Crankin’ the Abyss
In summer, there are days the fish are deep. High-blue bird skies, cold fronts and even just lots of water related activities could send fish deep. That’s when it’s wise to go to deep diving cranks. We’re looking for offshore structures in water 10 to 20 feet deep. Depth finders can be very advantageous for this type fishing, but not completely necessary. The deep divers will tell you what’s along the bottom. Good examples of deep divers include, Poe’s 400 series crankbaits. Mann’s Stretch 20, Berkley Frenzy and Jackall’s Aragon MR are good selections. Colors include fire tiger, shad, silver, brown and green.

Look for long tapering points leading to deep water. Cast the lures along the points and begin a strong-rapid retrieve then slow down to a medium, steady retrieve. The key is to not over-work the crankbait. Starting off with a fast retrieve gets the bait down, and then slowing the retrieve keeps the bait working properly at the desired depth. Cranking too fast can cause the lure to run off to the side and that keeps the lure from sustaining its built-in depth seeking range.

This is a great time to use my favorite Abu Garcia Revo Winch bait casting reel. Why? It has a fast gear ratio, plenty of strength and can be slowed to the perfect speed for controlling a deep diving lure. Bounce those baits along the bottom. With a little practice, you’ll be able to identify what type structure—if any—is along the bottom. Try to keep contact with the bottom or some type structure.

Often, the fish will be schooled and will take the baits even if there is no cover, so don’t give up on an area that seems featureless. Get out this summer and do some fall fishing with crankbaits. The action can be quick, exciting and may produce some of the larger fish of the year.

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Johnnie Crain on a 95-degree day, crankin’ a flat off a small bluff.