With a myriad of color choices for the tournament angler to choose from, one can understand why so many find themselves second-guessing the color selection when tournament day arrives. This is a particularly daunting task for the new tournament angler, who is also dealing with water coverage, boat handling, and time management, and keeping things simple can go a long way to building success on the water.
Crank baits are primary search baits across the country, able to cover vast amounts of water while targeting not only feeding fish, but eliciting a reaction bite from stubborn fish as well. For this reason every angler should have one tied on and on the deck come tournament day.
Matching crank bait diving depth to the area you are fishing is essential, and the only rule is: make sure you are contacting the bottom. Bouncing the bait off structure causes the bait to have erratic “jumps” as it is reeled back to the boat, which often trigger bass to react violently by slamming the bait.
The question then becomes: what color do I throw? Take a stroll down any retail fishing outlet, and you will find literally hundreds of color variations and options, and if you are like me, you have more than a few (my wife might read this so I wont post an exact number) of baits still in the box, never having seen the water. I admit it, I am a bit of a gear guy, an advertiser’s dream client, and when I see something shiny and new, I cant resist! However, in order to save time and money, here is the skinny on colors that will work in 99% of the country.
You need only three: 1) natural, 2) some type of chartreuse with a darker back, and 3) red. That’s it. Finito. Done. You only need three depths too: 1) shallow (0-6 ft), 2) Mid (6-10), and 3) Deep (10-18). Yes, I know that there are Extra Deep cranks now, but that’s a bit of a different animal, and worthy of its own discussion.
With these three colors, the decision on which to throw is now determined by the water clarity. In clearer water, throw the natural (shad) bait and the chartreuse with darker back. In dirtier water, throw the red or the chartreuse with darker back. Easy peasy. If one isn’t getting fish to bite, switch to another – You may switch back and forth throughout the tournament day as you hit area of varying water clarity, but the basic three will work. Once you begin to have success, you can start to narrow down which colors work better on your body of water and when, while expanding your color selection, but it wont deviate from much from the basic three.
My crankbaits of choice are the Ima Shaker and Squarebill for shallow water applications, Ima Pinjack 200 for mid-depth, and the Ima Beast Hunter for deeper water. I choose the Ima line because its manufactured with top quality components (Owner treble hooks), and I don’t have to change anything on it to know it will fish perfectly right out of the box. With innovative paint schemes, Ima baits provide a look that many fish haven’t seen before, which translates into more strikes.
(Author’s selection: Ima Pinkjack 200 in shad, brown back/chartreuse, and citrus shad; Ima Squarebill in chartreuse shad, hot craw, and Lowen’s Hush Hush)
I use the Denali Rods Rosewood Medium Heavy Crankbait rod and a Daiwa Tatula 6.3:1 reel when cranking, spooled with 10# Toray Super-hard Premium Plus Fluorocarbon line. It’s imperative to use fluorocarbon when cranking, as the lower visibility and high durability of the line when bouncing the bait off structure results in more fish in your live well. The flexible crankbait specific rod from Denali softens the shock of the fish pulling on the end of your line, while allowing for long accurate casts with a lot of feel.
Try the basic three color theory, and start spending more time catching fish, and less time choosing tackle.
(Auther’s rods: Denali Rosewood MH Crankbait Rod, Daiwa Tatula 100 reel, Ima Pinjack 200 in hot craw, and Ima Shaker in Chartreuse Hortin)
You can find all the mentioned tackle here.