It seems like the summer has been blowing by! I can’t believe it’s already September. Here at the Denali headquarters, we’ve been enjoying the last of the heat (hopefully) and are getting ready for what is shaping up to be an exciting fall. We’ve added some great new branded raingear to the Denali store, have a couple new rods in the works, and most importantly want to welcome Bryan Head as our new national sales manager. We are super pumped to have him, and he’s gonna do great things with us moving forward.
With the kids getting back to school and the start of football and hunting seasons, September can be a difficult month to find any time to get out on the water. We hope you can buck that trend this month, because if you find the time you’re often rewarded by some of the best fishing of the year. In this month’s newsletter, we check in with Denali pros John Voyles, Michael Murphy, and Greg Bohannan to get rigging tips and secrets for deep cranking, something that can be at its seasonal peak in September.
Good luck on the water!
President, Denali Rods
Bryan Head Hired as National Sales Manager:
We are excited to officially announce the hiring of Bryan Head as our new National Sales Manager. Bryan is an industry veteran with extensive experience with both the retail and wholesale sides of the tackle business. He’s also worked for many years on product development and marketing, which gels with the Denali goal of reinvesting in quality and continual refinement of our rods.
Bryan comes to us after working eight years for a major tackle manufacturer. Initially, he will be working to help us grow the Denali brand nationally and internationally, develop relationships with marketing partners, and work to expand our dealer network.
Dalbey Honored at FLW Cup:
Denali Pro staffer Rich Dalbey was honored on Day 2 of the recent Forrest Wood Cup. He was awarded the Forrest L. Wood Sportsmanship and Community Leadership Award, which recognizes the Walmart FLW Tour pro who exemplifies ideals of sportsmanship and community leadership.
Dalbey’s recognition comes as a result of his tireless work setting up and operating the FLW’s ‘Hooked on Helping’ program, which sets up a food drive for local communities at each of the FLW Tour stops. Dalbey’s efforts helped with the collection of over 800 pounds of food and enough money to pay for an additional 3,000 meals in the communities the tour visited. Read More…
New! Denali Raingear Now
As many of you know, we pride ourselves on not only the quality of our rods, but also on the quality of our Denali gear. We have partnered with Gill, manufacturer of some of the finest marine outdoor clothing to bring you the Denali branded OS2 jacket and bibs.
The OS2 jacket and bibs are designed to withstand the toughest offshore and coastal conditions found in ultra-competitive sailing competitions. They feature a proprietary 100% waterproof two layer laminate fabric, fully taped seams, and durable moisture management technology which wicks moisture away from the skin.
The gear features Denali logos on both the bibs and jacket, and is sure to provide you the most protection, comfort, and style on the water under even the toughest conditions. Check It Out…
Choosing the Right Rod – Part 4: Deep Cranking
Unless you live in Florida, where anything you can’t anchor power poles in is considered “deep”, September bass are often found on deep structure. Things like points, humps, ledges, and deep brush provide safe havens and easy access to schools of baitfish, especially on reservoirs where power generation creates current that allows the bass to simply wait for the current to bring their next meal.
One of the best ways to target these late-summer offshore fish is with a deep diving crankbait. Crankbaits do a great job of emulating baitfish, quickly dive to fish holding depths, and allow an angler to cover a ton of water when looking for offshore bass.
Although the majority of bass anglers have at least a couple of the big-lipped bottom draggers; they can be intimidating to throw, tiring to fish, and when lost to brushpiles or stumps, taxing on the pocket book.
A lot of that frustration is due to anglers not understanding how to properly throw them; which rod to use, how to set them up, and what tricks anglers use to fish deep divers effectively.
This month, we check in with Denali FLW Pros John Voyles, Michael Murphy, and Greg Bohannan to find out what rods they use to deep crank, and what tips they have to help you refine the technique to put more fish in the boat.
John Voyles – 7’6″ XH Rosewood Flipping Stick
Indiana native and Denali angler John Voyles has seen a lot of different waters over his six seasons on the FLW Tour, and when summertime bass get deep, he loves to catch them with a deep diving crankbait. “There’s something about a lot of the lakes we fish, TVA lakes especially, that makes the bass really eat crankbaits well. It’s something that you can do in the summer to not only put numbers in the boat, but also catch some great big ones.” Voyles says.
Many anglers rely on a rod with a slower, more moderate or parabolic action for cranking, but not Voyles. “I have tried a number of crankbait rods, and some of them are so soft through the midsection that I was losing a lot of fish due to poor hook penetration. I’ve switched to that 7’6″ flipping stick, and it has greatly increased my hookup ratio with big deep divers.”
Voyles thinks the reason anglers can struggle at times to land fish with a more parabolic rod is specific to the hooks on the bigger plugs. “The littler crankbaits have size four or six trebles, which are needle sharp and don’t need any help to penetrate. Big cranks like 6XD’s and Fat Free Shads have size two or even one hooks, which are a lot heavier gauge and the flipping stick helps me bury them on the hookset.”
When deep cranking, Voyles relies mainly on the aforementioned Strike King 6XD and BD7F Fat Free Shad, generally in shad or chartreuse colors for TVA style lakes. He pairs the Rosewood flipping stick with a low gear ratio, 5.1:1 reel spooled with 12lb Sunline fluorocarbon.
Outside of gear, one of the biggest things Voyles recommends anglers do when deep cranking is to make sure the bait is dragging or at least occasionally contacting the bottom, saying “It’s a mistake I see a lot of anglers make way too often. Crankbaits trigger strikes by deflecting off objects. If you’re just swimming the bait in the water column, you’re going to get way less strikes than if you’re contacting the bottom. You may hang up a little more, but it will be worth it in the number of fish you catch.”
Michael Murphy – 7’5″ or 7’10″ XH Rosewood Crankbait
Michael Murphy hails from South Carolina, and if you’ve been paying attention to bass fishing these last twenty or thirty years, you’ll know that the Carolinas and crankbait fishing are the peas and carrots of the bass fishing world.
Murphy grew up fishing crankbaits, and learned a lot from some of the cranking legends of the Carolinas, like former Bassmaster Classic and FLW champion David Fritts, who has likely won more money with a crankbait than anyone not named Van Dam.
All this seat time throwing crankbaits has caused Murphy to be pretty particular regarding what he’s looking for in a crankbait rod, and that’s why he couldn’t pick just one when asked about his favorite, instead saying, “There are two Denali rods that I use for 99% of my deep cranking, but I can’t choose between them because they are the same except for the length.”
Both the 7’5″ and 7’11″ XH Rosewood crankbait rods have a parabolic action, good balance, and the proper amount of backbone to handle big crankbaits like Ima’s Beast Hunter, Rapala DT-16′s, and the 6XD, which are exactly the traits that Murphy looks for in a rod. “When I’m throwing a deep diving crankbait, I’m looking for the rod to load up just right when a fish eats it. That means I want enough flex to keep the fish pinned and prevent break-offs, but enough stiffness to get good hook penetration. The XH Rosewoods definitely have that combination.”
Length is the reason that Murphy had to choose both models instead of one, and that’s because which he uses is dependent on the type of cover and situation he is fishing. “I choose the length depending on my goals.” Murphy explains, continuing “If I’m target fishing, like hitting specific stumps, rocks, or brush with the bait, I’ll use the 7’5″ rod because it is easier to get pinpoint accuracy. Conversely, if I’m covering water and fishing vast areas like ledges, big flats, or a long point, I use the 7’11″ model because it’s an absolute bomber and gets me that additional casting distance.”
Murphy completes his deep cranking setup by pairing the rod to a 5.1:1 Lews BB1 casting reel spooled with 10 or 12lb fluorocarbon. He relies on an assortment of deep diving crankbaits, including the aforementioned Ima beast hunter, as well as some local handmade baits that he doesn’t want to divulge. Murphy says that although the rod is important, the BB1 reel is also important to deep cranking success, because it’s one of the only high end reels out that doesn’t feature instant anti-reverse, something that is only generally found on really cheap reels. “Instant anti-reverse is hugely important to a lot of presentations, but I actually think it is detrimental to crankbait fishing. That little bit of slack in the reel handle greatly increases the feel for bait and allows the fish a split second to really inhale the crankbait, which leads to better hooked fish. The BB1 has instant anti-reverse in the higher speed models, but in the 5.1:1 version, it has been left out specifically for cranking. There aren’t any other high end reels built specifically for crankbait fishing like that.
Greg Bohannan – 7’6″ MH Jadewood Crankbait Rod
Fresh off back-to-back $10,000 paydays caught cranking at the FLW Tour events on Pickwick and Kentucky Lake, Denali pro Gregg Bohannan is in prime form with big lipped baits. His choice for throwing deep divers is the 7’6″ Jadewood Crankbait rod, proving that performance doesn’t have to come with a high price tag. “The Jadewood crankbait rod seems to handle the standard size deep diving baits like the Norman DD-22 and the Strike King 6XD really well. I use a little heavier rod for the big 10XD, but those are more of niche baits right now, and the Jadewood rod gets my most use for deep cranking right now. The best thing about it is; not only does it perform really well, but it retails for only $119, which is a steal in my opinion.”
Price isn’t the only thing Bohannan likes about the rod, saying that its performance is also top notch. “Anytime you’re fishing a deep diving plug, you need to be making really long casts in order for the bait to achieve its proper running depth. At 7’6″ the Jadewood rod can launch them a country mile, but is not unwieldy to work.”
It’s pretty common for anglers to rely on slower 5.1:1 reels for deep cranking, but Bohannan isn’t one of them. He actually uses a standard 6.5:1 Ardent Apex baitcasting reel most of the time, and spools it with either 12lb or 15lb Gamma fluorocarbon, depending on the depth he intends to fish. About the reel choice, Bohannan says “I tried to fish with the super slow reels, but I found that I just couldn’t catch up to the fish when they make runs toward the boat. I can always reel it a little slower, but if a fish is charging, I don’t want anything to knock slack in the line.”
Bohannan thinks that other than not having the right setup, the biggest mistake anglers make when deep cranking is that they give up on it too soon. “I’ve seen too many guys go out and throw it for an hour, then put it down and do something else. In a lot of places, it is going to get you the biggest bites in the area.
Despite not always catching a lot of fish, if you commit to it you’ll eventually be rewarded. That’s something that took me a really long time to learn and it’s been paying off in recent seasons. I used to shy away from deep cranking, but I have put the time in these last couple seasons, and my track record on TVA lakes and other deep cranking lakes has dramatically improved.”