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Catching Smallies On Crankbaits


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I can catch bass on the river fine using trigged soft plastics, jigs, trick worms, spinnerbaits, and topwater but I haven't had hardly any luck throwing crankbaits. The main river that I fish is the gasconade. Now on the Osage I throw them and do pretty well but it's a lot deeper than what I fish on the Gasconade most of the time. I'm always looking for more ways to make myself a more versatile angler so I can adapt to as many conditions as possible so I was wondering if you guys had any tips for crankbaits on a river?

I've tried square bills around brush and plowing the bottow with deeper diving crawfish patterns and still don't seem to catch much.

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A crankbait, particularly a Wiggle Wart, is one of my main go-to baits for lake/resevoir fishing. But I almost never throw crankbaits on the river anymore. It's not that they are not effective, it's that I lose too many of them. It's almost comical how quickly I get hung up after tying on a crankbait on the river. Usually within the first 5 casts.

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Its based on water color, usually.

I do well after a big rain after the river has fallen out.

It needs to be runnning pretty good with a little bit of stain to it.

Anywhere that current is running from the riffle into the head of a pool.

If there's water willow there its even better.

Sometimes a well placed chunk of bedrock can cause the bait to ricochet triggering a bite.

Its not a bait you throw everywhere, but theres a specific time and place for it.

This time of year is good.

My baits of choice are the Bandit 100 or a KVD 1.5 in a baby bass or ghost minnow type color.

anything that resembles a creek chub

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I throw a kvd 1.5 on the James river mostly and it's one that I always have tied on. Even when it's shallow. I will say I definately do not throw it if I'm stuck to the bank bc I get hung up a lot. But if I'm in a kayak it's always tied on. This color or an orange crawdad color are my biggest producers.


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Shallow Shad Rap. The shad color has been the best for me. I know there are no gizzard shad in the upper G'nade, but the color isn't that far from the river minnows that live in the shallows. In the Fall X Raps work for me.

Today's release is tomorrows gift to another fisherman.

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I love fishing cranks for smallmouth in the rivers. I love big wobble baits such as Tadpolly's and Wiggle Warts. As the creeks get smaller, I downsize my cranks. All the way down to wee cranks. I will always take a deep diving crank over a shallow billed crank too. True for the wee size also. I like getting down in the water column. One thing that happens a lot when using a deep crank is, as I am about to lift it into the boat, it will get hammered. Its like the fish have seen it come low and then head up quickly in the water column.

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I agree with TrphyFshR, water clarity determines when I fish a crankbait. When the water is clear I usually stay away from them. If you think about it, the only stealthy presentation in clear water is when you use a background to your advantage like the surface or the the bottom. When a fish approaches a lure like a crankbait in the middle zone they have the advantage to see it more clearly.

"Honor is a man's gift to himself" Rob Roy McGregor

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Okay, against my better judgment I'll explain it, Wrench...

I started out using the skirt on the belly hook with my homemade shallow runner, which was originally based upon the Midge-oreno. Others across the Ozarks did the same thing with the Baby Lucky 13. Now...a lot of more recent anglers didn't even consider those two baits to be crankbaits, thought they were more like topwaters because they didn't have a bill. But as originally designed, they were supposed to be used as crankbaits, reeled very slowly. When you do that without a skirt on the belly hook, they have a very wide, irregular wobble, actually more like they go straight for a few inches, veer one way or the other, then veer the other way, then go straight. But when you put a skirt on the belly hook, it provides a balance point, and changes the action to a somewhat tighter and much more regular wobble, one that makes that skirt wave back and forth. It's still a wider wobble than most ordinary crankbaits. But you can also reel the lure a lot faster if you're so inclined.

So...why would you put a skirt on the belly hook of a crankbait that actually has a bill, and thus a regular wobble? Well, I'm convinced that bass often target ANYTHING hanging off the belly of a lure. I've told the story before of seeing a video of bass hitting crankbaits, and how so many of them, instead of engulfing the whole thing, actually did a precision strike at the swinging belly hook. So putting something extra on the belly hook gives them something extra to target. The only problem is that with many crankbaits, putting something on the belly hook kills the wobble. So if you want to do so, you have to experiment to see how bulky a skirt you can get by with...with most crankbaits, a dozen or fewer strands of silicone will be about it.

I'm also convinced that skirts on the belly hook work best with shallow running cranks, and I think the reason for this is that the bass are looking up at them and seeing the skirt wave back and forth. If it's a deeper runner, they either are looking at it from the side and not getting the full effect of the waving skirt, or looking at it from above, and the skirt is being partly obscured by the lure itself. Another thing about looking up at a shallow runner--the skirt actually partially obscures the lure itself, giving it a much different profile.

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