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Mike Roux's Outdoor Journal:The basics of crankbaits

  • Mike Roux really likes Xcaliber's XCS200 crankbaits.

    Mike Roux really likes Xcaliber's XCS200 crankbaits.
    Courtesy of Luke Terstriep Jr.

 
By Mike Roux
Contributing writer
updated: 8/31/2021 11:23 PM

It was my first time on this lake and I wanted to learn as much as I possibly could in the shortest amount of time. I needed to cover lots of water with each cast to find the bass.

The spawn had just recently ended and I knew the big females would be hungry and aggressive. Combining all of these factors my choice was a crankbait. That decision was easy, but now came the more difficult choice of which bait to throw.

Luckily the Xcaliber line of crankbaits offers a wide variety from which to choose. Size, shape and color all play very important roles when it comes to picking the right bait for a given day. Let's take a few minutes and cover the basics.

Crankbait size
There are a few things to consider when choosing the size of your crankbait. The most critical factor is the time of year. Bass coming off a long cold winter are very hungry, but not necessarily overly aggressive until the water warms up. Early in the season, pre- and post-spawn I like to throw large baits that I can keep at medium depths without having to wind a mile a second. Big bodied baits like the XCS200 Series work best early. These lures create a great wobbling action even with slower retrieves. This allows you to keep the bait in the strike zone longer with each cast.
As the hot temperatures and high skies of summer arrive the amount of natural food for the bass increases. Crappie and bluegill fry are abundant as are frogs and crawfish. Shad too are plentiful and this time of year is a like a buffet for feeding bass. Therefore they tend to be a bit more finicky in the summer. This is when I like to downsize my crankbaits. In the heat of summer I believe the bass are most satisfied in general with smaller meals and with feeding more often. I like the Real Gill Series from Xcaliber in the summer. Baits like this look exactly like actual bluegill and crappie and produce lots of strikes. And they can be fished easily at about any depth. This is important as bass move into shallower water just before dark to feed.
As the cooler air of autumn approaches I go to my biggest crankbaits like the XCS300 Series. Bass heading into winter want big meals and lots of them. Fall means big baits and bigger bass in greater numbers. Xcaliber's XCS300 baits can be the key to success.

Crankbait shape
I do not see a lot written about the contrasting shapes of crankbaits. That is a shame because knowing about the basic differences and using that knowledge to your advantage can often make the difference between a bad day and a great day on the water.
Crankbaits usually have round, plump bodies or thin flat bodies. The round bodies produce a wobble and the flat bodies produce a wriggle. "Isn't that just semantics?" you may ask. No it is not and here is why. Predatory fish like bass react to bait more with the sense of feel than with any other senses. The lateral line along the fish's sides feels the vibration made in the water by other swimming objects. They can actually identify prey by "feeling" it swim.
That being said, a bait making a "wobble" represents a larger, slow-moving target. Conversely, a thin crankbait has a much quicker "wriggle" imitating a smaller, faster target. This difference becomes crucial based upon what the bass are eating at that particular time, in that particular place. Early in the year when many species of fry are on the menu, a wriggle more accurately imitates them than a wobble. Later in the season when crappie and bluegill have been feasting on small shad, they too are fatter and wobble more than wriggle. Think about it. What better meal could a five-pound bass have than an 8-inch crappie that is already full of baby shad?
When it comes to shape we must also mention both lipped and lipless baits and suspending crankbaits like the XT30 baits. All of these lures have their specific traits and all can be deadly.

Crankbait color
No need to spend a bunch of time on crankbait color. We all know how critical color can be and we all know to have several colors of baits in our tackle boxes. As usual I like to use brightly-colored, flashy baits in clear and calm water. Use flashy baits on clear days to take advantage of the sun. On cloudy days and in stained water go with darker colors. The bass can see dark colors better in dirty water. This holds true for spinnerbaits, as well.
Above all, throw crankbaits! On certain days under certain conditions they can be the most highly productive lures you own. Own lots of them. And to find out more about the Xcaliber line of crankbaits check them out at www.xcaliburtackle.com.

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