Crankbait Trolling Setup and Tactics

DSC02746A few years back I ordered some deep diving crankbait blanks and painted them in a few of my favorite colors. I figured out that spotted bass pull off the bank in early summer and spend their days out in 20-30+ feet of water and usually there is structure near by. Sometimes the bass stay tight to the structure and other times they range out foraging for bait. When the fish are tight to the brush, I like to dropshot them with spottails or jig them up with small spoons. When the bass range out in search of food, that when I like to troll for them. It’s not as easy as just putting a crankbait in the water and taking off trolling it. There are certain things you need to check before you even start trolling. The most important is your line. I use 6lb test XPS fluorocarbon and dragging it over rocks and through structure can really scuff it up. You need to constantly check it for cuts and abrasions. Anytime fluorocarbon gets scuffed up it loses it’s transparency and the affected area needs to be removed. I check mine very frequently because the 6lb test isn’t very strong and the slightest flaw can lead to a break off when you’ve got a nice fish on and that can ruin your day. Another thing that is just about as important is how the bait runs in the water. A lot of times and bait is out of tune and needs to be super tuned to run at higher trolling speeds. A bait that is out of tune will run in large circles when being pulled at 2-3 mph. You want your baits to run straight in a successful presentation or you’re just wasting you time. A good way to check you baits is to start moving at trolling speed and drop your crankbait over the side, let out about 6-8 feet of line and watch how the bait runs through the water. If it doesn’t run straight , it needs to be super tuned. To super tune your bait, if it’s pulling to the left, you need to adjust the little ring attach point to the right and then check it again. Sometimes this can take some time, but the rewards can be great when you get it running straight.

I don’t know of too many points and humps on Lanier that doesn’t hold fish this time of year. We have a very healthy population of spotted bass on Lake Lanier, and you can just about find the fish on any point of hump in June and July. With this being said, the most important thing to look for is structure. Structure can be a buzz kill while trolling crankbaits so you want to avoid it at all costs. If I’m trolling and cross over a brush pile that I think the crankbaits will get snagged in, I turn the boat to try and avoid the structure with my baits. If I think that’s not going to work, I just put the boat in neutral and let the cranks slow down and float up towards the surface to avoid the structure all together. All of this takes practice and you’re probably going to hang a few baits from time to time. I really recommend having a plug retriever handy, and know how to use it. I’ve lost a few nice crankbaits over the years and it still stings every time I loose one. The key is to find the structure in advance and if it doesn’t look like an area that you can successfully troll, it’s time to move on. There are a lot of long flat points that hold fish but have very little structure and if your just learning to troll crankbaits, those flats would be a good place to practice.

There are a lot of islands out on the main lake and a lot of these islands have areas that are void of structure and these areas area a good place to look this time of the summer. Spotted bass will cruise around the islands looking for bait and I like to trolling these areas, especially at the end of points where the spots tend to gather. If I see the fish and feel like I can troll them up, I’ll circle around and drop my crankbait out the back about 150 feet behind the boat and point the boat right at the area I marked the fish. I troll my baits at the slowest speed possible with the big motor which is around 2 mph. A lot of time the crankbaits I use will start scrubbing bottom at around 22 feet and generally that’s where I get my bites. The little crankbaits have rattles and dig into the bottom which mimics a bait fish foraging along the bottom. Spotted bass can’t resist the sound and the sight of mud kicking up off the bottom and will attack the bait. Sometimes these strikes can be very aggressive and I like to hold my rod in my hand so I can feel the strikes. As soon as I hook up a fish, I put the boat in neutral and slowly bring the fish to the boat. If the boat is still moving, it adds to the pressure on the light fluorocarbon line, so you want the boat to slow down so you can handle the fish.

There are two colors that I like when I’m trolling crankbaits, my favorite is chartreuse and my second favorite is a blueback pattern. The spotted bass will generally react to either color.

Trolling deep diving crankbaits is a fun way to cover a lot of ground and it’s a lot of fun for the whole family once you learn how to do it successfully.

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