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Crankin' Up a Storm

Gord Pyzer says that casting a crankbait like the Rapala X-Rap Shad he used to catch this fish the other day is a great way to target smallmouth bass in the fall
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Crankin' Up a Storm

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The Smallmouth Bass pattern that's shifting into high gear, wherever you are in Northern Ontario.

The kids have only been back to school for a few days, but it hasn't stopped my grandson Liam from calling me during lunch most days, to see if I will pick him up after school and head out onto the lake for a couple of hours of fishing in the evening. He may be young, but he has fished enough in Northwestern Ontario to know that once Labour Day rolls around, one of the most productive and fun ways to catch smallmouth bass kicks into high gear. 

It is almost a magical mystery ride.

I am talking about casting crankbaits – both the lipped and lipless varieties – and it is a great early fall way to catch smallmouth bass.

Part of the reason is because smallmouth are so acutely tuned into their environment.  By that I mean: while it is still essentially summer, the cool evenings that have befallen us of late have chilled the surface water temperatures enough to cause them to drop a couple of degrees. 

A week ago, for example, the surface temperature on Lake of the Woods was hovering between 72° F and 74° F, but the other night, it was sitting at 69° F.  

Liam Whetter used a Kamooki SmartFish lipless crankbait to catch this Lake of the Woods beauty

You wouldn't think that a decline of three or four degrees would be significant, but to the bass, it is like flipping a light switch. Ditto to the tasty crayfish that they dine upon.  Come early September, the freshwater lobsters moult and shed their hard protective exoskeltons. Until their new carapace toughens up, the soft-shelled crayfish are vulnerable, easy pickin's for the fish, and they know it. As a result, the crawdads hide in the cracks and crevices between the rocks and boulders lying along shore.

So now, let’s set the scene. We have revitalized, invigorated and belligerent bass that are suddenly missing out on their most important source of food. So, they're hungry and ready to pounce on anything that looks good enough to wrap their lips around.

Enter the crankbait. 

It always pays to select a crankbait that runs slightly deeper than the water depth you're fishing.  That way, you can maximize the number of fish attracting deflections on every cast.

The most ubiquitous crankbaits, like the Rapala Shad Rap and Storm Arashi series, feature a small plastic lip at the front of the bait that controls how deep it will dive, and to a degree, how much it will shimmy back and forth when you reel it back to the boat. 

Lipless crankbaits, on the other hand, like the Kamooki SmartCraw and Rapala Rippin' Rap, have the same body shape as their big-lipped brothers, but they lack the front bill, replacing it with a bevelled nose that causes the bait to wobble incessantly.

I should mention, too, that you can find noisy crankbaits with rattles inside them and silent models that lack any music makers.  Which one the bass want on any particular day or night is a matter of fine-tuning and constant on-the-water experimentation.

Having said that, I have to confess that the other night, Liam and I found the bass so feisty, they didn't seem to care much how our crankbaits were wobbling or if they were noisy or silent. They wolfed them down with equal relish.

There is one crankin' detail, however, that always is critically important.  You have to run the lure into the bottom and ricochet them off sticks, stones, rocks, boulders, and submerged logs. 

Now, I know what you're thinking. 

You can fish with noisy crankbaits with rattles and silent models that lack any music makers.  Which one the bass want on any particular day is a matter of on-the-water experimentation 

"Hey, wait a minute," I can hear you say, "I just spent $10 for that lure with two treble hooks hanging from it, and you want me to bang it into rocks and logs?"

Yep, that is the way you fish a crankbait if you want to maximize your success. You will also feel a little less anxious, too, when you discover that most crankbaits are amazingly snag-free, having been specially designed to glance, bounce and deflect off objects.

Indeed, a key secret of pros who excel at catching fall bass on crankbaits is to select a model that runs slightly deeper than the actual depth they're fishing.  So, if they are casting in eight feet of water, for example, they will tie on a model that typically dives down to 10 or 12 feet. Doing this ensures that their lure will run like a scared mouse along the bottom, and they will extract the maximum number of fish attracting deflections on every cast.

It is a smallmouth bass pattern that is shifting into high gear wherever you are in Northern Ontario.  So pick up your tackle box, hop aboard the crankbait train, and enjoy the early fall fishing.  

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