Deep cranking is almost inarguably the most fun way to catch deep summertime bass. It’s a power fishing technique that can fire up a school and put several fish in the boat in a matter of minutes, and big crankbaits catch big fish.
It’s a simple technique to execute, but it’s still important to understand the nuances of such a unique technique in order to get the most out of it, because doing it wrong can make you very inefficient.
1. Use the Right Equipment
Deep cranking is a very specialized technique that benefits from very specialized equipment. Big crankbaits are heavier than most baits and have more resistance than any other bait on the market. You need to have the right stuff, lest you wear yourself out or worse, miss fish.
Start with a big rod. I like something at least 7’8” tall, which most purpose-built deep cranking rods will be. You want a lot of backbone with a lot of tip. Again, most purpose-built deep cranking rods will be this way, and many are fiberglass instead of graphite to slow the action down as much as possible.
Cranking rods in general have slower action in order to minimize the power you can put behind a hookset. This is a good thing with a fast moving bait like a crankbait, as too much acceleration of the bait on a hookset can rip the trebles right out of the fish’s mouth.
You want a slow reel. I prefer a 5.4:1 gear ratio at the maximum. Throwing a high resistance bait on too fast of a reel just adds even more resistance for no reason, and it will burn you out by the end of the day.
The lighter the line, the deeper you can get the bait to go, but deep cranking tends to tear up the line around your knot, so you don’t want to go too deep and start making yourself vulnerable to breakoffs. I prefer 12 lb fluorocarbon, and I think you can go as small as 10 if you’re seeking some extra depth out of your bait.
2. Get the most out of your bait
As is true with any crankbait, contact with the bottom is key. Getting the most out of a deep diving crankbait means getting it to the bottom as fast as possible and keeping it there for as much of the retrieve as possible.
Be sure to check out my Beginner’s Guide to Crankbaits for more info
Part of what necessitates such a huge rod for these baits is the distance you need to be able to throw it. Since the bait has to dive, you need to be able to cast far beyond your target, and casting distance becomes critical. A big rod that can effectively load and handle a bait of that size is a must. Making a long cast gives you more time in the strike zone and guarantees you aren’t passing over a school of fish without realizing it.
Be sure to keep your rod tip low to the water when retrieving. To get the most out of these baits, you need to maximize how quickly they reach the bottom, and every little bit helps. Retrieving with a high rod tip is pulling the bait up and slowing its dive rate. In extreme cases, you can even stick your rod in the water as you achieve to get even more depth.
One thing that can affect the bait’s ability to get down quickly is a poor run angle. It’s not super uncommon to see crankbaits that don’t run in a straight line right out of the box. If your bait is not running straight, it’s not diving as quickly as it could. Taking a pair of needle nose pliers and bending the line slightly in the opposite direction will correct this.
3. Select the right depth crank bait
It’s generally a good idea to overcompensate when it comes to crankbait depth. Most crankbaits are depth-rated at a range, with your deep crankbaits saying 18-22 feet, or up to 25 feet, or something like that. It’s generally a good idea to go bigger than you need to, because the baits often don’t run to max depth. There are so many factors that can affect how deep the bait gets, that picking a 24-foot diver instead of an 18-foot diver for 16 feet of water helps to ensure your bait gets to the bottom. You do not need to match the depth in which you’re fishing. There is nothing wrong with throwing a Strike King 8XD (20 feet) in 15 feet of water, but there is definitely something wrong with throwing a 5XD (15 feet) in 23 feet.
The only thing to keep in mind here is that a bait that is too big for your rod will impede your casting distance, which in the end will keep the bait from getting close to max depth. You’ll actually lose depth with a deeper crankbait if you can’t throw it as far.
4. Don’t overthink it
Cranking is not something to overthink. It’s one of the simplest techniques to execute well. You just reel. Make your long cast, keep your tip low, and just reel. The action is imparted on the bait by its contact with the bottom, so as long as you can get it to the bottom, that bait is going all sorts of different ways as it deflects off of whatever is down there, even if you can’t tell.
You can mix up your speed of retrieval, and sometimes stopping it and letting it float a foot or two off the bottom can trigger strikes, but beyond that, it’s a pretty simple bait. Throw it, reel it, catch big fish.
Additionally, you can read more about crank baiting in other seasons too.