In my adventures, to learn to effectively fish crank baits, the most valuable lesson I was given was to catch crankbait bass in brush piles you must make contact with targets to attract the most and largest strikes. With today’s high dollar cost of crank baits, this is a perplexing situation. Retrieving expensive crank baits through a brush pile in 10 feet of water can be nerve racking; until you learn how to do it. I started out learning this technique with shallower brush piles. Choosing brush piles that I could reach with my rod tip or dip net, to help me retrieve the lure once it got hung; then advanced to deeper brush piles. I quickly learned that the deeper brush piles are actually easier to bring crank baits through because of the line angle and buoyancy of the baits.
Catch Crankbait Bass in Brush Piles
Step one is to use quality equipment. Without a rod designed for crank baits, you will be lacking the feel and control necessary to manipulate a crank bait through cover. Step two is making sure you’re using a quality line that is abrasion resistant. An abrasion resistant line allows you to reduce the diameter needed to prevent breaking, which increases your feel and depth that you can achieve with your crank bait of choice. I have found that most fluorocarbon lines are particularly effective for my crank bait needs. I easily achieve my desired depths, and they are abrasion resistant enough to handle most brush piles and rocks without serious damage. You’ll still need to watch the line and retie often. Step three is to practice.
As I mentioned I started in shallow cover. Very timidly I started casting to cover trying to deflect my crankbait off the edges or sides of objects. This was pretty easy as most crank baits naturally will deflect off the side of something pretty easy. A crank baits side to side action prevents the hooks from catching the edge of an object as it goes by.
Next up was brush piles, my first few attempts were about fifty percent. Meaning about fifty percent of the time I got hung up. Part of my problem was that, in an effort to learn how to bring a crank bait through a brush pile, I was not diving right in. I would make casts close to brush and try and bring it across the top or edge without digging the crank bait too deep into the brush pile. This slow and gentle retrieve kept the bait in a horizontal, instead of a nose down, position. This slow retrieve also didn’t allow the baits wobble to help protect the hooks. This exposed the hooks to the limbs of the brush pile. Once I learned to cast well beyond the brush pile and attack it head on, I soon learned that the angle of attack that your crank bait presents when it first contacts the brush pile is crucial.
Making casts well beyond a targeted brush pile allows the crank bait to get down and start its action. As your bait approaches a brush pile, the bill of the crank bait will start contacting limbs. When the bill of a crank bait hits a limb, the body of the crank bait will rise, lifting the hooks clear of the limb. If you pause your retrieve just a split second at that moment, the entire bait will rise over the limb. Restart your retrieve and the bait will dive back into the brush pile to find the next limb. Sounds simple, but feeling it happen and knowing when to pause and start back up is the hard part. With experience and learning what to feel for it becomes second nature.
With a quality rod and quality line, the feel of a crank bait approaching a limb is quite obvious. The first thing that will happen is your line will hit the limb, thus changing the angle of the crank bait. As the crank bait tries to continue its dive under the limb, you should feel your rod load up slightly. At this point, prepare to feel the bill of the crank bait contacting the limb. When you feel that tick, pause slightly letting the bait rise, and then continue your retrieve. There is nothing that can simulate this, so it’s a matter of getting on the water and doing it. Once you find a brush pile that you are successful in retrieving a crank bait through, I recommend repeating it many times to help get that feel dialed in.
Here is the kicker, strikes will come anytime from when your line first contacts the limb and changes the angle on the crank bait (form of deflection because the bait changes its action) to when you start your retrieve back after the bait floats over the limb. When your bait hits the limb, there is deflection or a change in action, when you pause the bait there is another change in action. All these points of change will draw strikes. This is where cranking brush piles becomes an art form, knowing when it’s a limb or a strike. Most times it’s pretty easy to tell the difference, but there are days when it’s an extremely delicate difference.
When working brush piles there are certain sure signs of a strike, indicating you should set the hook. First is a void. If at any time other than during your pause when floating over a limb you lose all contact with your bait, set the hook. A double tick, if you feel your line load up on a limb and then feel the bill hit the limb but immediately feel a second tick, set the hook. If, in your pause, your line tightens up you need to set the hook. As you can see, fishing a crank bait in a brush pile requires as much attention as fishing a jig or plastic worm in a brush pile. You must learn what to expect, and set the hook on everything else.
I have learned when fishing brush piles that have a tremendous amount of cover it’s easier to control your crank bait by pulling it with your rod instead of using your reel to bring the bait through the bush pile. Cast well beyond the brush pile like normal, but when you first feel the line load up on a limb use your rod to pull the bait to the limb and make contact. Then during your pause, move the rod towards the bait, reel up the slack line and make another pull, feeling for the next limb. Essentially just like if you were working a jig or worm.
When you get good at fishing crank baits in brush, you’ll be able to pull a crank bait into a brush pile and bounce it off the same limb a couple times before moving to the next one. By accident, I learned how effective this can be. Fishing squarebill crank baits down a shore line I got my crank bait hung and after trying to shake my crank bait free from the limb, my line took off for deep water. The vibration of me shaking the bait against the limb drew the attention of a waiting bass, and it grabbed it fiercely enough to pull it free of the limb.
Crank baits are a highly effective way to catch finicky bass from brush piles. If you think about it, brush pile bass are inundated with all the various soft plastics and jigs; a crank bait can be a fresh look. Crank baits also work on the reflex nature of a bass and draw reaction strikes. When your brush piles fail to produce with your favorite presentations, get out the crank baits and see what happens. You just might find a new favorite presentation for catching brush pile bass.
Get the Net it’s a Hawg