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The Nature of Crankbaits

By Steve Heiting:  It’s fall, and if crankbaits aren’t in your lineup for the colder months they should be. The slower, down-in-their-face presentation they provide is made to order for fall musky fishing.

However, you need to understand the differences in crankbaits to get the most from them. Some are designed for open water, some are designed to be fished in and around weeds, while others were built to maximize their flash.
Here are the considerations I use when choosing a crankbait for fall:

• Diving lip — Longer lips are designed to produce depth while shorter lips mean a shallow-runner. Wide lips (like on a DepthRaider or Believer) tend to protect a lure’s hooks from hanging up in weeds or on rocks. Lips with rounded ends produce a rolling action while squared lips tend to produce more vibration. On certain days the lip means everything.

• Running attitude — This is the angle at which the bait runs through the water. Lures that run with a horizontal attitude (Magnum ShallowRaider, Slammer, Jake, Grandma, Triple D) are great for trolling over open water and along breaklines. Lures that run with a nose-down attitude (DepthRaiders, Ernies) protect their hooks from weeds and rocks and are designed for bumping cover or structure.

• Straight model vs. jointed — Jointed crankbaits give the illusion of speed, meaning that they appear to be moving faster than they really are. However, in late fall, the muskies often prefer the roll of a straight model crankbait over the wobble of the jointed.
• Size — This is easy. I rarely use small lures in the fall when it’s time to go big or go home. However, a big profile, like the side view of a 9-inch Mag ShallowRaider or 10-inch Slammer, can give the appearance of a baitfish that’s much bigger than the lure.

• Color — I tend to fish natural-colored lures in fall but as the water gets colder, white and silver tend to produce better. Is this because the muskies begin to focus on fall spawners like whitefish and ciscoes/tullibees? Quite likely.

• Sound — Rattles built into a lure may be an attractant, but in pressured and/or clear water they may be a hindrance.

• The “walk” — Some crankbaits have a tendency to kick out a little to one side or another every now and then without blowing out. Don’t tune this out of them because (as you probably know) these baits get eaten!

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