The Old Fishing Hole – Crankbaits for Spring Bass

Warmer spring weather has anglers in hot pursuit of bass and crappie throughout the mid-state. As temperatures have begun to rise the fishing is also beginning to heat up. Water temps. have moved into the mid 50′s now in area lakes and we have transitioned from winter into a spring pre-spawn fishing pattern. Whether you’re in search of bass or crappie this spring, the pre-spawn is considered perhaps the best time of the year for an opportunity to catch a trophy size bass or a huge slab crappie.

Locating bass in early spring can sometimes be challenging due to constantly changing weather conditions and fluctuations in water temperature. Bass are on the move now as they seek the warmest waters and start to migrate to shallow water spawning areas. Several consecutive days of warm weather can rapidly raise water temps. On the other hand, a severe cold front can also drop water temps. several degrees overnight. These changes in water temperature can relocate fish from one day to the next.

During the spring when bass are just starting to move into shallow water the sun is a very important factor. Bass will move into shallow water that has warmed from exposure to abundant sunshine this time of the year. These shallow water areas may be several degrees warmer than areas with less sun exposure. Water temperature is the main factor that will dictate how shallow the fish will be found. There are also many other factors to consider such as wind, water color, etc. but paying close attention to water temps. will always help you to locate bass in early spring.

You can often find fish moving to shallow water later in the day this time of the year when water temps. begin to rise. Often times the best bite of the day will come in the afternoon.

Fishing may be slow in the morning then the fish will turn on in late afternoon and feed until dark.

If you’re fishing a lake or reservoir, start searching shallow water areas along the northwest banks to locate spring bass. These areas tend to provide warmer water temperatures due to increased time of exposure to sunlight. Check wind blown banks that are exposed to warm south and westerly winds that are protected from cooler northern winds to find the warmest waters. Also search for bass on rip rap banks or other rocky banks because rock will absorb heat from the sun providing warmer water that will attract bass. Use a detailed lake map to pinpoint some of these areas before you go fishing.

Typically areas of shallow water in the upper section of a reservoir will warm first. Bass will usually move shallow earlier in this section of the lake and will spawn earlier here than in the lower end of lake. Keep in mind that not all bass spawn at the same time. Spawning may take place over a period of several months in a lake or reservoir. Also note that smallmouth bass spawn before largemouth when water temps. range from 56 to 59 degrees. Largemouth bass spawn when the water temp. range is from 68 to 72 degrees.

Once you can locate bass there are several key baits that will produce well in the spring during the pre-spawn. Bass anglers are having good success now using spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and jerkbaits. A lipless crankbait (Rat-L-Trap) can be very productive now. You may have to experiment and let the fish tell you which baits will work best on any given day.

Crankbaits are one of the most popular and versatile baits for locating pre-spawn bass in the spring. Like spinnerbaits you can use them to fish the entire water column from top to bottom.

These lures are easy to fish and offer controlled depth to keep the bait in the strike zone.

There are numerous different manufacturers that produce a variety of crankbaits and all of them will catch fish at one time or another. With so many to choice from, how can you determine which ones will work best at any given time? There are several factors to consider when you pick which crankbaits to fish. Key factors to consider include size and shape, action, color, depth, buoyancy, and sound.

The size and shape of a crankbait is an important consideration not only in terms of appearance and profile to match the forage of bass but also with the action of the lure. Flat sided crankbaits have a more tight action wobble making them more desirable when fishing cooler water temps.whereas fat wide bodied crankbaits produce more wobble and usually work best when fishing in warmer water for more active bass.

The action of a crankbait refers to the motion or wobble and to how you fish it. Most strikes come when these baits are fished with an erratic retrieve. I’ll often pause on the retrieve and strikes will come mostly when the bait is stopped. Deflection also triggers strikes so try to keep the bait in contact with any type of underwater obstruction or cover.

Choosing which color to use is also important and there are lots of colors to pick from. The colors that I like to use are natural shad colors, crawfish colors, and those that resemble bluegill, everything that a bass loves. This is one area where you may have to experiment with colors to see which one will work best at any particular time. Water color will help determine your choice. Use more natural colors in clear water and brighter colors when fishing colored or murky water. Crawfish colors are a top pick in the spring.

Depth may be the most important factor to consider when choosing a crankbait. Once you can determine the depth where the fish are holding pick a bait that will run at a depth that will stay in that strike zone. The lip of the bait, line size, and speed of retrieve will all determin how deep the bait will run.

Most crankbaits will have some type of rattle that produces sound and some make more noise than others. Sometimes I think that bass will key in on a crankbait based more on sound than they will based on any other factor. This may be especially true when fishing murky or colored water.

Middle Tennessee guide Jim Duckworth (615-444-2283) offers some good advice about fishing crankbaits to make them more productive. Duckworth says, β€œ One modification that I always make to any crankbait is to replace the front treble hook with a Daiichi Red Bleeding Bait hook. This simple change seems to lead to more strikes and better hook-ups as bass will key in on the red hook.”

Rick McFerrin owner of Tennessee Bass Guides reports that he is catching good numbers of quality size smallmouth and largemouth bass on Tims Ford Lake. He has recently seen great success using a ΒΌ ounce size Luhr-Jensen Speed Trap. This semi-flat sided crankbait has a tight action wobble and loud rattle that is irresistible to bass. McFerrin is also catching good size bass on spinnerbaits and on a X-Rap jerk bait. To see photos of some of his recent catches on Tims Ford Lake visit his website at

I have been using Bandit crankbaits on Old Hickory and Percy Priest Lakes. Bandit offers a series of crankbaits that will cover a depth range from 6 inches to 20 feet of water. Use a 200 series to cover a depth of 5 to 8 feet and a 100 series for shallow areas to cover depths of less than 5 feet. The most productive colors for me have been white, silver minnow sparkle, and brown/chartreuse crawfish color.

If you’re fishing for bass this spring, then give crankbaits a try. If unsure which color might be best right now start with spring crawfish colors that are red or brown with orange or chartreuse on the under side. Try different colors until you find what works best. I always use a fast lock snap when fishing crankbaits to allow me to quickly change colors.

Crankbaits are baits that are not only effective in the spring, but also throughout the year into late fall. Most every angler has a few crankbaits in the tackle box because they consistently catch fish and are easy to use. Now is a great time to give them a try. And please, if you are going to be on the water, always remember to wear your life jacket.

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Good Fishing

By Charlie Campbell