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Cold Water Tactics Pt2 Crankbaits

Published on January 30, 2009

Wintertime is such a great time to catch a giant bass. Last week, I fished on the coldest day of the year (22 degrees in Texas), and we boated a 10-pounder. Our rods were freezing until after lunch.

In the last article, I mentioned that the skirted jig had the most fish recorded in the Insider BASSlog for water temps below 50 degrees. The second best bait is a medium diving crankbait. Interestingly, before looking at these statistics, it wasn't a big part of my wintertime arsenal. But there are more fish recorded on the medium diving crankbait than a 1/2-ounce, 5/8-ounce, or 3/4-ounce lipless crankbait (my top number baits in the winter). Before getting into the details of the medium diving crankbait, let me explain why I don't use them as much as I would recommend the casual angler or even a serious tournament angler.

As a guide, I normally have 3 people in the boat. I like to be able to get in the stumps daily, so my style of fishing is very abusive to my boat. Because of this, I use the smallest aluminum boat that I can comfortably fish 3 people, so rod space is somewhat limited. I will usually have 3 different size lipless crankbaits (1 for each angler) and probably a couple of spinnerbait rods, a jig rod, and a couple of other rods that are easily accessible. Lake Fork is a trophy lake, so the bites are usually few and far between in the winter. I usually fish the same (or similar) baits as my clients, so I can help build confidence in the baits they are throwing. More often than not, at least one of them is an amateur, so they need all the help they can get.

Lipless crankbaits (which I will mention next time) are not only my confidence baits in the winter, but they are great search baits for finding the grass, which is where I catch the majority of fish. So, I really don't have room for other treble hook lures on deck. However, if I was fishing by myself or in a tournament, I would definitely have a medium crankbait tied on in the winter. So, be sure to include the medium crankbait in your arsenal. I will certainly fish it more after seeing the stats.

The Top 10 colors of medium crankbaits in the winter are:

  1. gray/white
  2. shad
  3. firetiger
  4. root beer
  5. brown
  6. blue/chartreuse
  7. crawfish red
  8. chartreuse shad
  9. brown/orange
  10. baby bass

Water clarity of 1 to 2-foot visibility has the most fish recorded, followed by 2 to 3 feet, then 3 to 5 feet. So, it appears that medium crankbaits actually work better when the water isn't clear, as long as it has at least a foot of visibility.

The best cover for medium crankbaits, just like the skirted jig, is some type of rock, boulder, or gravel. So be sure to fish around boat ramps and bridges. They will always have some type of cement or rock. The next best cover is laydown trees, followed by submerged vegetation, then trees mixed with vegetation. The square bill crankbait deflects off wood cover, so keep that in mind if you are fishing laydown trees. My experience has always been some type of vegetation as the top cover. But then again I am in Texas where we can find green grass even in the winter.

The best depth for medium cranks is 6 to 10 feet, but anywhere close to that range is a good water depth. There's a lot of fish recorded less than 5 feet and several over 20 feet during the winter. The good news is that the best time to fish them is also the most comfortable time. Noon to 3 p.m. is best, followed by 9 a.m. to Noon, sunup to 9 a.m., then 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Obviously, there aren't many people fishing crankbaits after dark this time of the year. But I caught fish after dark just last week, so never rule out night fishing.

That should be the most important information you need to help you catch your winter fish on medium crankbaits. Be sure to read part 3 of Cold Water Tactics.

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