A Total Guide to Deep Crankbait Bass Fishing
Fishing with crankbaits has long been a consistent way to locate and catch big bass. As discussed in our Complete Guide to Crankbait Fishing for Bass article, crankbaits work by creating underwater vibrations and erratic patterns that submerged bass key in on, even in the murkiest of conditions. One specific type of crankbait, and the topic of this article, is deep crankbait bass fishing.
Made from balsa wood or plastic, these heavy-lipped crankbaits are designed to dive up to 18 feet deep, targeting fish suspended near the bottom, which are usually hiding away from the sun. There are no doubt a million questions running through your mind right now. Why are the bass that deep? How will I find them? What line should I use? We will cover these points and more in the following paragraphs. Fear not; read on, and soon, you will learn the secrets of bass fishing deep diving crankbaits.
Deep Diving Crankbait Selection
Like any other lure on the market, deep diving crankbaits come in various colors and materials.
As mentioned, the bodies of these lures are usually made from either plastic or balsa wood. Balsa is the original lure material. It’s soft and buoyant.
While buoyancy may seem counterproductive for crankbaits, especially deep diving ones, it does have one saving grace. When a lure gets snagged on a structure or weeds, it will unhook itself if you release the pressure and allow it to float back to the surface. Balsa wood lures are more expensive and don’t cast as far as plastic lures because of their low density.
Plastic crankbaits are the most common option on the market. The increased weight and rattles improves their casting range and creates a louder bait on the retrieve. Plus, due to mass production, their overall cost is lower.
A good rule to follow is that when fishing in clear or high visibility conditions, select natural colors that mimic the forage fish in that area. If the water you are fishing in has shad present, select a shad pattern. Bluegills are always a great color pattern in southern lakes.
If the water is dirty, select darker colors and patterns, such as black or junebug. In these lower visibility situations, the vibrations of the crankbait and silhouette alone will draw in strikes.
A golden shiner patterned crankbait, these shiners are good options in southern lakes
Conditions to Go Deep
Bass fishing deep diving crankbaits is a labor-intensive process, reserved for times that necessitate it. Certain conditions and times of the year when the fish are likely to hold in specific areas make this targeted approach the best option.
Summer is the ideal season for deep crankbait bass fishing. Bass have moved off their shallow water spawning grounds and seek the refuge of calmer water with plenty of avenues to travel. Simply put, the combination of hot sun and increased boat traffic on the water drives both bass and forage fish to deeper water.
Besides sun and boat traffic, temperature plays a huge role in driving fish to the depths that a deep diving crankbait can reach. Depending on your high school science class memory, you may remember that warmer water holds less dissolved oxygen. The summer heat raises the water temperature near the surface and in shallow water, leading to lower oxygen levels in these areas. Bass will select deeper, cooler water to maintain oxygen levels and regulate their body temperature in these scenarios.
A busy lake is the perfect time to go deep with a crankbait
Spots to Target
We’ve covered when and under what conditions to start fishing for bass with your deep diving crankbaits, but where should you target? If you run a fishfinder/depth finder on your bass boat, it will be easy to find deep holes, ledges, and valleys on the lake bottom. These are ideal spots for deep diving crankbaits. If you aren’t as tech-savvy or run with minimal electronics, try scouting using websites like gpsnauticalcharts.com to find spots.
Deep diving crankbaits have a maximum running depth between 15 and 18 feet. If you’re fishing deeper than this, you will probably be better off with a Carolina rigged worm or a jig. Like regular crankbaits, they are most effective when swimming just above the bottom or just above a structure.
Don’t just target the deepest spots in the lake, hoping to key in on fish. Look for areas where the bass can easily move from shallow areas after spawning to deep water. Channels with a mudflat or drop offs with a point are excellent areas for deep diving crankbaits. Such zones create a hard line where the water temperature changes. Not only does the cooler water help bass regulate their body temperature but also corral bait that is even more sensitive to the changes in temperature.
A deep drop off with sunken lumber is ideal for deep diving crankbaits
Retrieves for Deep Diving Crankbaits
Fishermen agonize over the color of their crankbaits far more than they should. While using an appropriately colored bait can improve your odds of catching big fish, the most important aspect of fishing deep diving crankbaits is how you run it. If that crankbait isn’t shaking and vibrating, it won’t draw fish to strike.
The faster you retrieve your crankbait, the deeper it will run. By keeping the speed up and counteracting the buoyancy of your bait, your crankbait will stay in the strike zone for longer. Faster retrieves also create more noise when colliding with structures, be it a rock, stump, or even the bottom. This added commotion causes bass to strike reactively.
Depending on your crankbait’s bill profile and material, the action or how your bait swims will be different. I encourage you to play around with different retrieval speeds and lures to find which combination produces the best rhythm and vibration.
It’s essential to consider line stretch when setting the hook on a deep diving crankbait. Set the hook firmly and maintain the pressure. If you’ve selected a suitable rod (see below), the bend in the rod will keep sufficient pressure on the fish, without pulling the treble hooks from its mouth.
Going deep can really pay off
Tackle for Deep Diving Crankbaits
Bass fishing deep diving crankbaits can be done with most tackle. However, between the frequency of casts and the depths these lures run at, using an optimal setup is encouraged. Having the correct tackle will make for a higher hookup chance and an overall more pleasant day on the water.
The longer the cast, the more time the crankbait will be in front of the fish and, therefore, in the strike zone. Look for a medium power rod around seven, to seven and a half feet long. The extra length will grant you further distance when casting, and the medium power gives the crankbait plenty of action, while not sacrificing fish hooking power.
Lew’s David Fritts Perfect Palmer Crankbait Casting Rod is my go-to recommendation for a crankbait rod. Designed to give maximum casting distance this rod is also a great value, leaving some extra funds for a new crankbait or two.
Look for a baitcasting reel with a deep spool to give you plenty of line for your casts. In tandem with a large spool, make sure it is smooth to aid with those long-distance casts. When it comes to the gear ratio, use a slightly slower ratio like 5.1:1. This will give you enough speed on your retrieve and the power to haul a big fish from its deep-water lair.
The Abu Garcia Revo4 winch, is about perfect as a dedicated crankbait reel. Generous line capacity and a low gear ratio make for an outstanding lightweight reel.
Because of the nature of deep diving crankbaits, with heavy bodies and treble hooks, it is suggested that your line has some stretch. The extra “give” in monofilament or fluorocarbon prevents the fish from shaking the crankbait loose from its mouth. A 10-12 pound line is needed for most crankbait fishing. This thinner diameter line results in more line capacity while giving plenty of strength for fishing.
3 Top Tips for Deep Diving Crankbaits
1. Pause Your Retrieve
Don’t just crank your bait back to the boat with one speed; play with your retrieve. Starting and stopping your crankbait can draw bites from trailing fish. A brief pause is ideal, especially after colliding with a submerged structure. Don’t be afraid to adjust your cadence to find the sweet spot for your retrieve.
2. Change Up Your Color
If fishing in or around areas with a heavy concentration of bait, especially if you are getting short strikes: switch your color pattern to something out of the ordinary. Different colors can make your lure pop against the backdrop of other forage fish. This tactic has repeatedly paid off for me.
3. Don’t Give Up
Deep crankbait fishing for bass is a long game. You are fishing a bait that is designed to cover a large section of water, so multiple long casts are required. Deep diving crankbaits target fish that have been driven deep by heat and sunlight. Unlike many other lures that target shallower areas, anglers can fish them all day. If you are willing to put in time behind the reel, this technique will pay off in the form of big fish.
Neon isn’t natural but it will stand out in a school of baitfish, don’t be afraid to think outside the box on colors
Bass fishing deep diving crankbaits is a niche technique that separates the hardcore bass anglers from the fairweather fishermen. Selecting the right crankbaits, dissecting lake topography, and putting in the time to explore targeted areas will result in memorable catches on days when other anglers have opted to stay home and complain that the bass have lockjaw. Spend time learning the ins and outs of deep cranking, and there is no amount of sunlight or hot weather that will keep you from bending a rod with a big summer bass.