Crankbaits for trout fishing just makes sense. Why? Because trout, especially larger trout, eat minnows, darters, and crayfish. It seems pretty natural to use something that mimics these critters and crankbaits do just that. As I found out, these lures are effective for catching trout.
Why use crankbaits for trout? Crankbaits are easy to use, come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors, from floating to deep diving retrieve styles, and trigger a trout’s, curiosity and predatory instincts. Crankbaits can be used in almost all water conditions, from lakes and rivers to the sea. They may be one of the most versatile lures available.
The first time I tried using a crankbait I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least. As my experimentation continued, I narrowed down my choices and honed my technique to the point where I was consistently catching a lot of trout. Follow me along as I talk about why I use crankbaits for trout and see if you should too.
What Size Crankbait Should I Use?
Stocked trout in Pennsylvania average around eleven inches with native and wild trout being even smaller. They mainly feed on insects until they reach larger sizes, around 12 – 16″. At that point, their diet changes and they begin to forage for larger prey. They prey on minnows, sculpin, darters, and crayfish.
Crankbaits are available in such a huge variety that it can be overwhelming as to what one should choose. Not just size, but shape and color. Well, being a fly fisherman, I decided to make my decision based on “matching the hatch”. Taking this into consideration I decided I would use small crankbaits, meaning in the inch to two inches length range and see what happens. I kept the colors simple too, silver black, and rainbow. Light tackle was another factor to consider. Five-foot ultra-light-spinning rods matched to a small reel and loaded with 4-pound test line seemed appropriate. (By the way, as I said, I am a fly fisherman so why am I using a spinning rod? I’ll get to that so hang in there.)
How to “Swim” a Crankbait.
The crankbaits I chose were floating crankbaits about an inch to two inches in length, as I mentioned. Floating crankbaits float back to the surface once you stop reeling while other types will suspend at the level you stop reeling. They have a plastic lip on the front that causes the crankbait to dive and also creates the swimming effect of the crankbait. The lip wobbles the crankbait making it appear like a swimming baitfish. The faster the retrieve the more it wobbles and dives.
But retrieve it too fast and the crankbait sometimes turns on its side and darts off to one side and just doesn’t swim. So, finding “balance” by using the right retrieval speed against the current, is key. It’s not hard to accomplish and it’s easy to “swim” the crankbait after a while.
You can take advantage of a stream’s currents when fishing these crankbaits. If cast across the stream very little reeling is necessary to have a crankbait wobble just right. When casting downstream into a pocket of water, let the crankbait “sit” in the current. A very slow retrieve, to keep tension on the crankbait, causes it to agitate back and forth resembling a swimming fish. Trout have a hard time resisting it.
But casting upstream the retrieval speed has to be greatly increased. The retrieve must be faster than the water flow. When casting upstream, make long casts and reel quickly to get the crankbait down to the bottom. Then slow the retrieve to maintain the proper speed to keep it touching bottom. The wobble of the bait as it darts around touching bottom kicks up silt, a huge attractant. Trout will chase the crankbait for some distance before striking it’s exciting to see just how well they can maneuver after a meal.
What Type of Crankbait Works Best?
I tried a lot of different crankbaits until I found ones that seemed to work best for me. Rebel has a floating minnow that I like a lot. It has the shape and looks to resemble many of the small baitfish living in the creeks of Pa. Because it floats, if you stop reeling it will float back to the surface. Start to reel again and it will dive. I found if I added a split shot to my line, about a hand’s width away from the crankbait, it helped to stabilize the lure. Rebel makes these crankbaits in a wide selection of colors too.
Rapala is another maker of a minnow that is small enough to fit the bill. Theirs is different in shape from the Rebel crankbait and swims a bit differently too, but it works. It doesn’t float back to the surface when you stop reeling but instead maintains the level it is cranked down to. It swims differently from the Rebel as I mentioned but works about the same for all intense and purposes. Whichever you chose is up to you, of course, but to get started either one is a good choice.
Why do A Little Modification to Crankbaits?
Crankbaits come with two sets of treble hooks on them. One set is in the middle of the lure attached underneath and a treble hook attached to the tail end. The hook on the end of the Rebel actually looks like a swimming tail. Many a trout has been snagged as it tries to nip off the tail of the lure.
I practice catch release so I modify my crankbaits. I reduce the number of actual hooks by cutting the treble hooks down to one hook per set and crushing the barb. It doesn’t affect the way the crankbait performs and is a lot less stressful on the trout. I will admit, I get hits without hookups sometimes, but it’s part of the game to me. If I can fool a trout to strike, I’m happy with that too.
Also, I remove the split ring that is attached to the crankbait and tie my line directly to the lure. Ok, being honest (not that I lie the rest of the time, lol), I can’t really say if it makes a difference or not. I seem to think it “steadies” the lure a bit for me taking away the slipping that occurs when the ring slides through the eyelet. By tying directly to the eyelet, it seems I have more control over the lure as I retrieve it. I suggest you experiment using the ring and removing the ring to see which way you feel is more comfortable.
What is “The Art of Teasing”?
I think the biggest amount of fun with using crankbaits for trout comes as you learn how to swim them. The more you concentrate on swimming these lures the more your catch ratio increases. Trout will strike a crankbait because it plays into their aggressive behavior. Often, they nip at the tail in an effort to stun or chase away an intruder rather than eat it. The trick is changing retrieval speeds. suddenly darting the crankbait, that is to quickly speed it up, to cause a trout to chase and hit it quickly. Other times, having the crankbait “sit” slowly wobbling, seem to drive a trout crazy so he hits it.
How a Crankbait Strategy Works for a New Stream
One of the offshoots of fishing crankbaits is the lure’s ability to move trout. Often trout will chase the crankbait but not strike it. Seems the curiosity factor takes hold and they swim after it only to turn away. I’ve learned to use this as an advantage for fly fishing. Oh, I can hear you now, how does this help a fly fisherman? Let me explain what I mean why I use crankbaits for trout.
Many times, trout will follow a crankbait because trout are curious. When it detects something, it needs a closer look. He may not hit the lure but he reveals himself when he moves to inspect the lure. When a trout moves from his hiding place, he reveals himself of course, and that is a good thing for you.
The Revealing Flash Of A Trout Helps A Fly Guy
I like to explore new streams and one of the tricks I use to locate trout on new waters, especially in the spring, is to use a crankbait. For example, let’s say I found a new stream and plan to be there a couple of days. Sometimes what I’ll do is use my spinning rod and crankbait to “fast fish” the stream.
This strategy means I’ll walk the stream in a rather quick pace casting the lure into likely spots as I stroll along. Two things are happening here. One, I’m seeing what the stream looks like, how it runs, where holes may be, obstacles to deal with such as downed trees, etc. giving me a general feel of the creek.
At the same time by swimming a crankbait quickly through differing spots as I go, trout many times “flash” as they turn to see what went by. They may hit the lure, a bonus if you will, but for now, I just want to know where fish are located. This way I can go back, with my fly rod, to the spots where I saw fish and spend time.
It’s All About Fun
Like spinner fishing, Crankbaits offer you something different to try and to add to the enjoyment of trout fishing. Crankbait fishing is actually easy to learn and is a productive way to go about trout fishing. The other cool thing about crankbaits, like spinners, there is no mistaking a strike. The combinations of swimming the lure and a trout grabbing it creates a “bang” of a strike. It’s exciting, to say the least. I’ll be the first to say there is nothing like fishing a fly rod, but even “pure” fly guys should spend a day with a crankbait. It has its challenges too, but above all, it’s just plain fun. So, what do you think, will you give it a try?
What is the Difference Between Crankbait and Jerkbait?
Crankbaits have a shorter and fatter body while jerkbaits, have slender and longer bodies. Three treble hooks are normal on a jerkbait most of the time, whereas the crankbaits tend to have only two.
What Makes a Good Crankbait Rod?
Crankbait rods should have a relatively slow action. Slower rods will help cast the lure further. Try to avoid a stiff, heavy rod or one that is too wimpy, that is, a rod that has no backbone because it can’t get the job done when it comes to hook-set.