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walleye, walleyes, jigging, jig, jigs
Crankbait Selection
 By Perry Good

The other day I visited my local tackle store to see what was new on the shelves and
to pick up a few items before heading out to the water.  Suddenly, I was struck by the volume of lure selections that anglers have to pick from.  There were elaborate ones with natural looking sides and BB's in the body, there were poppers with feathers and plastic tails and I wondered if they were designed to catch fish or fisherman.
Some baits may indeed be designed primarily to attract humans, but what scientists know about fish suggests that most of the bells and whistles featured on the fancier lures actually do appeal to a variety of fish.
Crankbaits, shad baits, stick baits are all names that we give to a minnow imitators.  Crankbait fishing has been very popular in the South as the North for catching bass.  Crankbaits can and do take a lot of bass, northern pike, muskies, crappie, trout and of course walleyes.
Crankbaits have always been a part of the angler's arsenal for many years, but I was introduced to some special crankbaits by Ron Weber from Normark.  Ron Weber in fact, brought Rapala  to the United States and began a revolutionary movement in the crankbait industry that really took hold.  Names like, Shad Rap, Fat Rap, Rattling Rapala, Floating Rapala and Countdown became common conversational topics to most anglers.  I remember being introduced to crankbait fishing not as a lure to cast, but to troll.
Selection of a crankbait is not difficult to determine, if you keep just six factors in mind.  Choose your crankbait according to shape, size, running depth, action, color and sound.  These six factors will increase your success while fishing this summer.
The Shape of your bait might be determined by  the type of fish that you are trying to catch.  If you are fishing for bass you will want a short or fat bait like a Fat Rap.  The reason is the bass usually feed on shad or even bluegills that are short and fat..   The shape of the fish that you are catching dictates the shape you need to offer in a lure form.  For example the long slim baits such as the Rapala the lures of choice Shad Rap or the Floating Rapala are ideal for long  slim fish.  Walleyes, Northern Pike and Muskies are attracted to this type of bait.
Sound is another sense that the fish use to locate and identify food.  Water conditions and specie of fish will determine the sounds that you would like to imitate.  All fish have an organ along the side of their heads and bodies called a lateral line that enables them to detect subtle vibrations in the water.  If you are fishing for bass or northern pike a noisy lure is the answer.  Likewise, if you are fishing in stained water then you want the walleye to be able to hear your bait.  Rattling Rapala the lures of choice are a good example of a noisy bait that will take a variety of fish under these conditions.  If you are fishing in a clear lake quiet baits that produce wobble and vibration are what you want to use.
Besides rattle, wobble and vibration don't overlook color.  Try to match bait already found in the environment.  Use flash tape to highlight crankbaits to give that extra flash.  Along with flash you might want to change to a dramatic color.  Chartreuse and the  Firetiger colors aren't part of the environment but in stained water they are  a visible target for fish.  The type of terrain that you are fishing will determine color also.  If you are fishing over sand maybe crawfish color, or next to a weed bed or drop off a perch color will trigger fish.
When I think of size, I will always remember what Al Lindner once said, "big baits catch big fish".  With these words of wisdom I have selected my favorite crankbaits in my tackle box according to size, color, and running depth.  Usually I like to start fishing with a Rapala the lures of choice #7 Shad Rap to see what the fish are hitting on.  If they continue to bite on that size I move up to a #9 Shad Rap.  The bigger fish do respond to the larger baits and so do the smaller fish.  I have caught fish smaller than my baits on many occasions but most of the time the fish increase in size.  If the fish don't respond to the larger size I then move back down the scale of size to a #5 Shad Rap and work between that size and a #7.  The other rule of thumb is in the spring I use small baits and in the fall large baits.  The reason is simple, I try and match the food and the size of bait.  In the fall the fish start feeding to store body fat and larger minnows contain more protein than smaller ones.
Running depth is a factor that has many variables to consider.  To determine where the fish are, look at your depth finder.  You will want to put that lure in front of their face, not below them or too far above them, but right in the" strike zone".  Usually the bigger the lip on the bait the deeper they dive, but don't overlook line diameter and length of line let out.  If you want your bait to run at 8' depth then you will need to let out about 50' of 8lb test line.  If you increase the diameter of the line the bait will ride higher in the water.  If you increase speed the lure will dig deeper and then ride higher.  Therefore, experiment with speed, line diameter and lip structure to see if the bait is getting down to the "strike zone".
Bait action again can be the triggering factor for many a finicky walleye, northern pike and bass.  In cold clear water use a slow wobble and slow retrieve or trolling speed.  In  warmer water, tight action and increased speed will increase your chances of a larger fish.  Check your action when you attach your lure to the line.  Run the lure along side the boat to see if it has a tight or slow wobble.  Many baits can be tuned to run true by bending the nose ring on the bait.  This will allow the bait to run in the correct path behind the boat.
Be a change up person.  Don't stick with one bait all the time.  Try different colors, presentation, size, rattles and added weight.  So many fishermen tend to stay with old methods that have worked before and fail to boat fish because they are stubborn about bait selection.
Remember you can be sure that you have made the right selection when choosing a lure because, you have done the research and you are not afraid of trying a new approach.  The ultimate decision comes when you start tying into those fish and your fishing partner hasn't made the transition into crankbait selection.

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