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Bass Crash Course: Offshore Cranking for Lunkers

Tips and tactics for finding summertime fish in deep water—and not killing yourself in the process.

The onset of summer means that the large schools of bass have generally moved away from the shoreline and now reside offshore as they await the passing of shad migrating within the channels of a reservoir. Offshore fishing can be somewhat disorienting for anglers not accustomed to fishing away from the shoreline, as we seldom have a visible target above the surface at which to aim our casts. So, let’s home in on some specific locations in which you can begin your search.

Small flats, humps, ridges and tapering points adjacent to river or creek channels should immediately catch your eye as you study a topographic map. The depths on top of these offshore structures aren’t excessively deep, perhaps 12 to 18 feet, yet they have immediate access to the deeper river channel.

There may be dozens, if not hundreds, of these areas on your local reservoir, making the high-speed approach with a deep-diving crankbait one of my favorite techniques for searching out these locations for actively feeding bass.

Let’s be honest: Properly fishing a deep-diving crankbait is a strenuous, even exhausting, way to fish in the heat of summer. This places a premium on the efficiency of your equipment and technique, as detailed below.

The “Right” Crankbait

It’s important to note the bass we’re targeting with the deep-diving crankbait are located on or near the lake bottom, not suspended high in the water column. This means we need a crankbait designed to dive to the maximum depth we’re fishing. This might seem elementary, yet many anglers new to offshore fishing choose a crankbait because they like the color when the running depth should be the primary attribute when choosing a crankbait.

It’s a fact that getting bass to eat a crankbait requires constantly deflecting the lure off the lake’s bottom. The erratic start-stop action that also stirs up sediment along the bottom elicits instinctive strikes from the bass even when they’re not actively feeding. So the “right” crankbait will consistently deflect off the bottom throughout the retrieve.

Casting Distance

The depth of the crankbait’s design is a moot point if the cast isn’t long enough. A casting distance of 60 feet may be a long cast when facing the shoreline, but simply won’t allow enough distance for a crankbait designed to run 12 to 18 feet to attain that depth. Doubling the casting distance to 120 feet or beyond will allow the lure to stay on the bottom for 80 to 100 feet. Calculating casting distance is hard to do on the water, so simplify the approach by casting the crankbait as far as possible on each cast.

Equipment

Perhaps no other technique has benefited more from the very specialized rods and reels released in the last 20 to 30 years than offshore cranking. Long rods and reels with lower gear ratios have made the hard pull from a deep-diving plug much easier on your body.

When cranking more than 12 feet deep, I prefer rod lengths of 7 feet 6 inches to 7 feet 10 inches. These long rods greatly assist with making long casts, but they also take much of the strain out of your forearm and transfer it into the long rod blank.


Similarly, reel speeds of 5.3:1 or 6.6:1 greatly reduce the torque placed on your wrists when cranking. Much like pedaling a 10-speed bike uphill, cranking in low gear is much easier than high.

Lastly, I’m a big advocate of cranking with fluorocarbon lines in 12- to 15-pound-test weights. The density of fluorocarbon causes it to sink in the water, so it won’t inhibit the crankbait during the retrieve. Fluorocarbon is also virtually invisible and has less stretch than monofilament, making it the superior choice for offshore cranking.


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