We all want to get rich quick; it’s the American dream. In fishing, deep cranking is probably the fastest way to get rich. If you have found the right school of fish in practice or come across them during the tournament day, you can get rich quickly by bringing that big crankbait through that school of fish. There are a lot of conditional statements in that sentence, you had to have found the “right” school of fish and bring your crankbait through them, not as easy as it sounds.
Looking for schools of fish or the “right” school of fish takes a lot of time. I have spent countless hours idling around watching my electronics, looking for fish. The real looking begins at the house before you ever get on the water. A topographic map is essential to this type of fishing and studying the map before you go to the lake will make your time on the water more efficient. What kind of structure am I looking for on a map? Contour changes, rocks, old road beds, long points, humps, creek channel edges and old river channels. I want to find places where there are significant changes in the bottom contour, besides the change in bottom these places will also be the most likely to have additional cover(i.e. stumps, rock & brush piles so forth and so on ).
Now that I have identified these places through map study, I need to go study them with my depth finder. While I am idling around looking at these places, I drive the boat in a zigzag pattern. This helps to keep me focused on what I think should be the key area/depth. Whenever possible I want to drive directly into or with the wind. At the start of each pass I try to pick out a reference point on the bank to identify that line. Now if I mark a group of fish, I will circle or box that school of fish because I want to see how big the school is or if I just saw the edge of the school or where the fish are most densely pack together. From the point that I think is the sweet spot, I turn and drive straight into the wind. I’m looking for a reference point on the bank and marking the depth. I want to position the boat about two boat lengths away from what I think is the sweet spot.
I jump on the front deck, drop the trolling motor in the water trying to stop the forward motion of the boat, making a mental note of the water depth and pinpointing a reference point or line up on the fish. This was one of the most difficult parts for me initially. Keeping my boat in the proper position was challenging when the wind was blowing, there is current and I’m trying to fish. A buoy dropped in the right place can help you; a lot of folks get confused and drop the buoy on the fish (bad idea). I try not to use a buoy because I don’t want to waste time picking it up and invariably it seems the first mark or line up is a little off.
Making my cast, I’m throwing as far as I can, trying to stay on that line. Now, I’m down on one knee, rod in the water, reeling until I know the bait is dredging the bottom. Once the bait is bouncing off the bottom I can begin to work the bait however the fish want it. A couple of things here, a long cast allows the bait more time to get down and stay down longer; I kneel to get the bait deeper and get it deeper faster; I rarely catch a fish on a crankbait that isn’t hitting something and you have to vary your retrieves until you catch a couple and find a preference. My standard retrieve is to wind until the crankbait hits the bottom, then reel hard to load up the rod, stop reeling and let the rod unload, repeat this process varying the length of pause after the rod unloads.
Up the drop vs. down the drop: Ideally I want to bring my bait up the drop. If the wind isn’t blowing and I can choose a direction to bring my bait, I will opt for bringing it up the drop, as this will pull the other fish in the school closer to me and further up on the place. Sometimes pulling the bait down or off the drop can disperse the school as other fish follow the fish you hooked.
My equipment: The rod is an 8’ Bass Pro Shops Walleye Trolling rod (model # WA80T-T). The longer rod allows for longer casts. This rod is graphite but has a pretty soft tip and more importantly it has enough backbone to handle the heavy baits I’m heaving. The reel is a Browning BB-25SS, they call it a 5.3:1 but it takes up 28” of line per turn which is pretty quick, it casts smooth and the brakes are easily removed, deep spool holds a lot of line. The line Big Game in 10lb test, it doesn’t stretch as much as the BPS Excel and is cost effective.
There is no substitute for time on the water!
Rusty White of Rock Hill is a professional fisherman and full-time guide on the Catawba chain of lakes, offering full- and half-day services. For more information, visit fishingwithRusty.com.