Even though it’s September and the next major move bass make will be into shallow creeks and bays, Mark Davis still has a deep diving crankbait tied on and ready to cast. For him, the deep cranking season will continue for at least another month.
“It’s been an extremely hot summer across much of the country, and the water temperature in most lakes is still pretty warm,” explains the Yamaha Pro, “so neither the bass nor the baitfish seem to be very anxious to move shallow. They’re going to remain in deeper water until the lakes start cooling, and until they do, a deep diving crankbait will still be one of the best lures to use to catch them.”
The technique of deep cranking depths between 10 and about 18 feet is not an easy one to master, but Davis, a three-time B.A.S.S.® Angler of the Year and winner of the 1995 Bassmaster Classic,® began using the presentation more than three decades ago as a guide on Lake Ouachita. Today, he’s considered one of the best deepwater crankbait fishermen in the sport.
“There are some shortcuts to deep water crankbaiting I’ve learned over the years,” smiles Davis, “but it took me a long time to accept them. Probably the most important one is not to even start casting until you know what you’re fishing. About 90 percent of the time, deep cranking is about fishing some feature in deep water, such as a ridge, a hump, or a channel, and you really can’t fish it effectively until you know what it looks like.
“I always idle slowly over the structure and study it with my electronics. Today’s depthfinders and side-scan units will show you the shape of the structure, how big it may be, and provide clues on how you can fish it most effectively.”
While the Yamaha Pro studies the structure, he’s not always looking for bass, either. Instead, he concentrates on trying to identify some smaller, special spot on the structure that might attract and hold a school of fish. Among bass fishermen like Davis, this is known as a ‘sweet spot,’ and it might be a sharp bend in a creek channel, a depth change on a ridge, or a group of stumps on the edge of a point. Sometimes, a sweet spot may not be as large as a bass boat, but even that is large enough to attract bass.
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“One type of sweet spot I always try to locate is an area of hard bottom,” emphasizes Davis, “which is particularly important on older lakes where silt usually covers most of the bottom. A hard bottom can be rock, gravel, a shell bed, or even just smooth clay, but it will show up very well on today’s electronics and isn’t hard to identify. When I find hard bottom like this, that’s what I’m going to fish.”
Initially, Davis keeps his lure choice as simple as possible, choosing either a shad or chartreuse-colored crankbait capable of diving deep enough to reach that hard bottom with a long cast and light, 10-pound line. If the hard bottom or cover is deeper than about 20 feet, he may use a presentation known as long-lining to get his crankbait eight to 10 feet deeper.
“Boat positioning is an important part of deep cranking, too,” continues the Yamaha Pro. “I want to be as far away from my target as possible, but still get my lure down to that target. I’ll also experiment with casting angles, circling the spot to see if the bass want my lure coming from a certain direction. Most of the time, I’ll have my boat in deep water and cast shallow, but sometimes it’ll be just the opposite, and I’ll usually learn this by making a complete casting circle around the target.
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“Deep cranking doesn’t have to be that difficult or that complicated,” concludes Davis, “especially if you learn as much as you can about the structure before you start trying to fish it. In fact, with the quality of today’s electronics, deep cranking has probably never been easier.”