Crank Up the Heat in Summer

Bucks Falcon Mercury

Zak Elrite Showing off River2Sea's Goon Crankbait

Zak Elrite Showing off River2Sea’s Goon Crankbait

by Zak Elrite – Northern California Guide and Tournament Angler

The dog days of summer are upon us and we aren’t the only ones who feel it. The bass in your favorite lake or reservoir can feel the heat and they are adjusting to it, but are you adjusting too?

Cranking is one the most popular and yet still one of the most underutilized techniques during this time of year. Whether I’m guiding clients on our California reservoirs or pre-fishing for an FLW Rayovac Series event, I use crankbaits to locate active fish in different depth zones. Here are a few of my tips on depths, rigs and structure that should help you increase your odds during those hot summer days.

First, if we follow the general seasonal guidelines of bass we know that during the warming trends of summer they begin to make a home in the deeper, main lake points and nearby structure or offshore ledges. Cranking different depth zones can be one of the best ways to locate and catch these wary fish.

Zak Elrite Cranking

Zak Elrite Cranking

The cooler temperatures of early mornings will bring the bass out of his deep water home to search for food in the shallow water. This is my favorite time of year to throw your favorite shallow water squarebill crankbait in the one to six-foot depth zone. With these shallower baits, I like working main lake pockets and gradual sloping banks with brush or vegetation. This approach is a great way to cover water efficiently and catch active fish.

As the sun gets higher in the sky, I’m always sure to fish the shaded side of points or steeper breaks on the bank. When the sun finally finds itself at its highest point you’ll want to step out even deeper and find “the spot within the spot” which may be further out from the areas you’ve already found fish.

This means that once you find a steep break or long, shallow point you’ll have to reach deeper and hit any small rock pile or ditch that you find with an ultra-deep crankbait, like a River2Sea Goon.

The best way to do this is to try to place the boat in different positions, allowing you to fish across the point, along it or parallel to the steepest banks you can find. Another trick with these baits is to vary your retrieve and be sure to bump each piece of structure on the bottom. By employing a varying retrieve with all these baits, you’ll greatly increase the bait’s effectiveness.

Zak Elrite with NorCal Largemouth Taken on River2Sea's Goon

Zak Elrite with NorCal Largemouth Taken on River2Sea’s Goon

In order to fish these baits effectively you’ll need to adjust your rod selection, line size and reel gear ratios to each bait category. I fish squarebill crankbaits on a 7′ to 7’6” medium to medium-heavy action Dobyns Champion rod with a good parabolic bend. You can cover a lot of water by using a 7.1:1 Lew’s Tournament Pro baitcasting reel.
Because the shallow squarebill doesn’t have much resistance you’ll be able to use that faster retrieve reel without feeling fatigued, even after several hours of casting and retrieving crankbaits.

When you step up to the medium diving crankbaits you’ll need to use a 7’6″ to 8’ medium-heavy rod with a heavy backbone. This is where I step down in gearing on my Lew’s reel, to a 6.4:1 Lew’s BB1Pro. This will help alleviate some of the stress you can feel from reeling in these baits that hit the 12-foot zone.

The ultra-deep crankbaits like the Goon and others like it, require an 8′ heavy action cranking-specific rod. The longer rod allows for longer casts and less resistance while retrieving these baits like . Again, I step my reel down in gearing, to a 5.4:1 Lew’s BB1, will help to reduce nearly all of the resistance felt on this retrieve. Having the right reel and gear ratio is crucial to fishing these baits correctly.

Zak Elrite Big Pair

Zak Elrite with a Big Pair of Clear Lake Largemouth

Line size, diameter and strength is another critical element that I have to pay close attention to when tournament money is on the line. The size and type required for each crankbait can vary greatly depending on your body of water and the structure available when fishing these hot months.

I often throw shallow squarebills on 30-pound-test Power Pro braid when fishing in heavy vegetation areas. This is a great way to have my clients or beginners enjoy a day of squarebill fishing without the worry of losing the fish or the lure.

When I switch gears and head to a more clear water reservoir, I’ll fish these shallow cranks on 12-15 pound test in order to keep the fish from getting line-shy. Medium and ultra-deep crankbaits are where I switch to 10-15 pound test Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon line. Fluorocarbon line is a great choice because of its durability and its thin diameter will allow the bait to reach slightly deeper zones. Braided line and monofilament line will keep these baits slightly shallower and give more buoyancy to the entire retrieve. A really good rule of thumb that I follow with these Crankbaits is to use the heaviest line size available while not hindering the action of the bait.

By using the right rod, reel and line size for your body of water you’ll find, and catch, more summertime bass. The biggest key factor in fishing summertime cranks is to vary your colors, retrieves and areas based in the factors at hand. Following the shade as the sun moves through the sky is another key factor in following the bass’ movement. Also, you might find that as the sun rises and temperatures heat up, the bass will want a different color than they ate earlier in the day. Finally, varying your retrieve by speeding up and slowing down your pace can mean the difference between a loaded livewell or an empty weigh bag.

Find out more about Zak Elrite and his Guide Service at or on Facebook at Zak Elrite Fishing