Get Cranky with Pete Ponds

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story by Dan O’Sullivan – photos by Seigo Saito

Many folks think that being a professional bass angler is all about catching bass. What most people see on their weekend fishing programs is the result of a week’s worth of work. In other words; the catching them is the easy part. The finding them is the most important part.

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Once a good angler has located a school of fish, finding a lure and a retrieve that makes them strike is the often the easiest – and most fun part – of the equation.

For Bassmaster Elite Series pro Pete Ponds of Madison, Miss., locating bass on a given body of water can be a cranky experience. Ponds feels that the best way to locate schools of bass is to pick up one of the best lures for covering water’ a crankbait.

“I have always used crankbaits to locate fish,” said Ponds. “I vary the bait that I’m using depending on the water conditions, but they help me cover water and find active fish.”

Crankbait Types
Ponds like to use several different styles of crankbaits depending on the water depth and the cover he is targeting. In shallow, hard cover laden water he reaches for a Bandit 100 Series crankbait. If he finds that he needs to go deeper in the same type of cover, a Bandit 200 Series is the trick. But, if he is targeting shallow flats with a lot of threadfin shad and milfoil or hydrilla; a Bandit Flatt Maxx Shallow Runner is the plug.

“For awhile, bandit didn’t have a squarebill crankbait,” Ponds said. “We had a bait called the 100 that performed very well around wood and rocks in shallow water. That’s the lure I use if the water is under four feet deep.”

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When the water is a little deeper, he turns to the 200 Series because it has similar operating characteristics as the 100, but it operates in water from four to as much as eight feet deep. “Both of these lures deflect well off of cover and they have great action that draws strikes,” he said. “But, I use another bait if there are shad and grass nearby.”

That lure is the Flatt Maxx Shallow Runner, and he said the lure does really well at imitating baitfish. “I don’t really throw it around a lot of wood because it was not made to deflect in trees,” he said. “But, if I am on shallow flats and there is some grass around; the Flatt Maxx is my go to plug.”

Retrieve
Ponds said that he generates strikes by never using a steady retrieve with a crankbait. “I vary my retrieve based on the time of the year,” he said. “It really depends on the mood of the fish, but I never just wind a crankbait back to the boat.”

In the winter time would be the closest to a straight retrieve, but he slow rolls the crankbait; scratching over cover and pausing the bait from time to time. As spring arrives, he turns to what he calls a “pumping” retrieve. He uses the tip of his Duckett Fishing cranking rod to sweep the lure towards the boat. He allows the lure to pause while he reels up the slack, and repeats the process.

In the summer, he continues the pumping retrieve, but as the fall approaches, he turns to more of a ripping retrieve. Here he turns his reel handle more quickly then pops the rod tip from time to time to try and create a reaction strike from bass looking to chase shad.

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Color Choices
Ponds said that he chooses his bait colors mainly by looking at the water. “I use the rule of thumb that I choose brighter colors in the dirty water,” he said. “With one exception; I really like an all black Bandit 100 or 200 in really muddy water, sometimes that really does the trick.”

However, since most of his fishing is done in clear to stained water, Ponds has a few color choices he really relies on. “I like Natural Shad in clear water,” he said. “It really looks like a true baitfish in the water.” however, his all around favorite is a color called Parrot Orange that he said has colors that mimic bream or shad in just about any water clarity.

If the water is dirty he said he will turn to one that has more chartreuse in the body, but he also said that in a three week period in the spring, a red crankbait is really hard to beat. “I try to keep things fairly simple and really let the water color dictate things,” he said. “Those are the colors that I really stick to.”

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Equipment
In working to keep his approach simple; Ponds throws all of these crankbaits on the same 7′ medium action Duckett Fishing Micro Magic rod with an Ardent Edge Elite 6.5:1 reel spooled with line that matches the conditions. “I try to get by with as light as possible line to keep the action of the lures,” he said. “In shallow water, I use Vicious Ultimate Copolymer in 10-pound-test if there is sparse cover, but I’ will upgrade to as high as 17-pound-test if there is heavy cover around and i need to control the fish.”