Last weekend we participated in the FLW Lake Erie High School Open at Sandusky Bay. It was a great event and our guys walked away with some solid top 5 and top 10 finishes. If you know this part of Lake Erie you know the bay is great for largemouth but the main lake is where the usually bigger bags of smallmouth will come from. Due to wind the day of the event the tournament director elected to keep us within the bay due to safety concerns. Largemouth it is!
A good bag of fish can range from 14 to 18 pounds. The bay is full of hard cover like docks, rip rap break walls, and wood. One of the best techniques for fishing all these hard targets is cranking a crankbait and deflecting it off wood, rock, and man made structures. During the event the majority of our fish came on a square bill or medium diving crankbait while targeting rip rap.
Let’s Talk about key elements for cranking rip rap
Key #1 Angles
When cranking rip rap it is vital you are keeping your crankbait in the strike zone as long as possible. Where is the strike zone? The strike zone is the most likely depth and point your bait is likely to get a bite. When crankbait fishing 90% of the time this means when the bait deflecting off of the bottom. Deflections = reactions or bites. On a rip rap wall the best way to ensure your bait is in the strike zone longer is to parallel the rock wall. If you have a 4 foot diving square bill it is essential to keep the bait closer to the wall to ensure you continue bumping the rocks for the majority of your cast. If you make cast at a 90 degree angle you might only hit the rock the first 10 yards of your cast before it loses contact and is over open water.
To support this theory I’ll give a perfect example from this past weekend. As I mentioned my guys were cranking rip rap. One was in the front of the boat while one was in the back. The angler in the front of the boat was making 45 to 90 degree cast to the rock. This forced the angler in the back to throw straight off the back and crank nearly parallel to the rock. The angler in the back of the boat was getting bit almost twice as much as the angler in the front and was landing our biggest fish. Why? I believe it was the angle he had and the amount of time his bait was spending in the strike zone because of it.
If you are fishing in a team event I would suggest a few options to cover water effectively while cranking rip rap. The first is to have both anglers on the front and stay slightly off the bank making 45 degree cast. The second is to have one angler on the inside parallel the shallower rip rap while the other parallels a slightly deeper diver on the outside of the boat to the deeper portions of the rip rap. If you really like back boating your teammate you can try doing it the way I described earlier where the guy in the back throws straight off the back. I would not recommend this and if you are the guy in the front be prepared to get outfished!
Key #2 Bait selection
When cranking rip rap we prefer a bait with a bill that allows for deflection off the rocks. A squarebill is ideal. Some of my favorites are a Spro fat papa or little john. If I need to get a little deeper to reach the rock or the fish I will go to a Spro Rockcrawler or Spro little john md, or Rapala DT 6. Depending on water temp I will either go for a wider wobbling bait like a fat square bill when its warm or if it is colder I will look for more of a flat sided bait with a tighter wobble like the little john. The big key is finding a bait that maintains bottom contact and deflects well off of cover and rock. Let the fish do the talking after that as far as color and action.
Key #3 Tackle
When cranking rip rap we look for a rod that has a medium to medium heavy power and a medium action. A medium action has more bend through the whole rod and allows for the fish to grab the bait well and load up the rod. A big hook set isn’t necessary with all those treble hooks. A good lean and reel should pin them just fine.
Cranking reels should be lower gear ratio in the 6.1 to 5.1 speed range. Don’t be afraid to crank fast as that deflection and erratic action can be key in getting fish to bite. Play with retrieve speed until you find what the fish want that day.
Keep line in the 12 to 14 pound range. 90% of the time we crank with fluorocarbon as it helps keep the bait down and gives us a little sensitivity. Sunline Sniper FC or Super are both great options for fluorocarbon. Always check your line often while cranking rip rap. Line will fray and break offs can happen if you aren’t diligent in checking your line!
One more thing we like to do is make a change from most stock trebles. We choose to go with a pair of trusty Gamakatsu EWG trebles or standard round bends for added confidence. These are sticky sharp and strong!
There you go. Some easy tips for cranking rip rap that can make or break your day. Remember to keep that bait in the strike zone, check your line, and let the fish tell you the bait they want. Now go crank up a few!