There’s a lot that goes into lure selection—whether you’re talking flies for trout or plugs for stripers. Crank- baits, however, make for some of the toughest calls because there are just so many variables involved—running depth, roll, wobble, size, profile—and according to many pros, some factors we can’t even see or feel.
A crank owned by FLW walleye pro Nick Johnson is proof positive. The Elmwood, Wisconsin, angler and I were recently fishing the Mississippi River when he pulled out a box loaded with identical cranks—same running depth, same color, same everything.
With one exception.
One bait lacked the tack-sharp pattern and shine of its counterparts and it was scored by countless tooth marks. “I owe tournaments to that lure,” Johnson said as he pulled it out of the box and held it alongside one of the seemingly identical (yet immaculate) cranks.
“Some really do work better than others. It might be the way they’re weighted or tuned, the thickness of their paint, or something else entirely. Whatever it is, it works when others that seem identical don’t,” he says.
To capitalize on this, especially when fishing competitively, Johnson keeps track of the performance of each crankbait he uses. And the more he fishes them, the more patterns develop.
“I’ve got a hundred firetiger Shad Raps, but 10 of them catch more than all the rest combined,” Johnson says. “When I find one of these baits, I put an ‘X’ on its bill. When it catches even more, I give it another ‘X’ and I only fish it in tournaments.”
By pulling these baits out of circulation and testing new ones, Johnson creates an ever-growing pool of baits that represent the best of their kind.
Do this, and you’ll take some of the more difficult-to-identify variables out of crankbait selection and maximize your time on the water.