North Carolina pro David Fritts loves to fish crankbaits and has done well enough that he recently won the triple crown of bass fishing.
The keys to his success, he says, are line selection, determining the aggressiveness of the fish on a given day and choosing the right lure color combinations.
"Lure color, lure presentation and line choice are the three most important factors to productive crankbait fishing," said Fritts. "All three factors greatly affect your potential for catching bass."
Choosing the right color combinations, as anyone who has leafed through a catalog or strolled down a tackle store aisle knows, can be a befuddling experience.
But Fritts said that the choice of a dozen or so color combinations based on seasonal patterns and water color will allow crankbaits to be fished successfully, virtually anywhere, anytime.
Pearl tones are his choice in spring, with bright pearl and chartreuse combinations good during the summer and crayfish colors best for fall fishing.
Fritts also fine-tunes his lure selections based on the aggressiveness of the fish on a given day.
"I determine aggressiveness by how the fish hooks itself," Fritts said. "If a bass really wants a bait, it hits the lure with full force and I look for the front hooks of the crankbait in the fish's mouth."
If the fish has taken only the back hooks into its mouth or is hooked on the outside of the mouth, then Fritts believes the fish are not hitting that color combination aggressively and he changes lures at once.
"When I try a new color, trial and error are as much factors in my selection as anything else," Fritts said. "But when I try a new color, I fish the lure until I catch a fish. I may pitch the crankbait for four hours, but I stick with it so I can determine how the fish hooks itself."
Lure presentation should be varied, too, he said. Instead of casting and retrieving straight and fast, experiment. Slowing the lure, letting it pause and rise, and then resuming the retrieve is one of Fritts' tricks.
Twitching the lure to give it sideways action or bouncing it off objects are two others. All are likely to cause reflexive strikes by bass.
"When you determine what presentation the fish are hitting, keep it up," Fritts said. "If the action slows, try another type of presentation."
Line choice is important in order to ensure that the lure moves when and where you want it, to give the fisherman a feel of what the lure is doing and to increase the number of solid hooksets.
"Less stretch means more sensitivity when you are working the lure," said Fritts, who represents Stren fishing lines and uses that company's special crankbait monofilament. "You can feel the crankbait vibrate and detect strikes easier, especially subtle strikes that many anglers miss."
A low-stretch line also allows a lure to be cast farther and more accurately, and provides better hook penetration when the strike is felt.
"When using crankbaits, many anglers fall into an angling pattern of casting the lure, dropping the rod tip and cranking as hard as they can," he said. "Often that catches fish. To catch more and better quality fish, vary the action of your crankbait.
"There are hundreds of different ways to work them.