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This week's Feature Blog

Crankbaits, Love Them Or Hate Them

I doubt anyone out there appreciates crankbaits more than the staff of Precision Trolling Data. Besides having a passion for fishing crankbaits, our team spends countless hours testing a wide variety of baits to determine the diving depth of popular lures. Literally everyone who has trolled with a crankbait asks themselves the question -- how deep is that lure diving. The Precision Trolling Data apps provide anglers this critical fishing information, helping anglers everywhere to be more successful on the water.

Keith Kavajecz of The Next Bite TV series is also a partner in Precision Trolling Data, LLC. Keith and his partner Gary Parsons were involved in the prototype process needed to develop the Berkley Flicker Shad and Flicker Minnow series of crankbaits. Many versions of these lures were used and rejected before going to market with the the finished baits.

Every time I take a crankbait out of the package in preparation for doing the PTD testing I can’t help but wonder how deep it will dive, but also I’m wondering who’s hands were involved in creating it. I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for the individuals who design and manufacture the many sizes, shapes and configurations of crankbaits. This respect manifests because I know precisely how much work goes into taking one of these lures from the conceptual stage to a finished product ready to fish.

No doubt most avid anglers don’t think too much about who designed a particular lure or wonder who’s hands were involved in building it. The truth is a select group of talented lure designer are responsible for producing the vast majority of the baits we use, believe in and routinely find success on the water with.

Iconic brands and countless lure models have come to market thanks to the knowledge of this select group of industry insiders. Lauri Rapala of Rapala, Scott Strecher, the owner of Reef Runner, Buzz Ramsey, Brand Manager for Yakima Bait, Cliff Sword, formerly of PRADCO, Lee Sisson of Lee Sisson Lures, David and John Storm of Storm Lures and Tom Seward of both Luhr Jensen and Yakima Bait are some of the most noteworthy and successful lure designers of our generation.

A few manufacturers involve their pro staff intimately in the lure design and prototyping stages. Our very own Gary Parsons and Keith Kavajecz of Precision Trolling Data were a driving force in the Berkley Flicker Shad and Flicker Minnow success stories. The work these individuals did and do behind the scenes determines to a great extent which lures catch fish and which ones primarily catch fishermen. Certainly every crankbait has it’s day, but the best lures catch fish day in and day out. It’s the little details that bring a crankbait to life and it takes a trained eye to spot potential imperfections. It takes even more skill to correct those problems and ultimately create a lure that has that “just right” action.

Having come in contact with literally thousands of crankbaits in my career, I’m astonished and a little perplexed how often baits that look good to our “fishermen eyes” just don’t have that special action fish can’t refuse. The subtle design quirks that bring a crankbait to life can just as quickly kill that bait if everything isn’t just perfect.

Case in point, the metal molds used to pour plastic crankbaits do not last forever. After these molds or what lure designers call “tools” have been in service awhile, the molds can no longer produce lures that come out virtually identical to one another. This is why I believe one particular lure of a size and model catches fish and other identical lures don’t necessarily have that magic.

Manufacturers understand this problem and solve it to a degree by building new tools or molds as needed. When a tool is new most of the crankbaits it produces are going to be identical or nearly so. The older the mold becomes, the higher the percentage of flawed baits the mold ultimately produces. It’s easy to see how quality control starts out good and over time becomes unacceptable.

But here is the rub, not every manufacturer re-tools when necessary because this process is very expensive and cuts dramatically into lure profits. The major brands are well financed and pretty good about re-tolling as needed. The more obscure brands simply don’t have the resources to absorb this cost of doing business. Even among those manufacturers that do re-tool as needed, the new molds are not always exactly like the originals.

Sometimes this phenomena of lures being minutely different is explained away by simply saying one lure that is catching fish is properly tuned and the other is not. Understanding the need to tune lures and becoming skillful at this task is important, but I can say with certainty the problem isn’t just with how a lure is tuned.

I’m guessing that there aren’t many anglers out there who have tuned more crankbaits than I have over the years. Unfortunately, I’ve come to the conclusion that even when tuned properly, not every crankbait catches fish as well as the next or as well as we would like.

Tuning a crankbait to make it dive straight into the water is an important “skill set” every crankbait fisherman must master. Unfortunately, even when tuned properly not every crankbait catches as many fish as we would like. Some lures are better than others and that is a bitter pill to swallow, especially for those of us who own hundreds and hundreds of crankbaits.

Flaws in a crankbait right out of the mold amount to some serious problems. Even worse these problems are not within the angler’s ability to overcome.

This is precisely why when I purchase crankbaits I don’t buy one or two at a time. I normally purchase four or six of each size and color I’m interested in. In the back of my mind I know that all these baits are not likely to be the “fish killers” I’m hoping for, but some will perform.

When you are fishing it’s going to become pretty obvious which lures are working and which ones could be better. A simple trick helps me isolate the best baits. At the end of the day when I’m putting lures away, I put all the lures that were working best in one or two compartments of my utility boxes. That way the next time I’m on the water I’ll know exactly which lure(s) to reach for.

The real question is what do you do with the baits that catch fish sometimes, but not routinely? A growing number of anglers associate that problem with flawed lure finishes. Baits that don’t catch fish regularly are sorted out and sent off to custom painters to give these lures new finishes and hopefully new life.

Crankbaits are among the most interesting lures fishermen depend upon to catch fish like this spring brown trout. The problem with crankbaits is that not every one catches fish routinely and figuring our why is no simple task.

Repainting lures that are not exactly making the grade might improve their fish catching ratio, but what if the problem wasn’t really with the finish? Repainting “dud” lures might just amount to investing good money into bad lures.

Every angler has to wrestle with this issue. The cold hard facts are that not every crankbait catches fish regardless of the brand, model or mold generation. The lures that do catch fish are priceless and the ones that don’t are.... well all but worthless.

When as anglers we end up with crankbaits that catch next to nothing, we can only remind ourselves that without failure, success would not be nearly as sweet.

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