When I am presented with submerged grass beds in a lake, chunking a crankbait immediately comes into mind. They allow an angler these benefits: they cover more water than other techniques, they allow the boat to be held at a distance from a school of fish, and the “ticking” of the weed tops triggers reaction strikes from neutral bass. I especially like the method on newer growth vegetation before it has matured and grown too tall. But like any technique, certain nuances of the approach will make a big difference in results. Regarding cranking grass, one of these nuances concerns rod and line selection.
Proper rod and line selection will provide the benefit of a long cast if needed, the ability to snap weeds off the crankbait, and a high level of “feel.” An angler will fish at a more efficient level and trigger more strikes when the proper rod and line combo is achieved. To the casual observer, masters of this technique will often draw the comparison to a robotic machine as the angler methodically casts, cranks, and snaps the crankbait over the grass tops.
The first thing in achieving the highest level with this technique, is to learn how to cast a baitcasting outfit! There exists no “outside the box” trick that will ever allow this fishing technique to be done more efficiently with spinning gear. That I promise. The only case for spinning gear is when the chosen crankbait is too lightweight for baitcasting. For example, a #5 Rapala Shap Rap is just too light to cast on baitcasting, so spinning is the only option.
For many years, rods sold as “cranking rods” have been typically made of fiberglass and have a slow, gradual taper that yields a very “whippy” action. These are horrible rods for cranking grass! Such rods have no ability to pop weeds off with a quick, short snap of the rod tip; and they have less “feel” due to the inferior ability of fiberglass to transmit it. Instead I recommend a graphite/graphite composite rod with some backbone. I want most of the flex in the last third of the rod while the rest of it leading to the reel remains fairly stout. This type of action facilitates the snap factor. Rods that have this type of taper that are labeled medium/heavy is what I look for. Note that not just one rod will suffice for all crankbaits. The weight of a lure still needs to be taken into consideration. For example, the rod I prefer for a ¾ oz Rat-L-Trap will be stouter than a rod I match to a ¼ oz Rat-L-Trap. To cast the lighter baits, a little more flex in the rod is necessary to achieve adequate casting distance and accuracy. So I will look for a rod labeled medium action.
The rod length preferred comes down to personal preference of the angler. Longer rods will provide greater casting distance, but with that extra length comes more torque on the wrists when snapping the crankbait clean of grass. This torque can lead to issues with wrist and/or elbow pain (in fact, I know older, professional anglers that refuse to fish like this because they know what will happen to their joints). Personally, I often use a 6 ½ foot rod which may surprise you experienced anglers because crankbait rods are usually thought of as being longer. But I really like the snap I get with this length and the ease as to which I can achieve it. I will opt for a longer rod (up to 7 ½ ft) when the situation places casting distance at a premium. As you may know, a longer cast will allow a crankbait to reach greater depths on its dive. This may be needed to reach the tops of the grass with a favored lure.
Important, but to a lesser level than rod selection, is line selection. I’m not referring to the pound test because that will vary greatly depending upon the model crankbait, depth, and cover. Instead I am talking about its core material, whether it is monofilament, fluorocarbon, or braid. These materials have varying degrees of stretch, impacting the performance of cranking grass. Stretchy line inhibits the ability to snap a crankbait free of snagged grass and it also robs “feel”, especially at the end of a long cast. The inability to snap free of grass results in more wasted casts as the fouled weeds need to be cleaned from the lure at the boat. Note that even with the proper setup, grass will often foul the crankbait and need to be cleared by hand anyways. That is the nature of this fishing method. But the proper setup will result in a lower frequency of the bait staying fouled. Stretchy line dulls feel of every kind, whether it’s the wobble of the lure, the bounce off a weed top, or the strike of a bass. By feeling the wobble, an angler can determine if there are any weed fragments clinging to the hooks. Feel also helps to differentiate between a hard bump off a weed or a strike from a bass. Sometimes it can be hard to tell even with the right setup.
So given that stretch is not desired, do not use monofilament because it stretches much more than the other two. That then leaves a choice between fluorocarbon and braid (both which are substantially more expensive than monofilament unfortunately). If stretch was the only consideration between these two, then braid would win the choice because it has zero stretch. But in the end, I choose fluorocarbon. It may be just a personal preference thing choosing between these two. Sure it has a little stretch, but not too much to where it’s a negative to the technique. I also believe I can get a little extra diving depth from a crankbait by using fluorocarbon.
I guess I should say something about the reel and its gear ratio. Because many casts are ruined by the crankbait fouling with grass, I want a speedy ratio capable of quickly winding in the fouled bait. Reels with a gear ratio of less than 6:1 are maddingly slow! A fouled lure is wasted time and I want to wind it in fast so I can clean it of grass and chunk it back out there.
Like most fishing techniques, the only way to achieve a high mastery of cranking grass is by equipping yourself with the right rod setups. Stouter rods than normal combined with line having less stretch is the proper way to set yourself up for success. Follow the tips here and you too can be that robotic machine casting, cranking, and ripping their way to a huge catch!