Growing up in Minnesota I always thought of crankbaits as a lure that you needed to fish in deep water far from all those weeds that foul up your crankbait all the time. I would soon learn how wrong I was about that. Shallow diving crankbaits became one of my all-time favorite lures to fish around weedy cover.
By shallow I mean any crankbait that can swim in six feet of water or less. My favorites and the ones you will see me using in my TV shows and videos are ¼ ounce Rat-L-Traps, Mann's Baby 1-Minus crankbaits, and shallow diving Bandit crankbaits. All of Mann's 1-Minus Crankbaits swim shallow regardless of their size. The ¼ ounce Rat-L-Traps swim better and give off more vibration in shallow water than the larger ones do and the shallow diving Bandit crankbaits are small baits that will only dive a few feet deep.
In Minnesota I mostly fish these lures in stained or murky water that keeps the weed growth close to shore in shallow water. Otherwise in clear water the weeds are so thick that I may not even be able to get my boat through the weeds let alone get my crankbait to swim through them.
In the southern reservoirs there may not be any aquatic vegetation at all so you can fish these lures in any shallow water. Down there I mostly use them around rocky shorelines and sunken timber.
Since I’m usually faced with murky or stained water conditions when fishing these lures in Minnesota, I always have them rigged up on medium flex 6 ½ foot graphite rods with 15 to 20lb test fishing line. The water is too murky for the fish to be line shy and fishing the weeds requires a tough fishing line. I still like to use monofilament or fluorocarbon line but you can use a braided line if you prefer. I like the line to have a little bit of stretch and shock absorption to it even if heavy line gives you very little of that. I think the hooks don’t tear out of the fish’s mouth as often and I get more fish to the boat that way.
A Rat-L-Trap is a lipless and non-buoyant crankbait that you allow to sink to the depth that you want to fish it. I usually just cast and crank this lure. You don’t have to wait very long at all for it to sink a foot or two before you begin your retrieve. I usually retrieve it straight back to the boat adjusting my retrieve speed to whatever speed is most productive for me, but you can steer it around objects like weed clumps or sticks by moving your rod tip to either side of your body. If I snag a weed, I just rip it free with a sweep of my rod.
Mann's Baby 1-Minus Crankbaits, and shallow diving Bandit crankbaits are both buoyant lures that only dive a couple of feet into the water. If I snag a weed with one of these it is likely the bill of the bait that has snagged the weed, so I hesitate for a split-second and give it some slack to let the lure float up and back from the weed before I jerk it forward again with a flip of my wrist. If that doesn’t clear it from the weed, then one of the hooks is caught and I just sweep it hard with my rod like I do for Rat-L-Traps to clear it. Most of the time it’s not very hard to free a lure from the weeds, you will notice how nearly effortlessly I am able to do it in my videos.
A very productive way to get strikes with any crankbait is to use an irregular retrieve speed or give the lure an occasional pause or jerk. I find that if a fish is following my lure this may get it to strike out of instinctive reflex. In that regard it is best to do this about the time when the lure is half way back to the boat before the fish gets a chance to see you or the boat.
Now that you've read about shallow diving crankbaits, watch them in action in these videos: Indian Lake, Peltier Lake, Independence III, Steiger Lake, Bavaria Lake, North and South Center Lakes, Johanna Lake, Spring Lake, Independence Lake.More Tips and How to articles