by Thad Rains -
What we will explore is modifications that might enhance your existing crankbaits and look at changes that will enhance performance and help some crankbaits hunt or react differently than most other baits. Some of these modifications are very basic, that most fishermen do anyway. But there is the opportunity to change the look, sounds, running depth of your lures including, changing the hooks to a better brand, drilling holes in the bait to add/remove the rattles, using paint to enhance the appearance of the lure and adding doodads, changing line ties and tuning.
One of the first things that I do to non-premium crankbaits is to change the hooks and also up-size at least one of the hooks. Most anglers do this already, but I will give some reasons why these make sense and what the effect is on the bait. Changing hooks can be easy or hard, depending on when you do it and what tools you have available. The preferred way is to change the hooks before you go fishing, with a pair of split ring pliers. Texas Tackle has a great pair to do this with, called Split Ring Pryers. Their website is www.texastackle.com. Phone number is 1-800-437-3521. Or, you can do it the old fashioned way, with your fingernails and thumbnails. NOT fun.
When you change the hooks out, you are putting on a hook that you have confidence in. Some baits come with standard hooks, some with premium hooks. Change out front and back. There is a personal preference as what brand or style to use, but you have more confidence and trust in the hook holding capacity of the premium hooks. And most of the better hooks hold a sharper point for a longer time.
Upsizing the hooks is also a preferred modification by many anglers. This will give you several advantages, and two disadvantage on your lure. The advantages include giving more gripping/holding power to the lure; slowing the lure action down on its side to side swimming movement; slowing the retrieve because of the added water resistance (very minimal); and, changing the sound the bait makes while being retrieved through the water (again, minimal, but it is changed).
The disadvantages are that are the larger hooks have a tendency to become fouled with each other. If this happens, your crankbait will twirl through the water and put twists in your line. It is easily fixed when you get the bait back. Another trick to fix this is let the bait float up and then rip it down and forward. This will sometimes unhook the fouled hooks. The second disadvantage is that the small amount of added weight and water resistance can make the crankbait unbalanced. Here, you have to do some manual tuning to get it to run properly again.
This brings up the tuning of your crankbait. Some baits cannot be tuned to the point that is desired. The easiest way to tune most crankbaits that run to one side is to take a pair of long nosed pliers and bend the line tie to the side the bait may be running. Some anglers say that you need to bend the line tie the other way to get the correct running status. It all depends on how you are holding the bait, either toward you or away from you. What I have done, is get the bait facing me, with the line tie toward me, and bend the metal away from the direction it was tracking towards. This, in effect, turns the eye toward the direction that the bait was running. I just prefer that the bait is facing me and not facing away while tuning.
A note on tuning baits. Make very small changes to the bait at any one time! Sometimes, it only takes a very small move in any part of the bait to get it running correctly. Some other things that can be used to tune the bait include: widening/narrowing the treble hooks; replacing the split ring with a larger/smaller/oval one; adding a split ring (if there is not one, but also doubling up on the split rings); tying a loop knot vs. direct to the split ring/line tie; placing the long nosed pliers flat on the bill of the crankbait and twisting it very, very modestly; changing the split rings on the hooks to smaller/larger ones if that is available; and on and on. There are a lot of different ways to help tune the bait. Others will be mentioned more as a modification, than just tuning. Many of the above mentioned methods are also modifications, but we will focus on a few others.
Here are some other modifications for consideration. The first thing that I normally do, is to change the back too to a Doodad (as so named by Triton Mike on the BFHP) or a dressed treble hook to the back. Mike uses feathers and flashabou/mylar to add more enticement to the baits.
These dressed treble hooks do a couple of things to help your bait. First, is to add a sight attractant that is visible, even in low light conditions. Second, it slows the bait down during retrieve and exaggerates the side to side wobble of the bait. Third, it is a modification that most bass haven’t seen, or seen very little of. I’m a big believer in trying to show the bass something different. Does it make a difference? It does to me, so I have more confidence in what I am doing.
(In the second part of this article Thad will discuss color change, weight, rattles, and soft plastic modifications)
Thad is well known and long-time vet of the waters. He was a Pro staffer of Triton Mike Bucca’s Doodads (1998-2000)(feathered treble hooks), Lake Video Guide (2001-2003)(flying over lakes with an ultra light and recording them on DVR) and SOB Lures (1999-2003)(Sorry old Bob) with Bill Dee. Thad also was on Jeff Rings Pro staff for JR Rods (1999-2002). Other tidbits about Thad include being a Field Tester for Bill Norman Baits (1998-1999)(caught two lake records on back to back weekends in October 1997.
This article originally was published on the Bass Fishing Home Page