When MLF pro Russ Lane wasn’t in a deer stand this fall, he was cranking for Alabama bass near his home in Prattville. Although winter is here in full force across most of the country, that doesn’t mean that Lane is done throwing a crankbait. In fact, when he can find the right area, he says there are great bites to be had in the winter.
“I’m looking at the backs of creeks, right before they turn really flat and shallow,” Lane described. “I look for a point that kind of swings out from the creek channel. I’ll throw a crankbait in about 6 or 7 feet of water while my boat’s in about 12 feet of water. That’s where those fish are usually hanging out.”
In the southeastern part of the United States, there are plenty of creek channels to choose from on local waterways. However, there’s one key aspect of those channels that Lane says can make all the difference for his wintertime cranking technique to work.
“Usually when you find those points near the creek channels, there’s going to be rock,” Lane explained. “When that channel was formed, it’s most likely that rock made that water turn that way to create the channel. Rock is obviously a great place to work a crankbait and even better to key in on in the wintertime.”
Once he finds the point and hard-bottom he’s looking for, that’s when Lane puts his trolling motor down and gets to work. It’s important to note that while he’s fishing in shallow water, it’s not too shallow.
“Instead of going down the bank with a squarebill and casting into 3 or 4 feet of water, I like finding those hard-bottomed points with a little bit deeper water,” Lane said. “I still throw a small crankbait in those areas like I would in shallow water, but I use a bigger lip. I like to use a SPRO Fat Papa 55 with a depth range around 6 to 9 feet. That’s perfect for what I’m using that crankbait for.”
Lane utilizes a 7-foot Phenix X9 Composite Cranking Rod paired with a 6:1 reel. While those two pieces of tackle are important, Lane cites his line as being the most important aspect of his setup.
“I use 10-pound Sunline Sniper fluorocarbon for this technique,” Lane said. “I like to use the Sunline Sniper instead of the Sunline Shooter because it has a thinner diameter. The Sniper allows that bait to get deeper and it frees up the action of the bait.”
Lane points out that this technique isn’t necessarily about erratic action and speed, hence his slower gear-ratioed reel. Still, Lane points out that doesn’t mean that you can’t give the crankbait a little action by varying your retrieve.
“Typically, I’m retrieving this bait pretty slow,” Lane explained. “I would say it’s a little faster than slow-rolling a spinnerbait or swimbait. At times, I’ll use a little bit of a quicker retrieve, but I’ll stop the bait every three or four handle turns. Whether you stop the bait or not, you’ll still get the bait back to your boat at around the same time frame. I just think you may be able to trigger a few more bites by stopping the bait every now and then for those winter bass.”