Kayak Cranking for Bass

Bass boat fishermen benefit from the ability to motor long distances quickly to find water and structure to match how they want to fish. Kayak fishermen on the other hand must find a way to catch fish wherever they are, and this requires an array of versatile go-to baits and techniques. Yak anglers can rely on using shallow crank baits, which can be fished almost anywhere around a shoreline or structure. To learn more about shallow water cranking, I asked Arkansas Kayak Anglers  members Tim Hotchkin and Jason Klingman to share some of their tips in a round-table discussion.

What time of year or in what situations do you find success in using shallow crank baits?


Hotchkin: I use square bills year round depending on structure of the lake or river. My favorite times are spring and then the transition of summer to early fall. I really like them around structure like rocks or stumps anything I can bounce them off of.

Klingman:  I use a Skirmish M9 square bill. It runs a little deeper than the average square bill. It will run 6ft. As most square bills they work the best when you can run them across the bottom or over structure. I have also had some success running them over the top of a grass flat.

Kincy: When fish seem to be away from cover or more active, I’ll throw a crank bait to cover a lot of water. Rocky shorelines and rip-rap are productive spots.

Are there particular baits (if you wish to share) or things you look for in a crank bait when choosing one to use?

Hotchkin: I am a big fan of the XCalibur square bills if you can find them. They are a silent model and have great action. If I want something with a rattle I have been throwing the Skirmish M9 and have been really happy with them. I try to match the hatch or keep natural shad like colors. I really like sunfish colored baits on small lakes that have a big sunfish population.

Klingman: You want to throw something that the bass are eating. The most popular things to throw are shad and crawfish imitators.

Kincy: XCalibur XCS, Bandit 100 and Bomber Square A lures are some of my preferred cranks. For a really tight wiggle check into a crank like the Ugly Duckling Lure models 4S and 5S.

Ugly Duckling 5S Crankbait

When fishing from a kayak, how do you approach the shoreline when cranking?

Hotchkin: I normally pick a section of shore that looks good at the depth I want with structure I like and parallel the shore starting as close as I can and fish the stretch. Then I go back over it just slightly further out and continue that pattern till I find the depth the fish are holding and then cover as much water as I choose.

Klingman: This depends on the type of year for me. Ideally when throwing at the bank you would want to throw parallel with the bank but, where we live and how low the kayak is to the waterline you can have some run-ins with venomous snakes if you get too close. So I throw it as close to parallel to the bank as I can while avoiding the situation. In a shallow flat I’ll throw it in any direction and try to hit as much water as I can in different directions. I have seen that changing the angle of the cast can make a big difference.

Do colors matter? If so, how and when?

Hotchkin: Colors do matter to an extent. Normally though it’s one primary color they like and many variations within that will work.

Klingman: Colors matter when they are not feeding. In my opinion if they are eating a crank bait I can catch them on any color. I am still learning which colors work best when they are not as aggressive.

Kincy: A wise man once said that lures often catch more fishermen than fish. The Plano box shouldn’t look like a rainbow, stick with a few basic colors.

Finally, any other tips to share for someone getting into using shallow running crankbaits?

Hotchkin: Pick a basic shad pattern and try a couple different brands to see which ones work best for you. Don’t get caught up with buying 20 different colors of one bait that hasn’t really been proven on your home waters.

Kincy: If you find a bait and color you like and have confidence in, always have two in the yak and about five more at the house. Nothing is worse than not having your go-to lure when you need it.

There you have it. Some insider crank bait tips from a couple of top-notch kayak fisherman. Hopefully this inspires you to get out the yak and to get cranking.

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