O ver the past several months I have had the pleasure of fishing with multiple talented young bass anglers as they compete in tournaments specifically designed for high school fishermen (and women).
As a matter of fact, as you read this there could be hundreds of these young men and women on Toledo Bend battling for the championship in their association (one of which might be my daughter if her team did well in regionals, thanks for asking).
What I’ve learned while being a boat captain at various tournaments is that kids love to fish, and even beginners can put a lot of fish in the boat if you start them out slow and simple.
Think back to when you were a teenager, I know that’s farther back for some of you than others, but just try. Back then could you tell the difference between a Texas-rig, Carolina-rig, wacky worm, split shot rig, jig, drop shot or any of the dozens of techniques that you use today?
So when you’re teaching your kids to fish today forget about taking them to a main lake point to Carolina-rig for hours for a couple of big bites and get back to the basics. Find something they can chunk and wind to put a few fish in the boat.
One of my favorite baits for introducing new anglers to bass fishing is the small square-billed crankbait. It tops the list for a couple of reasons. First it can be very easy to use. If you want, all you have to do is simply cast and crank. If the fish are even halfway interested you will catch a few without having to do anything elaborate. If you want to switch up your technique put a pause in your retrieve when you get near cover (it really can be that simple). At a recent tournament, one of the kids in my boat was fishing a crankbait when he got a text from his girlfriend. As he pulled his phone out to respond his bait floated lazily to the top and a bass hit. It was our biggest fish of the day. Even when you’re talking to your girlfriend, a crankbait is still working.
The second reason I like crankbaits is because with all those hooks on them the kids tend to miss fewer bites. If a fish hits it is usually stuck. Of course this also means if you hit a stick or stump you might get hung up as well (I’ve spent plenty of time getting baits off docks, tree limbs nowhere near the water, stumps, occasionally me, etc…), but it’s worth it.
With all of that being said, crankbaits are not the perfect bait. Even though they are light years ahead of where they were 20 years ago, they can still be improved upon.
The first area to look at is the hooks. Remember those little hooks that grab everything in sight and easily latch onto fish? Well they have a tendency to let go of those same fish when they start jumping. The best way to remedy this is by replacing the hooks with trebles that are slightly larger, but don’t get all crazy and use massive hooks. Just move up to a front hook one size larger than the one that came on the bait. Leave the rear hook alone so you aren’t impacting the way the bait runs or wobbles.
Speaking of the way a bait runs, it is possible that after a while (after hitting docks, and trees, and limbs, and your fishing partner) that your favorite crankbait can start running funny. Usually, it will start running off to one side or the other instead of straight back to you. This can become frustrating if you are fishing around cover and need the bait to run a precise line in order to not get hung up. However, there is a simple solution. No, don’t throw it away and buy another one (have you seen the prices for these things?). Simply tune it to run straight again.
This is really easy. If the bait is running to the left, bend the eye of the bait to the right. If it is running to the right, bend it to the left. Bend, don’t twist. Make small adjustments, not huge ones, because a little bend in the eye makes a huge difference in the direction the bait will run.
Email Greg Berlocher at [email protected]