HARDCORE Crankbaits: How-To with Dustin Wilks

I’m a shallow water, visual angler at heart, but often the most and biggest fish are offshore, particularly in Summer. One tip I can give you for offshore fishing is to start is locate of creek and river channels and concentrate on areas of bends or intersections. Electronics are good these days and many spots are easy to find on GPS and a quick idle will let you know if fish are there. If you are new to the game, you don’t have to be in the middle of the lake either, many times the best spots are on the upper ends of lakes and creeks that have the most current.

Since Hardcore has introduced their extensive crankbait series (Crank 60 MR and Crank 2+, 3+ and 4+, and New Bullet Crank), I’ve really found off-shore fishing much easier and enjoyable. Each bait has a patented weight transfer system making them cast much farther and easier with no tumbling or spinning. Casting distance is crucial to deep cranking too, allowing the bait to achieve maximum depth longer, and cover more water. Often when off shore bass are feeding, it is actually done up on the flats adjacent to the actual drop of, so these long casts are so important to locate feeding fish.

The feel and pull of these cranks is not like pulling in a bucket as many older designs. They have thinner, narrower bills and a slimmer profile helping them to be easy lures to crank, even to deeper water. The finishes are unbelievably tough and check every box on the colors I need. I’ve got a couple of MR 60’s that I’ve caught over a hundred fish each on and the paint barely shows it.

I’ll quickly go through each bait with when and where I try them. Knowing a whole line of baits has really helped my cranking, I know exactly what bait to reach for for any set of conditions. When you are out fishing crank baits in the summer bottom contact is what triggers bites, so you want that bait to be hitting the bottom the vast majority of the time, keep that in mind as I discuss below to apply to your fishing.
MR Crank 60

This is a little workhorse. It dives about 6-7 feet on 14lb Fluorocarbon, a little deeper on lighter line. This is the smallest bodied bait in the line and I use it year round on shallow areas of creek channel ledges. It has become an overall confidence bait for me even just going down the bank. I’ve gotten into several schools of fish while fishing with other people using different baits, and all my buddies now have tackle boxes full of these baits if that says anything. Don’t look for anyone to mention this bait, because once discovered, fishermen have a tendency to stay quiet. It comes through cover good, but most importantly this little thing casts a mile. With any smaller lures, casting becomes an issue, but not with this one.
Crank 2+

Irreplaceable is the one word that comes to mind on this one. The 2+ means 2 meters and deeper, so about 6.5 feet. I find it is perfect if you want a bigger bodied bait with a nice body roll to hit water between 2 and 6 feet deep. This one fishes to me like an old balsa round wooden plug, except everyone of these runs perfect, casts like a bullet, and hits a deeper range. The bigger profile of this is really good if you are in a lake know for bigger fish or simple want to catch more bigger than average size fish. I use this bait in the same areas that I do the Crank 60, but when I want a bigger profile or the water is slightly shallower I often have both tied on, this one does a bit better in shallower water of 2-3 feet, but reaches 6.
Crank 3+

8 feet. What is so special about 8 feet? It is actually a hard to find a crankbait that fishes that zone well without going into really deep divers. This bait is designed to hit 10-11, but on 14lb Yo-Zuri T-7 fluorocarbon around stump filled channels it is hitting 9, making it tick the bottom just perfect in this range. The special thing about it — it’s really easy to crank, so it is fun to fish. The action is somewhat tight and fast which is great for burning by inactive fish getting action bites. Once you feel this bait on your rod, you will be addicted like me and find it much easier to cover this depth range fast. With this bait I’m typically sitting in 12-15 feet of water to a ledge or flat spot 7-9 feet.
Crank 4+

12 feet of easy cranking. Burning this bait around all kinds of structure around 10 to 11 feet is a killer. This is bait is much the same as the 3+ buts gets an extra 3 feet deep, on a standard cast. The body size on this bait is smaller and slimmer than most crank baits in this category, catching fish of all sizes quickly. We all know that deep crank baits tend to get pretty big, but this one fills a nice size void and catches big ones too. I’ve caught bass up to 9 lbs on this bait. I’ve had crazy days with this plug catching them schooled up on structure even catching them two fish on the same bait at the same time on multiple times to top that off. If you reduce line size to 10 or 12 and long line this bait, it will hit depths of 20 feet plus. Long lining is a special technique that allows you bait to reach much deeper depths than intended on a standard casts.
Bullet Crank

This is the grandaddy. This thing will hit 22 to 25 on a standard cast. Unlike the others in the series, this one will pull and requires a big long rod and high line capacity reel to fish it correctly. If you want big fish in that depth range on a standard cast this is your specialized bait. Have a bunch of these ready if you fish Tennessee river impoundments and lakes like Douglas in Tennessee and many others all over the country that are known for big fish that live really deep. I actually like this bait in the winter as well. When we first got prototypes it was the deal for deep cold water bass cranked slowly under bait. Typically this bait is for the summer though, you want to fish it really fast to trigger schools of fish. This is a bait you will want to know the fish are there before you cast, since it will give you a workout.