John's Journal...

Learn from Top Bass Pros Kevin VanDam and Rick Clunn

Day 5: Cranking Tactics for Bass with Rick Clunn

Editor’s Note: Professional bass angler Rick Clunn, of Ava, Missouri, has been fishing professionally for 37 years and won ESPN's Greatest Angler Debate in 2005. He has four Bassmaster Classic championships and 32 career Classic appearances and currently ranks fourth on B.A.S.S.'s all-time prize money list with more than $2 million in career earnings.

Click for Larger ViewI often find bass on ledges and drop-offs in 8 to 12 feet of water. I've learned that crankbaits will produce the most bass and the biggest quality of bass then. Most anglers immediately begin to think about their depth finders for offshore fishing, but often your depth finder won't tell the whole truth about the fishing potential of a location. If you pass over an 8- to 12-foot drop-off that has cover on it like stumps, brush piles and submerged trees, and you don't see bass holding on that cover, you may assume that you won't catch fish in that spot. However, you need to consider that motor noise may have spooked the bass off that cover when you've passed over it. Too, the bass may have held so close to the cover or so far under the cover that the depth finder doesn't show them.

When I find cover on a drop-off that I believe concentrates bass, I'll mark that spot and plan to return to fish it later in the day. When I do fish that place, I'll stay as far away from the targeted area as possible. I'll make long casts and feel the cover out with a deep-diving crankbait to keep from spooking the bass. Often, I think motor noise will cause bass to move-off of a spot, especially if they associate motor noise with predators. For example, if you see a spot on a local map that area guides have noted, more than likely that site will recieve a tremendous amount of fishing pressure. Too, anglers catch and release bass there. I believe that the bass holding there have learned to associate motor noise with an approaching predator.

How to Break Down a Site Where Bass Concentrate:

Click for Larger ViewAlthough depth finders work wonders for bass fishermen, I believe the deep-diving crankbait works better than the best depth finder ever invented. So, once I've located an area with cover where the bottom drops off 8 to 12 feet, I'll try and learn the cover and how it lays by fishing a deep-diving crankbait. I'll make the first cast with a crankbait designed to run deeper than the bottom I plan to fish. For instance, I may choose a bait designed to run down to 20 feet when I'm fishing in 8 to 12 feet of water, to learn what fish are holding on the bottom. As the lip of the crankbait touches the cover, I'll find the limbs, and I'll discover the position of the cover on the bottom. I'll also often catch fish while I dig the bottom and learn the cover with my crankbait.

When I catch a bass, I'll listen to what that fish tells me. If I catch a bass with a deep-diving crankbait that digs the bottom, and the fish gets hooked on the outside of the mouth by the back hook, I know that the bass has come from above the bait and has dived down to attack the lure. Then I realize I need a more shallow-running crankbait, so that the bass will inhale the lure and get all the hooks in its mouth. So, I'll change crankbaits and use a lure that swims maybe a foot or two off the bottom. Then, when the bass attacks the bait, it will suck the entire bait into its mouth and get hooked by the belly hooks on the bait, as well as the tail hooks.

Knowing a bass's position when it takes the crankbait will tell you how to catch more bass in that area. If you don't catch bass on the crankbait, then try using a:

  • shallower-diving crankbait
  • deeper-diving crankbait
  • slower retrieve
  • faster retrieve
  • smaller crankbait and/or lighter line.

In the fall, I've found that the faster I fish a crankbait, the more bass I'll catch. The water temperature feels comfortable to the bass, which tends to make them act aggressively. However, remember bass fishing has no absolutes. Therefore, if you try a fast retrieve and don't get any bites, use a slow retrieve and a stop-and-go retrieve. Let the bass tell you how they want the bait presented to them.

What’s the Real Secret to Catching Bass:

Click for Larger ViewTo catch bass in June, you must learn patience. We've all seen and read so much about fishing fast that we've forgotten the virtues and the benefits of patience and fishing a piece of cover thoroughly. Bass will move onto and off of sites in that 8- to 12-foot range throughout the day. You may fish there all day and never get a bite until almost dark, but then you may catch a limit of 5 pounders at that same place. At this time of the year, if I find eight or 10 drop-offs with cover on them that I think will hold bass, I may fish each of those spots four or five times during the day. Often, I'll find a big school of bass on a place one of those times. Crankbait fishing at this time of the year has the ability to pay off with real quality bass and lots of them – if you have the patience to consistently fish the locations where those big bass should appear.

What to Do When Bass Don’t Bite:

Click for Larger ViewIn 1984, when I won the Bassmasters Classic on the Arkansas River at Pine Bluff, I brought in the heaviest three-day stringer ever caught in a Classic at that time – 75 pounds, 9 ounces. The first day, I caught 24 pounds, 12 ounces – all on a crankbait. The second day, I brought in 23 pounds, 8 ounces by crankbaiting. Before I went out to fish on the third day, my press observer asked, "Do you think you can catch a 20-pound-plus stringer again on a crankbait from that same spot?" Honestly, I didn't know if I could. But I felt sure that if the same bass had remained in that school, they'd wised-up to the tight-wobbling plastic crankbait I'd been using. So, on that third and final day, I changed and fished a wide-wobbling wooden crankbait. I caught the biggest limit of bass that day during the 3 days of competition. So, you can continue to catch bass off a heavily-fished spot, if you'll present a crankbait that the bass haven't seen previously. If you'll present various crankbaits in different ways, let the bass tell you how they want to eat the crankbaits and practice patience, you'll find that crankbait fishing can and will produce some of the biggest bass you'll catch all year.

How to Bass Fish Like a ProHow to Catch the Most and Biggest Bass In Any LakeTo learn more about how to fish for bass, click the titles for the new ebooks by John E. Phillips, “How to Bass Fish Like a Pro” and “Catch the Most and Biggest Bass in Any Lake,” or go to, and type in the names of the books to buy them. Too, you can download a Kindle app for free and buy the book from Amazon to read it on your iPad, Smartphone or computer.

Check back each day this week for more about "Learn from Top Bass Pros Kevin VanDam and Rick Clunn"

Day 1: What Being Readily Adaptable Means to Pro Basser Kevin VanDam
Day 2: Kevin VanDam’s Three Keys to Consistent Bass Fishing
Day 3: Know When to Continue to Fish for Bass and When to Leave to Catch Bass Elsewhere with Kevin VanDam
Day 4: Kevin VanDam Explains Other Ways to Evaluate Where You’re Bass Fishing
Day 5: Cranking Tactics for Bass with Rick Clunn

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Entry 681, Day 5