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Getting Cranky in the Fall
By Sam Anderson
Crankbaits, shad baits, stick baits are all names that we give to minnow imitators. Crankbait fishing has been very popular in the South and the North for catching bass. Crankbaits can and do take a lot of bass, northern pike, muskies, crappie, trout and of course walleyes.Names like, Shad Rap, Fat Rap, Rattling Rapala, Floating Rapala and Countdown became common conversational topics to most anglers. I remember being introduced to crankbait fishing not as a lure to cast, but to troll.
Selection of a crankbait is not difficult to determine, if you keep just six factors in mind. Choose your crankbait according to shape, size, running depth, action, color and sound. These six factors will increase your success while fishing this fall.
The shape of the crankbait you choose, might be determined by the type of baitfish that are present in the body of water you're planning to fish. If there are smelt in the system you're fishing try using a Storm Thunderstick Jr. or a Husky Jerk . If the forage base is more Shad based you can try a Hot n' Tot or a Fat Rap. And finally don't forget the good old Shad Rap if you're fishing a system with perch, walleye fingerlings or panfish.
Sound is another sense that the fish use to locate and identify food. Water conditions and specie of fish will determine the sounds that you would like to imitate. All fish have an organ along the side of their heads and bodies called a lateral line that enables them to detect subtle vibrations in the water. If you are fishing in dirty shallow water a noisy lure is the answer. If you are fishing in stained water then you want the walleye to be able to hear your bait. Rattling Rapalas are a good example of a noisy bait that will take a variety of fish 
under these conditions. If you are fishing in a clear lake quiet baits that produce tight wobble and vibration are what you want to use.Try to match bait already found in the environment. Use flash tape to highlight crankbaits to give that extra flash. Along with flash you might want to change to a dramatic color.Chartreuse and the Firetiger colors aren't part of the environment but in stained water they are a visible target for fish. The type of terrain that you are fishing will determine color also. If you are fishing over sand maybe crawfish color, or next to a weed bed or drop off a perch color will trigger fish. Try to always alternate colors whenever fishing.
Rapala Shad Rap Usually I like to start fishing with a #7 Shad Rap to see what the fish are hitting on. If they continue to bite on that size I move up to a #9 Shad Rap. The bigger fish do respond to the larger baits and so do the smaller fish. 
 I have caught fish smaller than my baits on many occasions but most of the time the fish increase in size. If the fish don't respond to the larger size I then move back down the scale of size to a #5 Shad Rap and work between that size and a #7. The other rule of thumb is in the spring I use small baits and in the fall large baits. The reason is simple, I try and match the food and the size of bait. In the fall the fish start feeding to store body fat and larger minnows contain 
more protein than smaller ones.Running depth is a factor that has many variables to consider. To determine where the fish are, look at your depth finder. You will want to put that lure in front of their face, not below them or too far above them, but right in the" strike zone". Usually the bigger the lip on the 
bait the deeper they dive, but don't overlook line diameter and length of line let out. If you want your bait to run at 8' depth then you will need to let out about 50' of 8lb test line. If you increase the diameter of the line the bait will ride higher in the water. If you increase speed the lure will dig deeper and then ride higher. Therefore, experiment with speed, line diameter and lip structure to see if the bait is getting down to the "strike zone".In fact, I believe that if more anglers would fish more shallow they might be surprised to find a number of walleyes. The walleyes that inhabit the riprap along the Mississippi river will be found in 1 to 7 feet of water most of the time. Exceptions to this rule my be, clear water conditions or bright hot weather. More times than not you can find 
walleyes in and around these shallows caused by the riprap.
Motorguide Tour Edition bow ,mount trolling motor
MotorGuide Tour Edition
To catch shallow fish, I use my bow-mount MotorGuide to get as close to shore as possible. I face into the current and cast upstream so the bait 
moves downstream. This is essential because 90% of all fish in a river 
face into the current in order to feed. When I make my first cast it is critical to present the bait to the feeding fish in a natural life like manner. I will cast upstream as close to shore as possible, then I point my Quantum rod directly at shore. This gives my crankbait a direct 
downstream run. By extending my arm and using a long 7 foot rod I can get as close to shore as possible. 
As the bait starts down river I will use my wrist to jerk or flick the bait causing it to dart and dive representing a wounded minnow. As the bait approaches the boat I will also take in as much slack as possible to allow myself better feel and 
better hook setting leverage. My next couple of casts are going to be deeper. Here, because the water tends to be deeper, I will change my presentation to more traditional casting. My cast will be ahead of the boat and I will retrieve the lure with a bait bumping approach. My next cast might be even deeper to see 
if the walleyes have moved out, but again it will be a normal cast and retrieve method. Under low-light conditions or in darker water, walleyes will be shallow 1 to 7 feet. But if it's bright or there's a lot of boat traffic, they move deeper.
When I am fishing along the riprap I use a method known as "slipping the current". Basically this method allows the operator of the boat to stay in one spot or to drift downstream slowly by using the electric trolling motor. I set my bowmount MotorGuide to match the speed of the current and occasionally I will increase the thrust to move up stream to new water. Your electric trolling motor is important for you to use in this situation, because it provides a quiet approach to fishing fish in the shallows. When fishing walleyes in this shallow column of water I prefer to use the Storm Thunderstick or the Thunderstick Deep Jr. in the metallic silver or the golden shiner color. The fish even this shallow are still visually orientated and I need something in dirty or stained 
water that is going to give off flash and has the ability to dive to the 
desired depth.Bait action again can be the triggering factor for many a finicky 
walleye, northern pike and bass. In cold clear water use a slow wobble and slow retrieve or trolling speed. In warmer water, tight action and increased speed will increase your chances of a larger fish. Check your action when you attach your lure to the line. Run the lure along side the boat to see if it has a tight or slow wobble. Many baits can be tuned to run true by bending the nose ring on the bait. This will allow the bait to run in the correct path behind the boat.
Be a change up person. Don't stick with one bait all the time. Try different colors, presentation, size, rattles and added weight. So many fishermen tend to stay with old methods that have worked before and fail to boat fish because they are stubborn about bait selection. Remember you can be sure that you have made the right selection when  choosing a lure because, you have done the research and you are not afraid of trying a new approach. The ultimate decision comes when you start tying into those fish and when you do let me know where they are biting by dropping me a line on the web at www.samanderson.com
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