Find out more about working crankbaits in cold water and the best custom fishing rods to use with these techniques.
How to Fish Crankbaits in Cold Water
You know how you feel waking up and trying to move in the dead of winter, well fish don’t feel much different. Lethargic and slow to eat anything, fish in cold water are looking more to conserve energy rather than exerting it to feed.
Working a crankbait successfully in cold water takes a different presentation to get strikes compared to fishing crankbaits in warmer water temperatures.
With that said, we all know you can still catch ‘em when it’s cold out and below are some simple crankbait tips to boost your winter bass numbers.
Choose Smaller Crankbaits for Cold Water
As previously mentioned, fish in cold water are trying to conserve energy more than they are looking to sell out for a meal. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to hook up with crankbaits, but it does mean you need to think more about the presentation of the lure.
For instance, larger crankbaits tend to have a more pronounced wobble that looks neither appetizing nor realistic in colder water temperatures. This movement also creates more vibrations which are less likely to attract strikes.
On the other hand, smaller crankbaits are a great option because they tend to have a slight wiggle that feels more controlled as opposed to an exaggerated wobble that might spook fish.
Don’t think bass know the difference between a wiggle and wobble?
Well consider this, bait fish are also expending less energy in cold water and the vibrations from a larger crankbait will alert bass in the wrong way.
The lures you fish must mimic this slower, tighter movement to demand strikes, so smaller crankbaits will better suit bass tastes in those winter waters.
In addition to size, the material in the body of the crankbait can also sway the number of strikes in your favor. Wooden crankbaits have stood the test of time in cold water because of their buoyancy and movement during the retrieve.
Although some plastic crankbaits are made to reduce that infamous wobble, the slight wiggle of smaller wood crankbaits is still your best bet for more strikes in winter.
Pick Crankbait Colors Based on Water Clarity
Depending on the clarity of the water, certain colored crankbaits work better than others.
In really clear water, a shad pattern works great. Or if you are targeting bass feeding on crawfish, grab a crawfish crankbait and have some real fun.
On the opposite side, if you are in dingy, off-colored water, pick up a crankbait with chartreuse and a black back or even in the fire tiger pattern.
Slow Your Roll to See More Strikes
Besides choosing the crankbait itself, another tip to attract more bites is to simply slow down your retrieve. Since fish are so lethargic in cold water, they aren’t as willing to strike an erratic, fast moving crankbait.
That’s why a slow roll is definitely the way to go for reeling up crankbaits through cold water. Not only does this retrieve appear more realistic in it’s cold water presentation, but it also maximizes the amount of time a bass can strike.
In addition to slowing down, try the stop and go method to liven up your bites. A slow wind and then abrupt stop causes the perfect flutter in the water to garner a big bite from bass in the area.
Just remember, to get more strikes from your winter crankbait fishing… slow your roll!
Scout Locations Where Crankbaits Work
When scouting for ideal locations to throw crankbaits in the cold, it’s smart to start towards the backs of creeks rather than out in deep water. This water might be a bit shallower and slightly warmer if the sun’s out, so fish a crankbait that dives 8-10 feet or less.
In winter, bass begin to move from deeper water towards the backs of creeks where it’s shallower. This marks the transition in which bass will soon stage up for their pre-spawn period that’s just around the corner.
But more specifically, look to throw your crankbait towards targets like rock, timber, docks, and other structures that typically hold fish. Reaching these targets and then working it back slowly will definitely increase your odds of hooking up in the cold.
Build on Rod Blanks Designed for Crankbaits
Fishing with a rod blank engineered to throw your lure is an easy way to get an incredible performance boost and quickly see results in strikes.
In this case, a rod blank designed to throw crankbaits will be better suited than a rod right from the rack.
MHX engineers rod blanks based on target applications and you can bet this includes crankbaits.
Designed with certain environments, techniques, and species in mind, MHX rod blanks are developed as solutions to optimize any angler’s performance in any given applications. Once the need is identified, MHX Rod Designers hit the drawing board to come up with best blank to get the job done.
Outlasting and outworking other options, MHX rod blanks are ultra-lightweight and sensitive, yet super durable to guarantee an unbeatable performance and experience.
Featuring perfectly blended graphite materials, the MHX Crankbait Series maintains superior sensitivity, while employing a moderate-fast actions to absorb shock and keep fish pinned on treble hooks.
The MHX CB845-Blend Crankbait Rod Blank is the perfect combination of specifications for working crankbaits in the cold.
A 7’0” blank, the CB845 brings a mod-fast action and medium-heavy power to accurately cast crankbaits out to targets and the power to bring back whatever bites.
Or if you want a slightly longer option that is just as ready to perform, go with the MHX CB905-Blend Crankbait Rod Blank because it’s 7’6” for a little extra in the cast and a little more time pulling the lure through the strike zone.
Long story short, the CB845 and CB905 are engineered to get the job done with crankbaits, especially when fishing in cold water.
In addition to being the top performers in the MHX Crankbait category they come in 14 striking colors.
Classic Crankbait Blanks
Since we all tend to set the hook when a fish eats, the glass rod naturally flexes causing the fish to get the bait in his mouth instead of ripping the hooks out.
S-Glass blanks also improve casting distance due to their slingshot like ability. This allows for further casts when fishing heavier crankbaits and ease of casting smaller, lighter crankbaits.
These redesigned S-Glass blanks now have much smaller diameters in both the butt and tip sections, are more responsive, and provide superb sensitivity. The soft tip flex is ideal for all cranking applications but also perfect for throwing a chatterbait or even live bait scenarios.
3 Rod Building Tips for Cranking in Cold Water
We’ve established some steps to take your crankbait game up a notch, but let’s go more in-depth into building the best rod to match.
With a full line up, the MHX Crankbait Series has plenty of potential options to choose from. With the CB845, CB905 and the SSP843 being the leaders in the cranking category as the best bet for shallower crankbait fishing in cold water, let’s start looking at the rod components to go along with these blanks.
1. Pick the Right Rod Blank Length
Does 7’0” and even 7’6” not sound long enough?
Well considering most of your casts are more concerned with accuracy rather than distance, these lengths are actually as good as it gets for cold water cranking.
Plus, the slightly shorter length of these rods allows anglers to work crankbaits in without smacking the water or their boats.
2. Keep the Handle Shorter
Besides shorter blanks, shorter handles will also benefit your fishing performance in the cold.
Just think about all the layers and jackets you wear while fishing in the cold, then take a rod with a long handle and try to get anything done…
It just won’t work!
Instead, scale the handle down in order to keep your hands and handle out away from snagging your jacket.
3. Choose Rod Components for the Cold
Here are a few more thoughts on building for the cold:
- Avoid micro guides if temperatures are close to or below freezing—frozen guides are no fun
- Color code your rods to quickly identify which is ready to tackle the cold water cranking
- Try MHX Winn Grips for sure grips that stand up to the toughest of outdoor conditions.