BoatUS ANGLER: Bait and Tackle
Getting Hooked With John Crews
by Capt. Steve Chaconas, BoatUS ANGLER Pro Staff
No one would question how many clubs Tiger Woods carries in his bag! There’s even a meeting of the minds to decide which to use. Anglers don’t have caddies! They match rods to conditions and lure type. Every pro has a “system” to increase strike-to-catch ratio. It begins at the lure and every link in the hook setting chain ends at the angler. Every component for specific techniques plays a critical role in hooking bass.
It would seem that with a pair of treble hooks that crankbait hooksets wouldn't be all that important. Upon closer examination, while there are multiple hooks, they are small and don’t grab much fish, making hookups and hook sets complicated! BassCat/Merc pro John Crews has taken matters into his own hands…literally. Designing his signature Little John crankbait series, Crews wanted bait that would get fish to bite and get them hooked! The Elite Series pro felt a flat-sided crankbait was a priority. Flat sides won’t interfere with a fish taking bait in and allows hooks to be more exposed than larger, fat bodied lures.
Next come the hooks. Little Johns come with Gamakatsu trebles. But hook style is predicated on water temperature. In normal range to cold, he says round bends provide better penetration in harder jawed cold fish. In hot water, Crews says fish mouths get soft and EWGs grab more. In either case, hooks must be sharp and fresh!
Fishing deeper, 6-8 feet or more, Crews says fluorocarbon line provides more feel and better hookups. Using 12-pound test VISCIOUS Fluorocarbon line enables Crews to make longer casts. Depth deadens the feel of crankbait, resulting in missed bites and inability to feel or distinguish types of cover. Crankbait bites are often very light and before a fish blows a bait out of its mouth, anglers need to know it’s there! Fluorocarbon transmits more feel! Once a fish is on, the hookset must follow very soon! Better hooksets begin with Fluorocarbon’s lower stretch. Mono is better for shallow presentations where a bit of stretch acts as a shock absorber for close-to-the-boat strikes!
Shallow or deep, long casts are required for Crews who uses a 7’11” Pinnacle Perfecta crankbait rod. The very long rod enables Crews to cover water faster. The Pinnacle rod has a slow taper to it, allowing fish to take baits deeper for better hooking opportunities. The added length also helps control fish, keeping them down or enabling him to stay ahead of fish changing directions. Crews says fish have a hard time putting slack in the line…a major cause of lost crankbait fish!
But for Crews, his rod must have a specific action in addition to being able to cast a country mile! When rod prospecting, Crews puts pressure on tip, loading by applying pressure on a carpet to see where the rod bends or he’ll even grab the tip to see where the rod flexes. His Pinnacle rod loads from the middle point of the rod to the tip…modeled after a fiberglass rod. Early graphite rods were engineered for worm fishing and provided sensitivity for cranking, but did not have the “give” to allow fish to take baits. However new Pinnacle rod technology achieves bend without sacrificing feel or weight. Under a load this rod has plenty of backbone for solid hooksets.
But before a hookset can take place, the reel drag must be set. Crews’ fine tuned hooking process relies again on technology. He adjusts the Optimus XT reel’s carbon fiber washer drag for a little bit of give. By hanging his bait on the bottom, the Virginia pro pulls to bend the rod to the backbone where the drag should slip a little bit.
His reeling retrieve position keeps the bait in the zone…but also sets him up to react to a bite. Pointing his rod at the bait just off center places more line resistance against the rod creating more feel. With a bite, he continues to reel, speeding his retrieve and leaning back one way or the other until he is hooked up…using the rod and reel to set the hook. Crews gets the rod to its maximum flex point as quickly as he can and holds it there to drive hooks into the fish…so when the fish shakes his head, hooks are still being driven into some meat. Hookset accomplished!
Crews pays attention to details, noting if fish are smacking at lures and not coming back or just getting the back hook, often this situation requires a change of color.
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