Mention crankbaiting and most anglers picture hefty baitcast reels, heavy line, stout rods and sore muscles at the day's end from hard reeling against the pressure of big-lipped lures. But there's another kind of diving plug, one that has proven its worth on a number of species in varied fishing conditions. And it's a lure that won't leave you sore at day's end from fishing it. That lure is the mini-crankbait.
Downsizing in lures is becoming more common as fishing pressure mounts on public waters. With crankbaits this is a particularly valuable change to make. With a mini-crankbait you still get the full-bodied silhouette and shape of a minnow. You get the enticing, wobbling and wiggling action, as well as the ability to float and twitch on the surface or dive down and kick up bottom debris as needed. But you get it in a size that won't frighten off hard-pressured fish or smaller ones that can make for an action-packed day on the water.
For sheer fun fishing, it's hard to top casting a small crankbait on a pond, natural lake, stream or river with an abundance of bass in the one-to-3-pound range and spunky bluegills, redbreasts, shellcrackers, white bass, crappies and rockbass mixed in. The lures are also excellent for finicky walleyes, chain pickerel and trout in streams that have grown weary of looking at corn, earthworms and salmon eggs. These baits are also terrific for skittish bass in super-clear water or lethargic fish that are reluctant to strike outsized offerings after a cold front has passed through.
I like a five-to-six foot light or ultra-light action rod for fishing these small baits, matched with a featherweight reel and a four-to-six pound line. For the most part a slow-to-moderate steady retrieve works best. Also try a stop and go action, cranking the offering down to its maximum depth, then pausing and reeling alternately all the way back to the boat. Sometimes ripping the rod in long forward sweeps can also pay off. And if you see fish swirling on top chasing shad or damsel flies, just twitching the lure or bobbing it under briefly and allowing it to float back up can pay off with rousing topwater action.
Most major lure companies manufacture miniature crankbaits, with Rebel offering some of the widest selections. Experiment with different brands, colors and sizes to see which work best on your local waters. Soon you should develop a selection of four or five favorites in a few color patterns that produce. Then you can set up a special mini-crankbait tackle box that you grab when you want a laid-back, relaxed day on the water with no concerns about the size fish you catch or trophies -- just fun as the main goal.
And if you're smart, you'll always keep this mini-crankbait box onboard for those days when skittish, hard-pressured fish just don't seem to want to nail larger offerings.
• With hunting seasons fast approaching, it's time to inventory your equipment and see if some items might be due to be relegated to the "gear graveyard." If your camouflage clothing fits that category, Columbia has released a set of wool jackets and pants that may be of interest. Called the Expedition Ridge series, it's made of 60 percent recycled wool and 40 percent recycled fibers that are mostly polyester.
This combination makes it extremely light and more durable than pure wool. I also found it quiet when I tested it stalking through thick, briar-infested cover. It repels water well and breathes better than pure wool, allowing body heat and moisture to escape.
The jacket has seven pockets in all -- two diagonally positioned chest pockets that offer quick easy access, an arm pocket for licenses and other small items, two cargo pockets and two hand-warmer pockets. Shoulders and elbows are reinforced for strength. It has a comfortable, relaxed fit for easy swinging on game and long 32.5 inch back so your lower back won't get cold.
The collar has a cotton liner around the neck so you won't have that scratchy "wool" feel next to your skin. The pants have reinforced knees for durability and a relaxed fit. I particularly like the medium weight of this pants and jacket set. It's thick enough to be warm down to say 10 or 20 degrees, but light enough that it won't weight you down and be a burden to wear on long hikes up a mountain.
For more information, check out their website at columbia.com