December 02, 2021
By Justin Brouillard
In this three-part series, Paul Mueller discusses the different situations and phases of the fall turnover and different lakes where a crankbait will succeed. A crankbait, in general, is very easy to use, but it can be technical and will require attention to detail. It's an important tool like anything else, and depending on the water, cover and how deep the fish are, choosing the correct shallow-, medium- or deep-diving crankbait can make or break your fishing trip.
Later in the fall transition, or on lakes with deep water, fish will utilize deeper cover while they search for stable water. It can be a difficult time to fish, and a reaction bite is a good way to help put the puzzle together. A crankbait will produce when fish are around a variety of different types of cover and can reach those deeper fish during this time.
In Part 3, Mueller takes us through deep-diving crankbaits and under what circumstances he opts for these rather than a shallow or medium diver.
On most bodies of water, the vegetation begins to die off as the fall transition comes to an end. The colder temperatures can make the shallow grass unfishable, and the bass will seek the remaining healthy cover. On most places, Mueller is fishing around coontail or milfoil, but each lake may have something different to offer. While milfoil is thought of as a favorite of both baitfish and bass, it begins to die off sooner than other grasses. Coontail will be the greenest healthiest grass as it is less affected by the changing temperatures.
“It may be milfoil or it may be coontail, but regardless, the deeper grass is fresher. The key with fishing the deeper grass is to fish the crankbait as close as possible—I am not trying to hit it. You need to present the bait so it grinds the bottom along the weed edges.”
Deep is relative to how deep the grass grows, and it varies based on the body of water. On some lakes, the key spots will be in the 12-foot range and on other it could be out to 15 or 16 feet. Because of the many variables of depth, type of grass and bottom composition, Mueller likes to employ a variety of different crankbaits to tackle any scenario necessary.
Here are some of Mueller’s favorite deep-running crankbaits.
PH Customs Ledge P12
Diving Depth: 10 to 12 feet
“For shallower edges, one of my favorite baits is the PH Ledge P12. It’s a balsa bait that really excels in lighter wind. It will function when its windy, however, but there are other options worth considering. I fish the P12 with varied stop-and-go speed retrieves and let the balsa do its thing.”
IMA Beast Hunter
Diving Depth: 10 to 13 feet
“Another bait for those shallower edges is the IMA Beast Hunter. The Beast Hunter comes through grass extremely well. I can fish it a lot faster and burn it while maintaining the tantalizing action. In windier conditions, or when the vegetation gets too thick on the edges, I am able to tick the weed tops and rip it out.”
Ph Customs Ledge P16
Diving Depth: 12 to 16 feet
“When I get to deeper grass edges, say 14- to 16-foot, the Ledge P16, like the P12, creates a lot of action to get bites during the turnover period. The balsa produces a lot of action in less windy conditions or when there is a lot of rock near the grass.”
One of the newest trends Mueller notes, is oversized crankbait fishing—specifically oversized squarebills and magnum diving crankbaits. In the fall, especially in the North at the onset of winter, bass want a big meal. With bass foraging on large baitfish, the obvious choice is to upsize the bait to match the hatch.
“This time of year, when the fish are pressured and the water is getting colder, you either drop down in size or go up. One of the biggest smallmouth bass I ever caught in Connecticut had a big white perch tail sticking out of its mouth. These baits stemmed from Japan and were created to catch extremely pressured fish in grass lakes. I have been applying a similar presentation in the U.S. because not a lot of guys are doing it yet. The fish have not seen these big cranks as much (as other baits) and when I need a big bite, they cater to the bigger bass.”
Deps Korrigan Mangum 450 Squarebill
Diving Depth: 13 to 15 feet
“For a bait in between the P12 and P16, the Korrigan Magnum is an elongated squarebill that deflects rock well in the 12- to 15-foot range—way better than a rounded bill. I like this style for mostly straight rock bottoms, and it has a slightly smaller body profile than some others, which can be key in high-pressure fishing situations. The Magnum doesn’t have as much pull or vibration than other divers in this range.”
Deps Evoke 3.0
Diving Depth: 8 to 10 feet
“For slightly shallower needs, the Evoke 3.0 is a slightly oversized squarebill, bigger than the 2.0 and 2.5. When I am around areas with submerged grass, say 7 to 11 feet that hasn't topped out due to a cold winter, where others bait wont quite reach this is my go-to. It will effectively swim through all types of cover, and it excels for burning over grass, the key is making contact and ripping it out.”
Deps Evoke 4.0
Diving Depth: 10 to 15 feet
“The 4.0 is bigger of the two Evokes and its perfect for the outside edges of grass and adjacent hardcover. It dives down to 15 feet and the key is the flatter dive angle compared to other deep divers. The Evoke dives at less of an angle, deflects differently and excels when grinding rock bottom or ticking the grass edges. Up to this point, there is nothing like this bait—it's not a deep diver, but an oversized squarebill that runs deeper.”
In general, Mueller keeps it simple when it comes to color patterns. Natural-looking baits to match the forage in each lake always excel, especially under clear-water conditions. When the water is stained, chartreuse gets the nod, but also bright chrome or gold colors will produce as well.
The setup is remains the same for all of the deep cranks Mueller utilizes over the course of a season. He uses a Dobyns Champion Series Paul Mueller 805CB Glass rod with a Lews BB1 Pro 6.4:1 ratio reel spooled with 12-pound Gamma Edge fluorocarbon .
“I like the long rod for making extended casts to keep the baits in the optimum running range for as long as possible. Glass is important as it keeps fish hooked that swipe at the bait. I also change out all my hooks to sharp round-bend bronze hooks for quick penetration—the combination keeps them pinned.”