Steelhead On Crank

Steelhead On Crank

A crank slaps the water and floats along for a few feet. The line tightens and the bill of the bait begins to dig into the current. Vibration transmits unimpeded up the low-stretch braided line, telling Kevin Morlock when his Storm Hot 'N Tot is running clean, cracking off rocks, digging into sand, or fouled by a leaf. He won't worry about feeling the strike.

Twelve hours prior, we were 30 miles north on the Big Manistee with Mark Chmura. When the big, orange sun came climbing into the trees the following morning, we were on the lower end of the famous Pere Marquette. And Morlock showed me again how cranks are not just for dropping back behind a drift boat in a V pattern with rods in holders for steelhead.

A couple years ago, we filmed a TV show together pitching Rapala Shad Raps, Tail Dancers, and Original Floating Minnows about 10 miles upstream of this spot, and Kevin revealed how we could fire cranks upstream behind current breaks like fallen trees, points, and rock piles — into spots you just can't reach by dropping plugs back and working them with the movement of the boat. I remember catching our "closer" by pitching a Hot 'N Tot upstream of a tree and letting it drift down under the branches, which hung way to0 close to the water to allow a direct cast. The strike felt like the lure intercepted a runaway freight train.


Steelhead can get tunnel vision when they run down a crank, becoming so fascinated with the wobbling, struggling "thing" that they don't care about that dark, opaque, highly-visible braided line connected to a Berkley Cross-Lok Snap. They come from farther away than they do to hit a fly or a spawn bag, sometimes bulging the river's surface for 20 feet or more.



The great thing about crankin' is covering water fast. It takes 5 or 6 drifts with a float or chuck-and-duck rig to cover the same area you clear in one cast with a crank. The technique is somewhat similar to fishing spoons. Cast cross-stream or slightly down against the far bank, tighten the line, and let the lure dig and swing. The big difference is, a crank floats, making it much more efficient. When you tap into wood or hang slightly, you can back off on the pressure and let it float up. The bill helps protect the hooks, too, by leading the way and bouncing off wood and rock, attracting more attention with the added noise. Once the lure is straight below the boat, you can let it hang there for 10 to 20 seconds, wobbling in place.

Kevin uses a 7-foot, medium-power spinning rod with 20-pound Berkley FireLine to get more vibration from the bait and to get it deeper. A low-stretch braid like FireLine gains positive traction on a silver bullet that rams his lure near a log jam. No need to set the hook. Just hope you can hold onto the rod.


Mary, of course, wasn't about to quit float fishing because we were reminiscing about good times with cranks. And she caught the biggest fish of the day — a 31 1/2-incher pushing 12 pounds — using a Mustad 9260D on a 5.6-pound Raven Fluorocarbon leader. She saw the fish roll and sent her Thill River Master float drifting on course to intercept.

Something magic about watching a float disappear right where you expect it to, at a speed that says, "this is no snag." Of course, feeling a wild, Pere Marquette steelie slam a crank is something not soon forgotten, either. No stocked fish in this river, Bubba. And the guy to learn all the tricks of the trade from is Kevin Morlock. He's an equal-opportunity guide, so bring a fly rod, a centerpin rig, a spinner box — whatever suits your fancy. Kevin's a Jack of all trades, into whatever's working at the time, providing a perfect opportunity to learn something new.

The weather was unseasonably mild, the winds light, and the sky clear as we slipped under the sheets that night. No worries. We never gave weather a second thought all week, maintaining radio and TV silence. But as we slept, the frost giants came stealing south.


Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

Recommended for You

This recipe for Steelhead Trout Niçoise Salad is heart healthy, paleo- and gluten-free diet friendly. Fish Recipes

Steelhead Trout Niçoise Salad Recipe

This recipe for Steelhead Trout Niçoise Salad is heart healthy, paleo- and gluten-free...

To help you get a handle on it all, we offer the following rundown of top choices on the buzzbait scene. Bass

Buzzbaits for Bass

Dan Johnson - February 02, 2015

To help you get a handle on it all, we offer the following rundown of top choices on the...

Some of Canada's best pike waters are within driving distance. Pike & Muskie

Best Drive-To Pike Waters

Gord Pyzer

Some of Canada's best pike waters are within driving distance.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Spider Rig Crappies

Spider Rig Crappies

Doug Stange employs one of the most effective crappie systems ever.

Simms

Simms' Challenger Raingear

John Frazier of Simms Fishing Products details the warm and dry features found in the new Challenger raingear being brought to market by the Bozeman, Mont. company.

Mustad Skatter Shad Bladed Jig

Mustad Skatter Shad Bladed Jig

As Mustad continues to expand into an all-around tackle company, Reid McKinstry shows off some innovative features that make the Mustad Skatter Shad bladed jig a winner in big bass waters.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Catfish are among the most popular groups of fish with over 7 million catfish anglers nationwide. Catfish

All About Catfish

Rob Neumann

Catfish are among the most popular groups of fish with over 7 million catfish anglers...

Now more than ever, understanding each category's strong suits is critical to choosing a powerplant that best fits your personal needs and preferences. Boats & Motors

2- Vs. 4-Cycle Outboard Motors

Dan Johnson - April 16, 2018

Now more than ever, understanding each category's strong suits is critical to choosing a...

To guide your carp quest, we've lined up the best carp baits that are easy-to-fish natural baits and commercial options. Other Fish

Best Carp Baits Today

Dan Johnson - June 29, 2018

To guide your carp quest, we've lined up the best carp baits that are easy-to-fish natural...

See More Stories

More Trout & Salmon

Getting paid to spend life on the water isn't always glamorous. Trout & Salmon

Legendary Angler: Buzz Ramsey

Matt Straw - May 01, 2015

Getting paid to spend life on the water isn't always glamorous.

For steelhead, texture and the passage of light through an egg is important. Trout & Salmon

Soft Beads for Steelhead

Matt Straw - October 30, 2017

For steelhead, texture and the passage of light through an egg is important.

Buzz Ramsey shares his top 10 picks. Trout & Salmon

The Top 10 Steelhead Rivers On The West Coast

Matt Straw - May 04, 2015

Buzz Ramsey shares his top 10 picks.

See More Trout & Salmon

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.