By Jason Long
Twitching crankbaits has become a standard practice for most Esox Anglers. The tantalizing darting, rolling, erratic action of a twitchbait is irresistible to both fisherman and old esox alike. Traditionally, a twitchbait has been defined as any shallow running crankbait with a small diving lip that extends from the lure at a more perpendicular angle. However, if you want to take your twitching skills to the next level, set aside those shallow crankbaits and grab yourself a deep diver. They are no longer just a tool for trolling or straight crankin’ deep water.
I suppose you could consider a deep diving crankbait more of a jerkbait, rather than a twitchbait due to the slightly different rod motion required to produce the desired action. The art of “twitching” is performed in an infinite number of styles, however the majority use short, rapid rod movements that give the lure a lot of action with little forward movement. With deep divers, however, a firm jerk, rather than a light tap, is required to make the large diving lip cut through the water more efficiently. Regardless, the jerking, pulling, sweeping, snapping, etc. type of rod movement required to make a crankbait dance can be generically described as “twitching”.
WALK THE DOG
Along with the popularity of twitchbaits, gliding jerkbaits have also obtained “Rock Star” status. Side-to-side actions have hypnotized the musky market into a glide bait craze. For good reason too, because the classic “walk the dog” action is absolutely deadly on muskies. I think turning a lure broadside to a muskie is the perfect position for a strike. Whatever the reason, most muskies cannot refuse such an opportunity.
You are probably wondering to yourself, I thought this article was about Deep Diving Crankbaits? Why is he talking about twitchbaits and glidebaits?? Simple. Most deep diving crankbaits secretly posses the ability to produce both actions previously only obtained from one lure or the other. As a result, I feel Deep Divers are the most dynamic lure available today. You just need to know how to make them work.
The idea that a lure can be multi-functional is no secret. All it takes is a little creativity and experimentation. What I’ve found to be the magic number for most deep divers is what I call the “double pump” method. A few of the best deep divers do not require a double pump technique, but here are the mechanics behind why it works.
I have found that in order to make a deep diving crankbait “walk the dog” you need to get it to turn perpendicular to its direction of retrieval. First give it a good, hard jerk with your rod. If the bait just lunges forward a “double pump” is required. The first pull generates some slack line. Reel up on the slack only half way and give it a quick second jerk to violently tighten up the slack line. This will kick the lure out to one side in a gliding motion. Timing your pulls to occur between “thumps” of the swimming action of the lure also helps. Now that you have the bait “turned” you can take it for a walk as long as you so desire. Just keep pumping the lure until you feel the need to straight retrieve a little to either control your slack, increase depth, or more quickly cover water.
I personally favor deep diving cranks when a “walk the dog” triggering action is desired for several reasons. First, you have absolute depth control. If you want to go deeper, just crank it down a few times between “walking” episodes. Second, the diving lip usually makes the lure roll as it cuts through the water. With practice, you can literally make a deep diver roll onto its back and “play dead”. As the bait rolls it produces flash, an outstanding strike trigger. That, my friends, is the dynamic duo: the flash of a good crankbait and a dart&turn like the best glide bait in town. And to top it off, you can do this at almost any depth you desire.
Buoyancy is the secret behind depth control and efficiently working specific structural elements. I get a lot of strange looks when I pull the boat up to my favorite cabbage patch and strap on a deep diving crankbait. Joe Bucher has been talking about fishing his Depthraiders in the weeds for over a decade. The few guys actually doing it, however, often stick to the weed edge. I say take those high buoyancy crankbaits like the Depthraider, Slammer Deep Diver, or Believer and toss them right into the junk. Take advantage of the high buoyancy to “walk the dog” down into the cover and let it quickly rise back out. You will be amazed at how shallow and thick of cover can be worked with this presentation.
The high buoyancy keeps the “walk” a little tighter since it acts as a brake to quickly slow down the glide. The braking action of high buoyancy allows you to turn the lure with less lateral movement. This is ideal for threading your lure through heavy cover and getting in and out of small weed pockets cleanly. Sometimes the longer pause between pulls that is generated by diving the lure deeper into the cover with more of a vertical dive than a standard shallow running twitchbait is just the extra trigger needed for those reluctant post cold-front muskies. Plus, the jerking and ripping action usually keeps the bait relatively free of any weeds that you may contact. You often hear of guys catching fish just after they blasted their bait free from a pile of weeds. Why wait until weeds make you rip your crank? Take control of this deadly technique and apply it throughout your retrieve.
Suspending deep divers really excel in open water applications and deeper structures. In these situations, I feel the best divers are those with near neutral buoyancy such as the Triple D from ERC. The lack of buoyancy not only improves your ability to maintain depth while incorporating long pauses, it also increases the gliding action when twitched. The further the lure glides before coming to a stop, the wider the column of water your lure covers on a given cast. When searching large basins loaded with baitfish, this increases the probability of you contacting that needle in the haystack.
Here is where the added benefit of flash will earn its stripes. When fishing deeper water your lure is not as close to your target, the musky. This increases your dependency on long distance attraction. Flash is a great long distance signal. Combining flash with superior depth control and the classic “walk the dog” action produces one of the most effective deep water presentations I have found for muskies suspended over deep, main-lake basins.
Once you have mastered the mechanics of getting your deep divers to dance, you can expand your applications even further. Pump them down deep and pull them up shallow all in one cast. This is great for diving in and out of weed pockets, working down breaklines, and efficiently working steep vertical structures at multiple depths without downtime required for changing lures.
Neutral buoyancy also allows you to pull&park the lure for strategic placement. Lure placement and extra hang time can be critical for triggering reluctant fish holding tight to cover. It is also a huge benefit when coaxing fish from deep locations with a shallower presentation. Extra action and hang-time allow you to have confidence in keeping your lure higher in the water column and avoid the risk of fishing below your target in open water situations.
Incorporating extra action to your deep diving crankbaits is an invaluable trick. The mechanics behind this technique are relatively simple and surprisingly fatigue free. If you feel you’ve mastered the twitchbait and are looking for something more, now you can take on the challenge of the deep diver. Good Luck!