Cranking in the Spring

Published on Mar 11, 2018

by Capt. Mike Frenette

I don’t know about you, but personally I’ve had enough of winter and I’m so happy that spring is here. First, I’m not a cold weather boy and second, it’s time to chase some redfish with one of my favorite techniques -crank baits! Oh yeah, I’m fired up just thinking of it.

There was a time when crank baits were basically a one-dimensional style of bait but that has changed drastically. We now have lipless, shallow divers, square bills, deep divers and what I call “extreme” deep divers.

Crank baits are so versatile that they are no longer used only in fresh water. That’s right, the “Cross-Over” has begun. Especially when we’re talking about redfish.

Redfish are tough fighters and can be found along the Atlantic as far north as Massachusetts then south along the coast around the Florida Keys and into the Gulf of Mexico covering the Gulf along the Texas coastline and marshes then in to Mexico. Geographically, that’s a huge area with a host of different water depths, bottom types, and structure. Although the Redfish can be caught on a variety of baits, I roll out the crank baits during the spring and I guarantee you, it’s “Game On!”  


Let’s Break it Down



Lipless Crank Baits:


Extremely versatile, these style baits come in different sizes depending on your needs. Standard in the industry are both the “Silent” or a “Rattle” style lipless crank bait. The type used is a matter of preference but personally I really like the rattle style. The noise that this style of bait creates while it is being fished absolutely excites the fish and most importantly, creates strikes.

Strike King’s Red Eyed Shad is a very popular lipless crank bait which comes in 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4 oz. What’s cool about this style bait is that it can be fished fast, slow, deep or shallow.

Working the edges around grass flats, rocks, oyster reefs and sand bars with a slow steady retrieve will produce results. In deeper water let the bait sink to the bottom, then slowly bring it back close to the surface, then let it flutter back down thru the water column again. This produces what we call a “Free Fall Flutter”. While the Red Eyed Shad is falling to the bottom it is, by design,  wobbling and rattling during the entire descent thru the water column. Don’t be surprised that the majority of your strikes will occur during the falling phase of this lure.


Square Bill:


These baits are really becoming popular. In the past couple of years more and more saltwater anglers are using “Square Bills” because they are perfect for slow or medium retrieve across oyster bars, shallow water rock piles, grass beds or simply working the shorelines. I really like these baits when I’m fishing in 3-4 feet of water or less.

Depending on the type of cover you expect or encounter in the area your fishing Strike King makes several different Square Bills making it easy for anglers to choose which one is right for their application.

Keep in mind the short square bill on these baits are designed to deflect the bait off rocks, oysters or any debris that you might be casting to.  

Square Bills are perfect shallow water baits especially where cover exists.


Shallow Divers:

Very similar to the Square Bills but they go a little deeper due to the fact the bill is longer and the end is more round in shape.

In water depths of 2-5 ft. these baits can be really effective.

You can buy shallow divers such as Strike King’s Series 4S and Series 4 Wide Wobble which are called “wide wobblers” for a reason as the “wide wobble” baits tend to have a wider wobble pattern but still track straight which is very important since tracking straight helps predator fish such as Redfish locate your bait

This bait can be fished fast or slow so don’t be afraid to vary the retrieve on each cast till the “speed of the day” is figured out. Once you do, hold on!  



Deep Divers and Extreme Deep Divers:

Depths of up to 25ft. or deeper can be expected from these lures especially from the “extreme divers”.  Out of all the “diving baits” this group, in my opinion, are the most versatile of all. Just because they are classified as a “Deep Diver” doesn’t mean that they can only be used in deep water. As a matter of fact, this bait can be just as effectively in shallow depths as it is in deep water. Pay attention to your fish/depth finder, as many times you will find schools of Redfish suspended in depths of 18 feet or shallower even though the water depth might be deeper than 18 feet.

If you see markings on your depth finder indicating suspended Redfish vary your retrieve until you bring the bait thru the designated “strike zone”.

On the flip side, even though these baits are designed to dive deep, think a little out of the box and try something different.  Just because the packaging states that it’s a deep diving bait certainly does not mean crank baits can’t be used in shallow waters. Just the opposite, working deep diving crank baits in water depths of 2-6 feet can produce explosive action.

I have learned that dragging these baits across the bottom where sand or mud is present causes the bill of the deep diver to dig into the bottom creating a “dust trail”. I call this technique “dredging”. It stirs the bottom just like shrimp, crabs and other baitfish do as they feed along the bottom. While baitfish and others are constantly stirring the bottom looking for anything to eat, redfish are always keying in on these signs.

When a deep diving crank bait is worked along the bottom it should be worked as slowly as possible. This will create a stronger dust trail which is very attractive for predators such as redfish. To them it appears that food is present.

Using the dredging technique, your bait will dig on the bottom creating a sensation you can feel all the way down your rod thru the rod handle and into your hand. And, when the red strikes, well,  I’m just going to leave that to your imagination but I assure you – you will know!

There are many deep divers on the market but since I fish with Strike King’s baits let me tell you they have an assortment of deep divers starting with their 6XD up to their 10XD. In the future, it would not surprise me to see even deeper diving baits produced.

Crank baits are great fun to use. They are the only bait I know of that you can be dredging the bottom, stop reeling, your bait begins to wobble upwards towards the surface, and “WHAM” a strike occurs.

Quite often when using crank baits you will find yourself casting around oysters, rocks, pilings, or some sort of rip rap. Under these circumstances, I highly recommend the use of braid line. Vicious Braid in 30 or 50 pound test will give you the protection you need when you’re casting down in the “jungle”. The braid will help to protect your crank bait, the strike, and the battle with that giant red.

Check out all of Vicious products at //

Depending on conditions, whether you choose to use lipless, square bill, shallow diver, deep diver, or extreme deep diver remember to allow yourself to “think out of the box”:

  • Don’t be afraid to vary the speed on the retrieve
  • Stop during the retrieve every now and then allowing your bait to “wobble” to the surface
  • For lipless crank baits, Stop every now and then and let the bait “flutter” back down
  • Dig the bottom
  • Bang the rocks, oysters and debris

Check out Strike Kings crank baits here:


In my boat, I’m a firm believer in keeping everything organized. This is especially true for my tackle so that, when needed, I’ll know exactly where my baits are, especially my crank baits.

That being said PLANO manufactures storage boxes for all needs including Crank Bait storage boxes specifically made for crank baits.

These are available in different sizes such as:

Model #360706by PLANO will hold up to 20 small crank baits,

Model# 360707 by PLANO will hold up to 16 medium size crank baits

Model #370708by PLANO will hold up to 10 large crank baits.

If for some reason these do not fit your needs check out all the storage boxes that PLANO offers at . Just click on “fishing” and explore all the options. It is easy to see how PLANO  “Protects Your Passion”

Now that the weather is warming up a bit, get out there and “crank some baits” for some hot springtime redfish action..

Check out this video which shows Mike Frenette in the spring catching Giant Reds on a 10XD Crank Bait in 2-4 feet of water: //   


 Mike Frenette is on Facebook:   @ Redfish Lodge of Louisiana .

Twitter:     Capt. Mike Frenette @ RedFishLodgeLA

 Instagram: as Saltwatertackletips