Cold Water Cranking with Clent Davis

Cold water cranking is a time-honored tradition among bass fishermen. The crankbait is an effective tool during the colder months of the year and catches both quality and quantity of all of the major bass species. FLW Tour pro Clent Davis focuses his efforts on cranking medium-range diving crankbaits as well as shad profile crankbaits throughout the winter and spring months.

When and Where

There are many times when a crankbait will excel in cold water and Davis is a believer in throwing it around heavy cover and rocky points. “I like to crank anywhere there is wood, rocks and points that extend out towards deeper water. Really it will work anywhere that has some baitfish in the area and those areas are always good places to find baitfish and bass,” shares the 2012 FLW Rookie of the Year.

When it comes to water temperature, there is not a magic number that tells Davis it is cranking time, but he does have a range based on his years of experience. “Usually when the water hits the mid 40’s it will be a good time to throw a crankbait and it will be a good way to catch them all the way up until they start bedding,” adds the Alabama pro.

Bait Choices

Shad profile crankbaits have long been a staple for anglers fishing colder water, but the crankbaits are lightweight and often require specific tackle to use them to their potential. “I like to use the Yo-Zuri 3DB shad because it’s a good size and the best thing about it is it casts a long ways because it weighs 3/8oz instead of 1/4oz.  I can use it on baitcasting gear where many of the others you have to use a spinning rod to get a good cast,” says Davis.

Besides the shad profile crankbait, Davis also uses a medium running crankbait. “The Yo-Zuri 3DB Mid Crank is a perfect crankbait for colder months because it has a nice wobble and really deflects off of wood or rock and doesn’t seem to get hung up as easily,” adds Davis.

Color Selection

With so many colors on the market, it can be hard to decide which one to throw and where. Clent Davis is a believer in simplifying his color selection and mainly uses two colors for clear water and two for dirtier water. “If it’s clear, the Prism Ayu and Prism Sexy Shad are the two I use and if it is dirty water I will be throwing Metallic Blue Gill or the Crawfish pattern. The Yo-Zuri baits have a lot of flash in them and these colors work good in both sunny and cloudy conditions”

In addition to having the right color for the right water clarity, Davis also looks at the reflective properties and appearance of each color with different water clarity. “These baits are very flashy and I really think it makes a difference sometimes, especially on spotted bass, they just hate it. If you look at what is popular in bass fishing now it is all of the muted colors like Sexy Shad or White with Green back, they kind of all look the same in the water and sometimes it is good to have something a little different,” says Davis.

Rod, Reel and Line

Davis also keeps it simple with his cranking gear. A 7’ Medium action Phenix Crankbait rod, a low speed reel and 10lb fluorocarbon is his go-to. “That same setup will work for any crankbait in these sizes, the ones that dive down to around six or eight feet,” says the FLW pro.

There is one exception for Davis and it goes against common thinking for many bass anglers; using braid for crankbaits. “If I want to get that bait to dive a few feet deeper I will switch to 10 braid tied straight to the crankbait. A lot of guys think it’s crazy, but a bait that is moving quickly like that, I just don’t think it matters because they will not have time to see it,” believes Davis.

Retrieve Speeds and Boat Positioning

The great thing about fishing a crankbait is they can catch fish with a simple cast and retrieve, but experience will show you there are ways to improve your odds. Beyond just the retrieve speed and pausing the bait, Clent Davis likes to do several things to get the most out of his crankbaits. “Right away I crank it down fast four or five times to get it dive deep as it is going to go and then from there I will start a slow retrieve and will go slower the colder the water is. Another thing I do is stop it every few cranks and then always start with a quick jerk, almost like a ripbait, it really helps to get these baits to flash and also keeps them down deep,” shares Davis.

Another key part of cranking is boat positioning. “The biggest mistake I see people doing, especially when they haven’t figured out what depth the fish are is to fish parallel down the bank at just one depth. That’s a great way to catch them when you know exactly where they are but if not you are missing the fish for the whole cast,” says Davis. “The better thing to do is get way out off the bank and cast towards shore, figure out when that bait stops hitting the bottom or wait to get bit before changing your cast angle and boat position.”

Late winter and early spring cranking is an excellent way to load the boat with crankbait fish. The good thing about this year is that the bass are often grouped up and a crankbait is one of the best ways to catch multiple fish in an area in a short amount of time. By following the simple cold water approach of Clent Davis, you can ensure that you have a reliable winter and prespawn pattern.