At a recent open house at Angler’s Choice in Lexington, pro fisherman David Fritts discussed how to retrieve crankbaits to get more strikes from bass. The winner of the 1993 Bassmaster Classic and 1994 BASS Angler of the Year, Fritts said there’s more to successful crankbait fishing than casting a lure and bringing it the back to the boat. 

Fritts said the effectiveness of most crankbaits can be enhanced with the proper retrieve, which is more important than the fish-catching hype allotted to lures. He said many anglers have misconceived notions about how to retrieve a crankbait for optimum results.

“They either retrieve so slowly they take the life out of a crankbait and get few strikes or they burn the bait back to the boat, making it run wildly, which results in poor hooksets and lost fish,” he said.

Fritts said most crankbaits have built-in action, and fishermen shouldn’t ruin that action with their retrieve. He cares little for reels with super-fast gear ratios and prefers reels with 5:1 gear ratios that move a lure about 21 inches per handle turn. He uses a steady retrieve and can feel what his crankbait is doing as it makes its way back to his boat.

“With a steady retrieve, I can feel when my crankbait hits a stump, brush or rock,” Fritts said. “Before we had sophisticated electronics, I used my crankbait to find submerged structure and cover.

“When I hit something, I gradually lift my rod to make the crankbait climb over the obstacle. Once I sense that the bait has reached the top of the obstacle, I’ll give my rod a yank to make the crankbait flash and dart from the object. Bass can’t stand that sudden movement and strike. If I yank too soon, I’ll bury the hooks in the stump our brush and ruin the spot. That’s why feel is so important.”

Fritts may pause in the midst of his retrieve to make his bait rise slowly; then he makes it dart by moving his rod.

He also believes in making long casts.

“You must make long casts to give your diving bait enough time to achieve its maximum depth,” Fritts said. “I may cast my bait near a shallow bush, but my real target is the stump near the front of my boat. I can’t hit that stump without making a long cast.”

Fritts also gave a tip for catching sluggish fish in cold water.

“During your retrieve, stop and gently sweep your rod,” he said. “That sweeping action makes the bait scurry along the bottom and provokes reaction bites.”