June is No. 1 crankbait month for bass fishermen in the Carolinas

A medium- or deep-diving crankbait can trigger bites from bass that aren’t feeding and turn on a feeding frenzy. (Picture by Dan Kibler)

Crankbait anglers love fishing in June

It might take a while, but it will be worth it.

That’s how I explain the advantages of fishing a crankbait in June. It should be everybody’s favorite bait this month. You can catch some fish on topwaters, you can swim a jig or drag a Carolina rig, but you can’t beat fishing a big, diving plug.

Here’s why. Except for a few lakes on the North Carolina-Virginia border — Buggs Island and Gaston — the post-spawn is over for most bass. There may still be some late spawners left on those lakes. But on most lakes, bass have recovered from the spawn, moved out, and they’re ready to feed up and replace all that energy they spent fanning beds, laying eggs and guarding fry.

And no bait beats a crankbait when fish are in that kind of mood.

First, they’re ganged up. A dozen fish may gather on a piece of gravel or shell bottom no bigger than my pickup truck. There might be two dozen. If you play your cards right, you might catch them all. You can easily catch a limit and cull.

The reason is, something about a bass hooked on a crankbait gets the rest of his or her buddies in a tizzy. I think the other fish believe there’s a school of bait around. And they get into a feeding frenzy.

But you have to get that first one to bite. And that’s the trick.

Where are they?

First of all, where to look?

Over the years, I’ve learned that when fish start to move out after the post-spawn, they show up from about halfway back in creeks all the way out to the main-river channel. First of the month, they’ll be between 7 and 10 feet deep. And they’ll get deeper as the month progresses.

What you have to do is locate the area of the lake where fish are getting into this pattern, and follow that pattern around the lake. I like to start around mid-lake and work down, and when I’m finished, I can move way upriver to that end of the lake. It’s sort of like running the spawn, just a month later. The difference across the whole lake might only be a week.

They are hungry after the spawn. And one creek or the other, one end of a lake or the other, will always be better at one time. This is the reason High Rock is so good in June. They start biting first on the lower end, Flat Swamp Creek to the mouth of Abbotts Creek, then the bite starts moving up. It gets to Second Creek, then Crane Creek, then Swearing Creek. Lake Wylie is the same way. But it might only be a week or two before they’re biting up the lake the way they bit down the lake.

So I start at mid-creek and work out, and at mid-lake and work down. I like to start fishing about 8 feet deep, sitting where I can fish 8, 10 or 12 feet. If you can’t find them, you might have to go deeper. I am also looking for clear water. Every lake is a little different. Lake Norman is probably clearer than High Rock. It all depends. They can’t all be dirty.

You want to look for them on little hard spots on the bottom, places with a little gravel, some shells, maybe some rock. If there’s a stump on it, all the better. But so many times in June, fish will just get on a hard spot, and that’s where you’ll catch ‘em all. Brush is not a big player in June. An old log might be about as good as a stump. You can tell a lot about the bottom by the way the lip of your crankbait digs in. You may drag up some shells and stuff.

Keep on casting

When you think you’ve found a place, start casting. A lot of younger fishermen want to see the fish on their depth finders before they cast. That’s good, and I can see them with my Lowrance Active Target if they’re up off the bottom. But when they’re right on that hardbottom, they’re harder to see. That’s why I like to find them with my crankbait.

So I’m going to make a lot of casts, from a lot of angles, to try and get that first one to bite. Once you do, you can get them all fired up. And that’s what makes a crankbait so good. You can get that first one to bite by changing the angle or retrieve, the speed, the color. You might hit a fish just the right way and get him to bite when he’s not really feeding. The other fish see it and think there’s a school of bait, and it’s on. But a lot of times it takes a lot of casts. I’ve done it many times, make 20 or 30 casts to a spot before you trigger one to bite, then you catch them every cast. And it will usually last a while.

One thing. When you’ve got ’em fired up, get your bait back in there as soon as possible. Don’t wait 4 or 5 minutes before you make your next case. I had ’em fired up at Buggs Island in an FLW tournament one time. I was catching them every cast, then I put one in the boat and got a hook in my finger, and by the time I got it out 10 minutes later, they’d quit biting.

Crankbait colors and tackle

Now, some details. Shad colors will be your best colors, something like Kentucky blue, blue/pearl, honey shad. It depends on the color of the water. If it’s dirty, you might be better off with Lone Ranger, which is a faded, chartreuse/pearl color. In certain kinds of water, that color really looks like a shad.

If I’m fishing down on the lower end of a lake, I’m going to want to fish a Berkley Dredger. If I’m way up the lake where they might be a little shallower, I could go with a Frittside.

I want to be fishing a 7-foot-6 rod, my Lew’s David Fritts Cranking Rod. A 7-foot rod will do, but a 7-foot-6 is better. You can make the longer casts you need. I want my BB1 reel spooled with a 10-pound, low-stretch monofilament like Sensation. Everybody thinks you need to be throwing fluorocarbon, but it has a lot of stretch, and it’s really the diameter that is the key. If you get up to 12- or 14-pound test, your lure starts to lose action.

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About David Fritts 111 Articles
David Fritts is a 61-year-old pro bass fisherman from Lexington, N.C. He won the 1993 Bassmasters Classic champion and the 1997 FLW Tour Championship, and he was the 1994 BASS Angler of the Year. He is sponsored by Ranger boats, Evinrude outboards, Lew’s, Minnkota,and Berkley.

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