There is no better feeling than swimming a crankbait along the bottom, feeling it grind against the rocks, deflect off some cover, then all of the sudden get slammed! If you bass fish a lot, then you know that feeling of your rod loading up and your drag starting to slip when a big bass hits your crankbait!
While there are a multitude of baits I throw when fishing Lake Travis, I figured I would break down my Top 5 Crankbaits for y'all.
1. Strike King 6XD
This crankbait is one of my favorite baits to have tied on, as its the perfect bait to get down deep. This bait will dive anywhere between 17-20 feet deep depending on the line size you use and distance you cast. Often times I throw this bait on 15# fluorocarbon since Zebra mussels are a problem on Lake Travis. However, throwing 10 or 12 pound test will allow the bait to get down deeper. A long cast with this bait is important as it takes a good portion of your retrieve to get it down to proper diving depth. When I start my retrieve I like to crank the reel handle 4-5 times as fast and hard as I can to get the bait down deep quickly.
This bait is the perfect choice when fishing deep ledges, offshore humps, and long secondary points. It is a good search bait to cover water quickly and try to fire up schools of fish. I will often target the ledges formed by creek channels and fish quickly using this bait to try and figure out where the fish are positioned and not waste time slowly dragging a plastic on the bottom.
As far as colors go, Gizzard Shad, Green Gizzard Shad, and Citrus Shad are my top three favorite colors. A little pro tip for you as well... change out the back hook for a better quality hook such as a Mustad Triple grip. I like treble hooks with points that face slightly inward as I find its harder for the fish to shake off the bait.
2. Storm Wiggle Wart
The Storm Wiggle Wart is a deadly cold water crankbait that has been thrown my midwest anglers for decades! If you are a tackle nerd like myself then you know all about "Pre-Rapala Wiggle Warts". If you happen to have some of these old schools baits, look them up on eBay and see what they sell for! Or better yet, don't! And call me, I will buy them off you.
While the new Wiggle Warts you can picky up at any tackle shop for $6 might not be quite the same as their predecessors, they still have that erratic wobble action that triggers strikes. I love this crankbait since it has a tendency to dart to the side erratically whenever it deflects off cover such as rocks or stumps. During the fall and winter this bait will always be tied on in my boat. During these colder months the fish in Lake Travis feed up on crawfish heavily. Due to this, I almost exclusively throw this bait in natural crawfish patterns.
My favorite colors are Phantom Brown Craw, Phantom Brown Orange Craw, and Ouachita Craw. Browns and oranges work well during the colder months and tend to get a lot more bites than shad colored baits.
This bait is fished best in 8-12 feet of water. Like any crankbait, the size of your line will affect how deep you can get this bait to run. I tend to go a little heavier on the line since this bait is fished best around rock. You want it hitting the bottom digging into the dirt trying to stir up sediment on the bottom to trigger reaction bites.
3. Lucky Craft LC 1.5 Silent
This crankbait is one of my favorite squarebill crankbaits to throw around our local Austin lakes. I should mention the Strike King KVD 1.5 squarebill is another excellent choice, but for the price I think Lucky Craft baits come with better hooks and killer paint jobs. There are two times of year in particular I think this bait especially excels, spring and early fall.
During the spring I will use two different color patterns depending if I am fishing early or late spring. During the early part of the spring the bass are still pre-spawn. During the stage of the spawn they are still eating a lot of crawfish, and a red or orange squarebill can do some work! I like this bait as opposed to the Wiggle Wart when I am fishing up shallow and around cover. The square bill of the bait turns it into the four wheel drive of crankbaits, it allows the bait to get through cover that a lot of other baits would get hung up in. During years when the lake is low and there is submerged brush in the water, I love this bait. During the early spring Delta Red, Rayburn Red, and Disco are solid color choices.
During late spring the threadfin shad in Lake Travis spawn. When not spawning in marinas, they will spawn on gravel banks. This bait is deadly since you can fish it shallow and cast it up along the shoreline. This bait comes in a number of great colors, but American Shad, CF Lens Threadfin, and Flake Chartreuse Shad are great colors. For the clear water we have on Travis, the translucent baits work very well.
Lastly, during the fall the bass get on a good craw bite. On warm days they will pull up shallow and you can catch them off the rocky banks throwing a squarebill. Just like in the early spring I will tie on Delta Red, Rayburn Red, and Disco colored plugs.
4. Strike King 10XD
The Strike King 10XD is the big dog of my crankbait line up! This bait is not one you can easily throw around without the right kind of tackle. This bait weighs in at a whopping 2 ounces, and is 6" long. This bait will dive to 25+ feet of water. On a long cast I can easily get this bait down to 30 feet.
Lake Travis is notoriously deep, and finding offshore fish in 30 feet of water is nothing. Honestly I don't even consider fish "deep" until they're deeper than 25 feet. To effectively target these deep fish you need the right tool for the job. This is where the 10XD comes in, I throw this bait on a Dobyns DC 806CB in order to launch it a country mile. I fish it with a 5:1 gear ratio bait caster and 12 pound test fluorocarbon. The whole point of this big bait is to reach those deep depths, using lighter line gets it down deeper.
My top three colors for this bait are Gizzard Shad, Green Gizzard Shad, and Powder Blue Back Chartruse. (They used to make a color called Parrot that was great! The last color is as close as they make these days.) I should note, during the times of year when the white bass are running, Barfish is an excellent color. In general though, I stick with natural shad colors, unless the water is more stained, then I break out the bright colors.
5. Norman Middle N
This little crankbait is a sleeper and one of my personal favorites! Honestly I probably shouldn't be sharing this one with y'all. This is a very compact bait that will still run down to 10 feet. When the bass want a smaller profile bait, I love throwing these and just covering water. I will fish them fast and cast them along docks and in hard to reach spots where this little bait fits.
As far as colors go, I only throw this in one color... Lavender Shad. I like this bait for this particular color, and honestly wish more bait companies would copy this color. Something about that bone colored plug with a purple back works so well in clear water.
This bait has a wide wobble to it, which adds to the "hunting" action of this bait during long retrieves along the bottom. I find this bait fished best around shallow sloping banks where there are small drop offs and "rocky veins". Tie one of these on this Spring!
If you are searching the web looking for info on fishing our local lakes, consider booking an Austin fishing guide for a day out on the water! Consider it an investment into your bass fishing education. I can teach you more in a half day trip than you can learn browsing the web for the next week!