Although I am far from being a professional angler and do not even play one on TV, I do know what works for me.
Going against the grain, trying new things and not necessarily always doing the tried and true has worked for me more times than not. When techniques become status quo and everyone can do them and knows about them, I look for the little things to make them better.
Most anglers, in particular in my generation, are tinkerers. We had to make our own or tweak something to make it perform the way we felt it worked best. Baits didn’t come from the factory perfect and we were always messing with them. Still do.
Feel and preference: I equate it to golf where one guy uses a 7-iron and another uses a 5-iron for the same shot. It comes down to confidence, preference, feel and what just makes sense to the individual both in golf and fishing.
Very few have been around fishing as long as I have and honestly I count that as an advantage. I get to see the new but I also was around the old and that gives me a reference point.
For instance, I got to see a 5½-foot pistol grip rod used for every technique under the sun and honestly at that time we didn’t know we were missing anything. It was just what we had. For worm fishing, it was like setting the hook with a Bic pen. Leverage was minimal and most old guys set the hook over their heads.
By today’s standards that is awkward and inefficient. The pistol grip was terrible for jigs and worms but worked exceptionally well for jerkbaits, spinnerbaits and topwaters. What we lost with distance we gained with accuracy. Cranking with a pistol grip had its advantages too.
As technology improves, longer, quicker, faster and lighter moved front and center and the pool cue was quickly replaced with state-of-the-art materials and actions.
Many of my crankbait buddies want a soft tip for cranking and honestly I prefer a stiffer rod for that technique. Cranking sticks may be great for some but for me I want a 7-foot to 7-foot, 3-inch MH graphite rod for my cranking. I can feel the bottom and the bait much better with this type of rod. Even subtle changes are recognized easily with graphite.
Fiberglass composite blanks versus graphite: For many die-hard crankers, a rod that contains more fiberglass in the tip is what they are after. They say that it is more forgiving, which simply means the pressure on the bait is less when the fish is hooked due to flex in the rod. They will tell you it’s harder for the fish to throw the bait and it gives the fish a chance to load into the rod with less direct line of pull.
I have a different approach. I want to be able to control the fish and feel its every movement after being hooked. In my opinion, the only way to do that is with graphite. No question, the rod has to have some forgiveness but for feeling the bottom and cover plus fighting the fish, graphite is my choice.
I also prefer microguides in warm weather over standard guides for cranking. Cold water is not conducive to microguides, however, as they can ice up. I feel microguide rods have less line slap and allows me to feel the bait much better as a result.
Gear ratio is critical: For fiberglass composite rods, most anglers use a slow speed reel. Most suggest a 5.6:1 or slower to keep the bait in the strike zone longer. For this technique with this rod, I like a higher speed 6.4:1 gear ratio reel.
I always feel I can slow down my retrieval speed with this gear ratio but have to work too hard to speed it up on a slower speed reel. I also like oversized handles and paddles on my cranking reels. The more bearings in the reel the better, as that makes them smoother.
Smooth drag: Equally important is drag. A smooth yet heavy drag is also part of the equation in cranking. I look for reels like the Lews TS1SMB that have a larger spool size as well for longer casts. I look for reels with 20 pounds of drag power.
We have had a much warmer November than in previous years and crankbaits can be a go-to technique. Choose fluorocarbon, braid with a fluoro leader or monofilament line for this technique. My choice is 12-pound test at the line tie.
Fish will still bite on our area lakes with water temps now around 48 degrees. Try both methods and I am sure you will dial into one that fits you and your fishing style best.