(Editor's note: The following is the latest installment in a series of fishing tips presented by The Bass University. Check back each Friday for a new tip.)
In his brief career on tour, Texas pro Lee Livesay has won big checks with a frog, a glide bait and a topwater, but he considers cranking to be his bread and butter. “Cranking is something that I do in Texas all the way to New York and it’s a way to get really big bites and I do it offshore most of the time.”
Offshore can mean deep, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes it means water as shallow as 2 feet deep.
He’ll start offshore in the winter, which in Texas means December through February. There are two areas he’s targeting. The first is deep offshore points, where the water drops from 12 feet into 30. He fishes those with a 6th Sense 300 DD, 500 DD or 6-series lure. The second area is a traditional Texas hotspot: “We’re going to start on deep drains with hydrilla usually,” he said. In particular, he’s looking for grass edges that hit cover like shell beds. “Something that connects to some kind of hard bottom is what you want.” He typically won’t find huge schools here like in the summer, but using his Humminbird MegaLive he’ll hunt down individuals and small groups.
Even though it’s cold, he’s sure to pair his Halo HFX 7’6” medium-heavy cranking rod with a high-speed reel. In Texas, he explained: “They want it on the bottom and they want it going fast.”
People may consider him crazy for looking offshore in the spring, but even in the heart of the spawn there are always some pre- and post-spawn specimens. “I might be 1,000 yards offshore,” Livesay said. “But the fish are going to be shallower.” He’ll hit “little bitty sweet spots” with big squarebills and lipless baits. At this time of the year he’s targeting huge fish, and he’ll upsize his line to 18- to 22-pound test. “Those fish are shallower. They’re eating giant gizzard shad.” He also chases wind, figuring it gets him the best opportunity to approach active fish.
In the summertime, particularly after the shad spawn, the bass will once again transition out deeper, and he’ll set his side-imaging out to 100 feet to look for them – likely cover and structure includes points, roadbeds, ditches and old pond dams. “I’m going to graph until I see those fish,” he said. Again, he likes to cast with the wind to ensure maximum distance, and he experiments with angle, often finding that one outproduces all the rest. Once the bass are fired up, it’s possible to catch every one in the school.
Northern smallmouths are different than southern largemouths in terms of where they want the lure. They prefer it swimming over them instead of bouncing along the bottom. Either way, he still wants it “going a hundred miles per hour.”
If you want to learn some of the multiple-time Elite Series champion’s other cranking secrets, including the limited color selection that works for him all over the country, check out his full video, available only by subscribing to The Bass University TV.