No-contact cranking

Crankbait fishing is generally regarded as a contact sport. The accepted truth is that you should run a crankbait into the bottom, a boulder, a stump or some other object. This makes the bait ricochet, rebound or do something that disrupts its steady, wiggling rhythm. It is beyond question that an abrupt change in a crankbait’s action triggers reflex strikes from bass.

Bassmaster Elite Series pro Seth Feider of Minnesota is a proponent of full-contact cranking, but there are times when he fares better with no-contact cranking. One of those times was during the 2019 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship on Lake St. Clair, an event he dominated with a three-day total of smallmouth bass that weighed 77 pounds, 15 ounces.

A Rapala DT-10 balsa cranker was Feider’s money bait at that event. He retrieved it over rockpiles 11 to 12 feet deep that were adjacent to the shipping channel near the mouth of the Detroit River.

“The DT-10 was hitting bottom on ­­10-pound fluorocarbon, so I switched to ­­12-pound test to keep it up in the 8- to ­­9-foot range,” Feider said.

No-contact cranking for smallmouth bass has long been a staple for Feider, who may well be the savviest brown bass angler on the Elite Series. Given his success with no-contact cranking, you’d be wise to take note of his theories about why it works so well.

Feeding up

“Smallmouth tend to feed up, which makes them susceptible to lures that move horizontally through the water above them,” Feider said. “Also, because brown bass have small mouths, they can’t inhale a crankbait bumping along the bottom as easily as a largemouth bass can.

“Smallmouth have to pin the bait on the bottom,” Feider said. “They don’t get the hooks in their mouth, and you hook a lot of them in the cheek. When they come up for a bait that’s above them, they get it a lot better. A lot of the bass I caught at St. Clair had the crankbait’s bill sticking out of their mouth.”

Zebra mussels blanket rocky bottoms on many smallmouth waters, which is another good reason for no-contact cranking, Feider added. If you grind a crankbait over zebra mussels, your line will go limp every 20 to 30 casts, he claimed.

“Then you have to search around for your crankbait and hope it’s not too windy to find it,” Feider said.

No-contact cranking works best in clear water because the bass need enough visibility to see the lure swimming above them. Feider prefers to employ this technique in depths ranging from 8 to 12 feet. This allows him to use smaller crankbaits that smallmouth bass can engulf more easily. His favorites include the Rapala DT-6, DT-7, DT-10 and the Storm Wiggle Wart.