By Joe Sills
Back in January, we featured billed crank baits, the ones with a “lip” or diving plane that controls the action and depth of a lure. This month we focus on those lipless crank baits that only achieve action by the cranking or pulling of the line. The first of this type that I ever encountered was the Cotton Cordell “Spot”. This was back in the mid-sixties and was a quarter ounce, chrome colored, scaly patterned lure, with a purple back model that was perfect for ponds that I bank fished with my Johnson Citation. This was a dandy reel for the time and even with a long, six-foot rod, required a furious retrieve to keep it off the bottom. But, boy, did it catch fish especially in times when they were up shallow.
Another lipless lure that I used was a “Heddon Sonar”. This was a metal lure with a weighted head, three line tie holes for different depths, and two treble hooks. It was especially useful when fishing deep holes and for sauger fishing at Pickwick. Its modern day equivalent is the “Steel Shad” that has become very popular in the last two seasons. These lures are very effective by drawing game fish to them by their rapid, vibrating action that is claimed to stimulate the fish’s very sensitive lateral line. Later I discovered that an Ohio angler had invented a hard plastic, vibrating lure called the “Buckeye Shad”. It was, and still is, very popular in the Middle Tennessee deep-water lakes such as Center Hill and Dale Hollow.
None of the aforementioned lures had rattles. The noisy rattle in today’s lures was discovered by accident when a bass angler left his Cordell Spot out in the hot sun and the lead weight in the nose, that helped create the action, came loose and rattled when retrieved. The sound created actually improved the catch ratio. The rattling “Spot” then became the Cotton Cordell “Hot Spot”. This prompted a deluge of similar lures produced by almost all lure manufactures. Among them were the Strike King “Diamond Shad”, Rapala “Rattle Shad”, and Bill Lewis “Rattle Trap”. The rattle sound was found to be so effective that variations included multiple chambers with several rattles, some with one, and some with only two. It was thought by some that the rattles, over time, were becoming so over used that the fish were recognizing them as a danger. So, along came the Strike King KVD “Silent Stalker” Red Eye Shad with no rattles.
The versatility of these lures cannot be understated. Most choose to simply “chunk and wind”, the depth determining the speed. They can be used as search baits for any depth or as target baits over grass or stumps. In clean waters, without obstacles, they can be yo-yoed, vertically with a stop and go action. Thy are exceptionally effective on schooling fish as they are great for casting long distances. Long, soft tip rods, medium test lines, and high-speed reels are required in most instances. Bass, especially, tend to jump, when hooked on these lures. Keeping a tight line is essential to avoid the hooks being thrown. Some modify the lure by using a larger hook at the rear as long as the action is not impaired. A good stock of lipless crank baits, in a variety of colors, is sure to be beneficial in your fishing pursuits. MSHFN.
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