By Charlie Weyer
Shallow waters, emergent and submerged weeds and wood and big Florida-strain largemouths all go hand in hand with the word flipping. And, while the California Delta is known as the birthplace of flipping, there’s another technique that doesn’t play second fiddle to the short-line tactic and that technique is throwing shallow-running crankbaits.
Anyone who heads to the Delta knows they better have a good supply of shallow-running crankbaits in their boat before placing the troll-motor in the water. The vast amounts of wood, vegetation and rock coupled with the Delta’s shallow waters beckon the bait be thrown and those anglers dedicated to the crank, more times than not, are rewarded with big bags of big green Delta bass.
But not only does the cover make for perfect shallow cranking, so do the tides, which act to create funnels that position fish or pull fish out from the shore or into the shore. In other words, the Delta is one of those rare places tailor made for throwing the shallow runner.
In the next few sections, I want to give you all a rundown on what I look for on the Delta to increase my odds of connecting with a Delta pig.
One of the most difficult factors that the Delta possesses is its tidal movement. Where time of day is more important on most waters, it’s the Delta’s tides that tend to dictate when and where fish are going to become active.
Water movement is key to active fish and active fish are key to success here. The only places on the Delta where water movement doesn’t play as large a role is on the big lakes – but I’ll talk about that more in a while.
The one thing I want to stress here, though, is you need water movement and depending on when you’re fishing with respect to the tide will dictate where to place your casts.
With respect to fishing the main sloughs and canals that get a lot of water movement, my experience has shown I do better on an outgoing tide. The reason for this, I feel, is as the water subsides, it positions the fish on the outside weedline – making it perfect for placing a shallow crank in their path. It seems that the fish move to the outside weedline faster than they move in to the inside on an incoming tide. Therefore, as the tide switches to outgoing, you have more time knowing where those fish are and more time to put your bait in front of them.
Incoming tides can also be good, especially within 2 hours of the high, but the areas are different than with the outgoing tides. Opposite of the outgoing tides, where the fish position on the outside weedline, the incoming tides move the fish from the outside weedline to the inside weedline and then between the shore and inside weedline once the tide has reached is maximum.
During the transition stages, between low and high tide, I fish the between the outside and inside weedlines and then, as the water builds towards high tide, I’ll move my boat into a position that I can throw down the bank between the shoreline and the inside weedline.
The Big Waters
When it comes to fishing the big lakes like Frank’s Tract, Mildred’s or Little Mandeville, it’s all about finding cover. Because these lakes don’t have much water movement, you’re always looking for cover that you can bounce the bait off of. In these lakes, the fish have a tendency to position themselves so they don’t have to move far from one area to another as the tide moves up or down.
The key here is to find areas that have cover in both deep water and shallow water along with some transitional cover in between. A good example would be a rock pile near shore that has weeds extending out deep with a tree or some other feature at the deep end of the weedbed. A spot like this is golden on the Delta as it provides cover for the fish no matter what the tide is.
Inlets and outlets to the big waters are also magnets for bass on the Delta. Where the main parts of the lakes don’t have any current, these openings provide harder than normal current as water is either entering or leaving the lakes. This current acts as a funnel that provides food and nutrients and the bass use them as a means to get an easy meal.
In the case of an outgoing tide, it’s best to be on the outside of the inlet, cast upstream and bring the bait back with the current. Try to hit wood, rock or the deep edges of the opening with your bait. With an incoming tide, position your boat inside the opening and do the same thing. Remember, fish your bait with the current.
Eddies also play a major role in these areas. Eddies are those areas where the current runs back on itself and creates a swirling area with little to no current. It’s these areas that generally hold the bigger fish. On an incoming tide, the eddies will be in the inside of the opening and on an outgoing tide they’ll be on the outside.
Now that I’ve given you an idea on what areas I like to throw shallow crank, let me get to the meat of what I like to throw.
Shallow crankbait gear varies depending on a number of factors. The basic rods and reels don’t deviate from any crank rod you’re accustomed to using but the line does. When I know the fish are eating the crank, I like to have a couple rods rigged with different sized lines – from 12-pound to 20-pound test – in order to have more control over the depth the crank runs.
During the times where the water’s high I use lighter lines, like 12-pound test, in order to get the bait down to the fish. This light line cuts through the water with less resistance thus allowing the bait to dive deeper. On the other hand, when the water is shallow, I throw up to 20-pound test to keep the bait closer to the surface.
As far as baits go, it’s a well-known fact that the Luhr Jensen Speed Trap is money when fished on the Delta. It’s a traditional square-billed bait that not only runs shallow but comes through the weeds and timber well. It also makes a good bit of noise which can be good in the Delta’s dirty waters.
Another bait that I’ve been fishing a lot is a hand-carved wood bait out of North Carolina called the IKON made by Custom Lure Unlimited. This bait, unlike the Speed Trap, is made of wood, has no rattles and has been outperforming the Speed Trap recently. The original IKON is a big bait – 3 inches in length – that moves a lot of water and has a maximum dive depth of 4 feet on 15-pound test. It’s little brother, the IKON m2 is 2-1/2 inches in length.
The unique thing about the IKON is its rolling action. The bait has a wide side-to-side wobble but also rolls as it’s brought back on the retrieve. Also, the fact that this bait has no rattles – something the fish aren’t used to on the Delta with everyone throwing the Speed Trap, makes it a very good bait. Couple those traits with its natural buoyancy and I know this bait will become as popular as the Speed Trap in short order.
Colors for cranks on the Delta are pretty standard. Bright reds like Delta craw and crystal craw are mainstays as is chartreuse and blue or citrus shad. But don’t over look shad patterns like Tennessee shad or chartreuse shad.
Most everyone knows the shallow crank bite on the Delta is always a good bet to catch fish. It’s always been good to me and I hope some of these tips I’ve given help you with your days on the river. Good luck and see you next issue.
Charlie’s accomplishments include: FLW Series,2007 1st Place Columbia River, Kennewick, WA, B.A.S.S. Bassmaster Tour, 2004 1st Place Smith Lake, Jasper, AL, along with several top ten finishes between Bassmaster Elites and FLW Series with over $400,000 in career earnings. He is sponsored by: Triton boats, Mercury outboards, Yamamoto custom baits, Segar, Web Villian.com, EZEE Jigs and Custom lures unlimited.