Finding the Right Lure Retrieval Speed

Steve Rogers shares how he learned to dial into the right speed for lure retrieval. It takes practice!

I get asked all the time: “How do you know when you’re fishing a crankbait
too quickly or too slowly? What’s a good rule of thumb?”

I was taught many years ago by a veteran angler: when fishing crankbaits, you know you’re dialed in pretty well when you’re getting the most action or vibration out of the bait. 

If you’re reeling too slowly, your rod tip will only move slightly. If you’re reeling too quickly, same thing, your rod tip will only move a little bit. 

When you’re reeling just right, your rod tip is going to have the most action on it and the bait will be getting the most wobble beneath the water.

This tip has been a great starting place for me for years. But you want to experiment with speed.

There are oftentimes you could bring baits through the water column much quicker than you’d expect. Bass aren’t always in an aggressive feeding situation. You need to get reaction strikes and trigger their instincts. Lure speed is a great way to do that.

Bait fish like minnows and blue gills are fast when they’re getting chased by a predator fish. This fleeing bait fish action triggers the instincts of predators. They cannot help themselves when they see that action. It screams “Meal!” to them. Lure speed can trigger that.

I was just on the upper Mississippi, and the fish were hammering the KVD 1.5. I was on a particular stretch that had a lot of rip rap coming into the water, and the fish were biting on a regular basis but they weren’t huge. I wanted to get more of the better smallmouth that I knew where there. I took the bait and retrieved it parallel to the rip rap as fast as I could crank it. 

The results were immediate. On the very next cast, a smallmouth absolutely crushed it. Before that, the bites had been more hesitant. As soon as I increased lure retrieval speed, the smallmouth hammered it. And not only that, but the size of the fish increased as well; I went from bites from one-pounders to three-pounders. Experimenting pays off.

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