Cold Water Cranking

5 Cold Water Cranking Questions with Kevin VanDam

Featured Image Credit: Alan McGuckin of Major League Fishing

Wondering how the pros use their crankbaits when the water gets cold? Well, I was curious too, so I caught up with Kevin VanDam to ask him. Here’s my top 5 questions and what he told me.

How deep do you fish a crankbait in cold, muddy water with current? 

“When the water gets muddy, fish go shallow. That’s what I look for. You can throw up in 2-feet of water and they’re there. Especially when they’re running a lot of water. It’s not like the water is warmer out deeper or anything like that.”

“I’ve caught them super shallow at times in river situations when it’s cold. They get right up against the bank to get out of the current. But I have caught fish 10-feet deep too. It’s all about finding that spot where they can setup close to current but not be in the current, where there’s going to be food coming by them and they can ambush it as it’s rolling by. It’s more about the structural element than it is anything else in that situation.”

Do you pay attention to how the hooks are oriented when you change hooks on a crankbait? 

“With fussy baits like the Lucky Shad you want to make sure the hooks are laying up against the bait without the split ring twisted. The bait should lay in the V of two of the hooks with the third hook of the treble pointed down.”

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Do you use slower gear ratio reels? 

“For me, personally, I would over fish the bait if I threw it on a 6.5:1 or something like that. A reel in the 5:1 range is ideal for me. It just helps force me to slow down a bit. I like something that takes in about 24-inches per turn when you crank it. And I’ve always used a reel with a larger spool for cranking just to get the extra distance on the cast.”

What type of rod do you prefer? 

“I throw a composite rod for cranking. I’ve used straight fiberglass before and I’ve tried graphite. Graphite rods are not very forgiving when it comes to cold water fish, especially when landing them. So it’s very important to me to have that perfect balance between the two.” 

“The way composite rods load and unload, you can actually throw them a lot farther. And their softer action allows the bait to deflect off cover better. When the bait hits the cover, the rod doesn’t immediately snap back like a granite rod does. So you’re not getting hung up as much and the fish gets the bait deeper.”

“Having a rod that’s comfortable to throw is also important, especially in freezing conditions. And you certainly don’t want micro guides or anything like that because they’re going to freeze up fast.”

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When do you use the bigger 4.0 and 8.0 squarebills? 

“The big baits are basically when you’re looking for a big profile offering, typically in places that have a lot of big fish or in warmer water scenarios. Places where the bass target gizzard shad and big bluegills, that’s when I use the big 8.0 and the 4.0.”

“Early in the fall is the time when a big squarebill is good. If you think about it, the foliage is at its biggest in the fall. It’s had all season to grow. But I don’t use bigger baits a lot in the winter time.”

This article was contributed by an ANGLR Expert

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Shaye Baker


Shaye Baker started fishing with his dad in Alabama as soon as they could find a life jacket small enough to fit him. Competing with his father in local tournaments, Shaye quickly found a hunger for competitive bass fishing. He furthered his fishing career at Auburn University helping to establish the Auburn University Bass Fishing Club. While at Auburn, Shaye served as the President of the club and qualified to fish on the traveling team amassing six Top 5 finishes including two 3rd place finishes in consecutive FLW College Fishing National Championships. While beginning to dabble in the world of outdoor journalism, Shaye continued to fish semi-pro events finishing in the Top 5 in the Bassmaster Opens, FLW Costa Series and BFLs. Finding himself at a crossroads, Shaye chose to put down the rod and pick up the pen and camera to focus on his career in outdoor journalism. Shaye has had work featured in Bassmaster Magazine, FLW Outdoors Magazine, B.A.S.S.Times and the Japanese bass fishing magazine Basser. Shaye has also had work featured on ESPN and, and While working with B.A.S.S., Shaye initiated and spearheaded their GoPro division which brought more video coverage to the fans than had ever been done before in competitive fishing. After his tenure with some of the best companies in the business, Shaye identified a need for competitive fishing where participation didn’t cost a fortune. By founding UPLOADED, the Online Fishing Series, Shaye established a free tournament series where anglers could film their fish catches and upload their videos to compete against other anglers for prizes.

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