Tune Your Crankbait Program

Dupe more walleyes by ensuring your cranks run true.

One thing you can do to immediately make yourself a more productive angler is regularly check and tune your lures. Not many aspects of fishing have such a short learning curve and can instantly improve your results.

Identify The Problem
In my years on the water, I’ve seen many things that make me chuckle. One of the most frequent is when a large charter boat trolls past, with a half-dozen lures skipping across the surface because they weren’t tuned properly.

In extreme cases, a foul-running lure can tangle an adjacent line, especially when lures are running at similar depths. A crank that’s slightly out of tune might not cause that headache, but it won’t catch fish either.

This is a big problem, in my opinion. The error causes anglers to blame or change other factors, such as running depth, speed or possibly even location, when the real issue is the lure itself. In many cases it’s simply because the bait isn’t running at the level you think it is. The “kite effect” occurs when the lure glides slightly left and right causing the depth and action to vary.

Action vs. Tuning
Erratic action is often good and shouldn’t be confused with a poorly tuned crankbait. Those with a drop-tail, such as a Reef Runner, tend to “hunt”, occasionally kicking out to the side. Because of that you need to take an extra few seconds to check the action before rushing a line back out. You don’t want a lure that runs okay at best; you want it “super tuned”.

It can be easily accomplished by dropping the lure over the side of the boat with a rod’s length of line out. Dirty water might require less line so you can actually see the lure. Simply pull the crank forward a few times to determine consistency. I like to test the lure on both sides of the boat to eliminate any factors the boat may create.


Before deploying any crankbait, run it alongside the boat to make sure it tracks true.

Super Tuned
A “super tuned” crankbait will pull straight down like it has a bowling ball attached to it. The correct action can be acquired by using a pair of needle-nose pliers. Grip lure’s line-tie—not the split ring—and apply gentle pressure away from the side on which it is kicking out. Don’t over adjust; less is more in this case.

Following each catch, take a few seconds to recheck how the lure runs. Funny things tend to happen to baits during the battle, or once the fish is in the net.


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