There were many reasons for the design of the original DepthRaider, but none as simple as wanting to get a lure down to that special depth zone few conventional musky lures reach. This depth zone is not necessarily that deep. It’s just a tad deeper than the rest of the lures go. To be specific, the 7 to 12 foot range is virtually untouched. Anything deeper than this is completely untapped. Most conventional musky anglers still don’t even attempt to run a bait thru this zone.
Whether an angler casts or trolls a crankbait like the DepthRaider over a spot strictly depends upon the situation at hand. Casting works best over depths of less than 12 feet and bottom topographies that contain a lot of trashy cover such as weeds or wood. Trolling excels in most deep water applications including bouncing clean, hard bottom areas and straining open water for suspended fish. I suggest you take the time to understand the limitations and applications of both casting and trolling crankbaits, and then make it your goal to master both techniques.
The specific technique of bottom bouncing, both in a casting and trolling application, is truly one of the best ways to improve your angling skills and learn the water more intimately. The knowledge you’ll obtain from even one single day of serious bottom bouncing is sure to pay big dividends down the road. It’s a tactic I learned at a very young age, back in the late 1960’s while following the teachings of Buck Perry, and it continues to serve me well decades later.
Bottom bouncing a crankbait places a high degree of emphasis on making the lure collide with something. It matters little whether this “something” is weeds, wood, rocks, gravel, sand, or silt until fish contact is made. Once a fish is caught off a specific type of cover or bottom substrate, more emphasis should then be placed on making your crankbait collide with that cover or bottom type as much as possible. No other big gamefish style crankbait comes close to holding up to the constant collision with rocks and other submerged debris quite like the original DepthRaider series. That’s what this bait was made to do. Here’s a few more things you need to know.
Crankin’ Tackle Matchups
My favorite tackle setup for DepthRaiding includes an extra long 7 ½ to 8 ½ foot medium heavy action baitcaster like St. Croix’s Legend Tournament Musky matched with a low-geared baitcaster like the Abu Garcia Revo Toro Winch 60 and a responsive low-stretch line such as Stren Sonic Braid of varying diameters depending upon how deep I need the crankbait to run. For shallow weed lines and stained lakes, I prefer 80 # braid. It keeps the “DR” tracking the 5 to 8 foot range. When the water is clear and more depth is needed, a reel loaded with thinner gauge 50 or 65 # is a better choice.
I like the longer rod for bombing baits a long distance, which can be a key part of this technique when you need to reach greater depth. The long rod also helps me keep big fish hooked on crankbaits that hit from long distances or great depths. But most of all, I like the longer rod for this style of fishing because it substantially lowers the pivot point from which your retrieve begins. In other words, your rod tip will be at a much lower position with a longer rod than with a short one. This adds more running depth to the lure. It also aids in performing good figure 8s with the lure at boatside. Once mastered, you might catch better than 50% of your fish this way – on the figure 8 – right at boatside.
Casting The DR
First, make a long cast in a specific direction noting where the lure lands so you can adjust your cast placement on the next pitch. Next, point your rod tip low and begin cranking hard in order to drive the lure quickly toward the bottom. Once the lure hits bottom, immediately back off on the retrieve speed. The ideal speed here is one that allows the lure to continue to tick bottom, but under a slower controlled speed. If no bottom contact is made, keep the speed “hot” – fast.
The slower controlled speed, once bottom contact is made, usually results in far less hangups than a faster one. Excessive high speed bottom bouncing tends to jam a lure in rock crevices or under logs and brush. It doesn’t allow the lure a chance to back itself out of any snag up before it’s driven hopelessly head-on into a snag. Too much speed on a bottom bouncing crankbait has the same effect as an automobile that’s driven too fast on a narrow winding road with heavily wooded surroundings. There’s simply no room for error and not enough recovery time. Understanding what “controlled speed” is a fundamental basic to good crankin’ form.
This doesn’t necessarily mean “slow”, as much as it means “controlled”. The right speed enables the angler to control the bump & rise action of the lure better as it careens off of various obstructions. Far less crevice jamming occurs as a result. This slightly slower bottom bouncing approach usually triggers more fish, as well. Perhaps excessive speeds here are simply unnecessary as a triggering mechanism when the lure is bouncing and ticking bottom. In any case, the fish definitely has more time to check the bait out when it’s traveling slowly.
However, if no bottom contact or cover collision is made, keep the speed “hot”. This means fast. A “hot” retrieve will maintain good lure depth and strain clean, open water quickly. I don’t believe it is productive, in most cases, to drop off on retrieve speed with a free running bait. The only time you should consider a drop in speed is once the lure collides with cover or bottom.
Study The “Vibe”
Always concentrate on crankbait vibration. The best crankbait fishermen I know constantly study the “vibe” of their lure as it is retrieved. A DepthRaider has a very distinct vibe, in this respect. Any time it feels like the lure has lost its “vibe”, it probably has collected a few “clinger” weeds, leaves, sticks, or some other bottom debris around the diving lip area. Simply let the bait float up a bit with a touch of slack line followed by a sharp rip forward on the rod tip. Usually this action cleans the bait and returns that true vibe.
The sharp rip, used to clean debris from the bait, also provides a great fish triggering opportunity. In fact, you’ll find that the majority of your strikes occur either when the lure is ticking bottom or when you’re ripping it to clean. A good number of strikes also seem to occur just as the DepthRaider clears bouncing bottom, and starts traveling over a deeper section of open water. Very few strikes occur when the lure is freely traveling over open water unless you are doing nothing but open water trolling for suspended fish.
Trolling DepthRaiders Is An Art Form
Trolling DepthRaiders along deep breaks is an art form as well as a science. It should never be confused with open water board trolling. The later is easy. Bottom bounce trolling is precise and demanding. It is truly one of the top techniques in all of fishing because it is so effective at covering depths as well as teaching the angler about the lake’s topography.
Few other methods can rival motor trolling with DepthRaiders. It’s the best way I know to cover lots of deep water quickly and efficiently. Plainly put, if you want to really learn water as well as fish at depths beneath the level of the norm, then take the time to master bottom bounce trolling. It’s a truly awesome technique and it finds the big fish not catchable with a casting technique. When big fish are below the casting range, 12 feet and deeper, trolling DepthRaiders is the way to go.
While your favorite casting outfit will suffice as a trolling setup, The ultimate rod & reel matchup for bottom bounce trolling is an extra long rod of at least 8 feet in length, coupled with a metered line-counter reel like the Abu Garcia LC6500 series. Line distance from rod tip to crankbait can greatly influence running depth. With a metered line-counter reel you can easily make adjustments on your reel to hit precise depths. As you feed line out in 5 to 10 foot increments, watch your rod tip respond. As soon as the crankbait starts to tick bottom note the number on your line-counter. Anytime a fish hits make it a priority to look first at the LC #. This makes it easy to get that lure right back to precisely the right depth again.
Anyone who’s spent anytime trolling like this knows it takes a great deal of concentration. You not only need to worry about precision boat control, but you also need to be in constant study of your lure. While trolling open water admittedly can be monotonous, bottom bouncing is never boring. It simply takes too much concentration and effort. Working the boat correctly is only one part of the equation. Making sure your lure is performing properly at all times is yet another. This is precision trolling in every sense. A fish catching system that began with the legendary Buck Perry, yet is only practiced by a select few today. If you truly want to learn more about the underwater topography in your favorite lakes, plus catch more big fish from deep water, take the time to master deep bottom bouncing. It’s one deadly way to catch some of the biggest fish that swim in any lake, river or reservoir system.