By Josh Boyd
For many who have stayed abreast of professional bass fishing during the past 30 years, David Fritts is a name that needs no introduction. Fritts, known the bass fishing world over as the “Crankbait Guru”, won the 1993 Bassmaster Classic on Logan Martin Lake in Alabama doing what he does best, cranking for bass.
Fritts, who still fishes professionally today, has amassed a number of the sport’s top honors throughout his prestigious career, most recently being inducted into the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame in 2019. During his professional career, now spanning nearly four decades, Fritts has been cited as the authoritative source on every aspect of crankbait use.
Fritts finds satisfaction not just in running a crankbait as he scales the leaderboard in tournaments every year, but in teaching others how to be effective when using his favorite bass fishing tactic as well.
When approached for advice on fishing his signature Berkley Frittside crankbait, or any of the other crankbaits on today’s market, Fritts enthusiastically shares the following advice.
Feel What Lies Beneath
David Fritts is always quick to emphasize the importance of knowing how a particular crankbait feels when being retrieved, and more specifically knowing what it feels like when various forms of cover or structure are encountered. Fritts feels that this level of feel allows him to adjust his retrieve to coax strikes that might otherwise not materialize.
“Knowing what my bait is doing, and knowing what cover feels like allows me to crawl my bait over it,” says Fritts. “I pause my bait, and slow it down to crawl it over cover.”
But what happens when no structure is encountered, or when fish are suspended off of brush piles or other notable features that an angler would typically run their bait through? Fritts has his own set of guidelines for handling scenarios of this nature as well.
“If I don’t hit anything, or if a fish doesn’t hit my bait, I do nothing but throw it and wind it,” he says.
Draw Reactionary Strikes
At times, try as an angler might, it seems that every bass in a given body of water has fallen victim to a case of lockjaw. Under these circumstances, fishing can be difficult, to say the least, and many anglers pack it in, opting to make an early retreat to the boat ramp.
Although conditions such as a passing cold front or frigid temperatures can stifle active feeding, Fritts says that the right crankbait presentation can still draw reactionary strikes.
“In the wintertime, especially when water temperatures get below 50 degrees, you want to wind it fast enough to make it lively,” says Fritts. “What I do is throw it out, and I’ll wind it up to get it down to where I need the bait to be, then sweep my rod and wind my slack. That way I can keep my bait moving fast, but yet it’s stopping every 6-8 feet,” he continues.
Imitate Distressed Baitfish
Fritts also feels that switching up your retrieve to imitate a dying baitfish is a highly overlooked tactic when attempting to spur on reluctant bass. He reasons that an erratic retrieve triggers an instinctual feeding response in which few fish can look past and that a steady retrieve followed by a period of inactivity can make for a deadly overall presentation.
“It’s like a dying shad. A dying shad will swim a little, then he’ll stop. He might even float up a little, then swim some more and stop,” says Fritts.
The Crankbait: A Tactic for Any Angler
While David Fritts has reached elite status, with a reputation for being one of the greatest bass anglers to ever throw a crankbait, he is always quick to express his thought that anyone can learn to find success with his signature tactic.
Fritts feels that the crankbait is a simple, yet effective means of catching bass, and holds no qualms in citing that as his initial reasoning for gravitating toward crankbait fishing.
“When I was a kid, at a church outing when I was twelve years old, I knew I could throw a crankbait and just wind it back. Sooner or later I was going to catch one. It just seemed easy,” said Fritts.
While catching bass in numbers might be a little more difficult than David Fritts lets on, it is safe to say with a little sound advice, and a healthy dose of perseverance, any angler young or old can learn to find success throwing a crankbait.