Crankin' the Deep
Photo and story by Lynn Burkhead
While Lake Amistad guide James Burkeen has tackle bags full of different baits, he admits that when it comes to his home water, there is nothing that he likes better than tossing a deep-diving crankbait.
Especially across a good main-lake point on the big southwest Texas reservoir where bass are taking a number to stack up on.
How does he fish big bass holding points?
"When I come up to a point, especially if I have a deep edge on it, I'll start on one side of it and crank across it," said Burkeen, owner of Amistad Bassin' Adventures (830-734-9652).
"If I don't catch anything (after doing that), I'll back off to the front of the point and make sure that I fan cast it in all directions trying to locate what part of the point those fish are actually on."
When he finds that information out, Burkeen then tries to position his boat so that he's casting out into deeper water and retrieving his crankbait up shallow.
"For whatever reason, I tend to catch more fish that way here," he said.
While the wind can certainly blow in the desert country of southwest Texas, that's not a bad thing most days according to Burkeen.
"I have found that in the more fishable wind in the 10-15 mph range, the bite is actually a lot better," he said. "Especially wind that is blowing into a point."
In addition to positioning himself properly, Burkeen endeavors to make sure that he is scratching up his lures pretty good as he fishes a crankbait along a rocky point's bottom.
"I'm making sure that I'm making contact with the bottom," he said. "If I'm fishing over trees or hydrilla (instead of a rocky bottom), I make sure that I reel just fast enough to tick the top of that without getting hung up in it."
When fishing a deep plug, Burkeen uses a high-speed reel, a Power Tackle PTC-70 cranking rod, and 10-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon line. That combination enables him to hit maximum depths on the deep lake with his Strike King Series 5 and Series 6 deep-diving crankbaits.
He'll also vary the speed of his retrieve with those baits - including fast speeds, slow speeds, erratic retrieves, stop-and-go motions, etc. - until he finds what the fish are looking for on any given day.
No matter what, Burkeen says that he is persistent with the deep crank on Amistad.
"It's nothing to cast across (a) point 20 or more times," said Burkeen, who guides out of Byron Velvick's Amistad Lake Resort (www.amistadlakeresort.com ; 1-800-775-8591).
He's also persistent at trying multiple points on a lake that is full of them.
"I'm not afraid to change or move around," said Burkeen. "I'll always start with a crank but I'll try a lot of different depths in a lot of different areas until I find something that works."
Sometimes, that something that works looks strangely like a lot of other something's that didn't work for whatever reason.
"What I've noticed on this lake is that I may come across two or three points that are identical and I never get a bite on them," said Burkeen. "Then I come across a point and it looks identical to the others but (for some reason) I hit the mother lode on it."
What about deep crankbait colors at Amistad?
Because of the forage base - threadfin shad, gizzard shad and tilapia - Burkeen sticks with lure hues that mimic those baitfish.
"I constantly change colors but I do like staying with natural colors to reflect the baitfish in the water," he said. "Here, I'm fishing light colors. (Down the Rio Grande) at Falcon, I'll do the exact opposite. I may throw a Sexy Shad here but most of the time I'm going to throw a red or darker color (at Falcon)."
A final part of Burkeen's crankbait technique at Amistad is to use a small piece of terminal tackle that many other anglers skip over.
"I use a snap," said Burkeen. "A lot of people don't care for them, but a long time ago when I was young and just learning, I fished with a guide on Lake Fork. He used them and it just became a habit for me.
"I think it gives the bait a little more action plus it gives me the ability to switch baits very quickly without having 10 rods on my deck taking up space."
Why does Burkeen love fishing deep cranks so much on Amistad?
Magical days of bass fishing for good numbers of hard fighting, beautiful, stocky Amistad bass, something that Burkeen has enjoyed with his clients on many, many occasions.
"You've got to experiment and cover water fishing crankbaits on Amistad," said Burkeen. "There are days when they will not touch the crankbaits here.
"But the majority of the days, they are going to work."
And when they do, you'll understand why Amistad is such a wonderful and magical place to go big bass fishing.