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Cranking Great Lakes Smallmouth in Heavy Wind with KVD

Most anglers stay home when the wind blows on the Great Lakes, but not Kevin VanDam. He heads out into the wind and waves with a crankbait in hand. In this informative video, KVD discusses the power of fishing crankbaits in windy conditions, specifically for Great Lakes smallmouth bass (works on other natural lakes, too). He details how to power fish crankbaits suspended in the water column to trigger big bass and shares some supporting boat control tips to keep your boat in prime position.

TACKLED & MISC. USED (retail links)

*Electronics and boat setup listed at the bottom. 


Blowing wind and big waves make using light-line finesse techniques extremely challenging. Feeling subtle bites is difficult with your bow bouncing and line bowing in the wind. KVD highlights how the wind and waves set the stage for power fishing crankbaits. Unique to northern smallmouth fisheries, he stresses you don’t want the bait to hit the bottom – a method unlike traditional crankbait fishing. On the other hand, speed is the trigger, not bottom deflections. While the fish are near the bottom, they commonly prefer feeding up on a jerkbait or crankbait. Reel it fast, make it erratic, and be prepared for some bone-jarring bites.


Speed-cranking big smallmouth isn’t for the faint-hearted. KVD stresses the need for a powerful all-around cranking setup. He uses his signature medium-heavy composite cranking rod to make long casts, drive hooks home on the set, and keep the bass buttoned with its moderate taper. Similarly, he upsizes his line to a 17-pound fluorocarbon, which, in addition to greater strength, helps reduce crankbait running depth thanks to its increased diameter. Again, the goal is to choose a crankbait and line that keeps the bait above the fish.


Crankbait fishing is all about strategy. KVD offers insights on using electronics to find irregularities on the bottom. Start by inspecting your map for structural changes. KVD then employs his 360 and forward-facing sonar to define the bottom composition and actual fish. A powerful trolling motor is a must for commanding the waves. Rather than plowing into the wind, he uses his Minn Kota Ultrex QUEST Drift Mode function to make controlled drifts with the wind. Drifting with the wind conserves battery power while allowing him to make long downwind casts. He varies his crankbait retrieve by mixing in some starts, stops, and jerks — the added erraticism can be a trigger.


Just because the weather is harsh for us doesn’t mean it is for the fish. VanDam demonstrates that you can turn fowl weather into some of your best fish-catching days with the proper techniques and equipment. The mental fortitude, well, that’s for you to assess and work on. Head for the lake and try power fishing crankbaits the next time the wind blows.