Summer crankbait fishing tip: Learn to love ‘tick’ bites

One of my favorite ways to fish is to cover shallow flats by casting crankbaits. And I also have a favorite type of bite that I call the tick bite. It’s subtle and easy to miss, but once you tune in to it… very addicting. I just spent a week fishing most of every day, and although I would usually troll quite a bit, this time I was in the mood to cast so that’s what we did.

Tuning in to the tick

The lures I prefer for this method are actually long, thin minnow-shaped models like the X-Rap and Clackin’ Minnow. If they suspend or slowly float or sink when paused, that’s what you want. The lakes I fish tend to be dominated by northern pike, with bass, walleyes, muskies, and other species in the mix, so I often use a leader to keep pike from stealing my expensive crankbaits.

Use a light leader, so the bait doesn’t sit nose down from the weight of the leader when you pause it in the water. You want that thing to sit horizontally on the pause, like a baitfish does.

Cast out, reel a few cranks, then begin a series of twitches, pops (whatever you can do a million times in the course of an outing) and pauses. The bait behaves erratically, like a real baitfish. It surges forward, appearing to have trouble swimming, then stops. These are signals predator fish know well, and it excites them.

Yes, you will catch fish by reeling the lure in steady, but I have more fun and believe it’s more effective (most days) to build erratic triggering movements into the presentation. And here’s what’s really fun: Many bites come during the pause, and they hardly feel like anything.

Twitch-twitch-twitch, pause – ‘tick’ you feel this slight but sharp sensation. It’s your lure banging into the mouth of a fish. Rear back and the battle is on. Sometimes, the fish overtakes the bait and everything comes toward you and all you notice is slack line. Set the hook.

After a spring of blood-sucking tick bites in the turkey woods, fish tick-strikes are way more fun.

Mark Strand blogs and produces films and audio at

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