Spring brookies love the crank
Although they have been popularized largely by bass and walleye anglers, the crankbait is also a great brook trout lure.
A crankbait is a lure that looks and acts like baitfish. The traditional minnow shaped floating Rapala was one of the very first crankbaits and it remains a good lure to this day. Crankbaits catch brook trout because they look like minnows. Brook trout, especially large ones, love to eat little fish. Speckled trout have a special fondness for stickleback, but will eat dace, shiners, suckers, darters, sculpin and smelt with relish. Brook trout are also not shy about grabbing big mouthfuls of minnow meat when the opportunity arises. I’ve caught brookies with several herring in their bellies that measured up to 8 inches!
There are many crankbaits that will catch a brook trout, but some have really stood the test of time. For the past decade, I’ve always made sure there are selections of Countdown Rapalas in my box. These lures have many virtues. You can toss even a small Countdown almost as far as you can a similar sized spoon. The Countdown Rapala also has one of the most subtle swimming actions of all minnow shaped crank baits. This makes it a great bait for twitching. To twitch a bait, you cast it out, then retrieve it erratically with downward pops on your rod tip. The Countdown rolls and jerks quite attractively when fished this way. Finally, the Countdown is a sinking lure and that helps to get the lure down in the face of big brookies.
The name Countdown comes from the technique anglers use to figure out how deep the lure will sink. When you cast a Countdown Rapala out, and it hits the water, start counting. Each number you count should equal about a foot of depth. So if you cast, count to ten and start reeling, your Countdown should be in ten feet of water. The Countdown also trolls very well, especially in fast current. I’d really recommend using a single snap clip like Berkley Cross-Lok when using these lures, as it allows the lure to swim with all its potential action.
There are a couple of other spec cranks that are worth seeking out as well. The Rapala Husky Jerk is a fine lure, and is great when trout are super active and up shallow. I’ve caught some very nice specs on the Husky Jerk, and especially like it for trolling out of a canoe or small boat. It is a big fish catcher. You can give the Husky Jerk a snap, let it sit for a bit, and then give it another snap. Trout often hit the Husky Jerk as it is sitting still between snaps. The Smithwick Rogue, like the Husky Jerk, is suspending jerk bait that will catch trout pretty consistently.
For trolling, and in areas where the trout are hanging deeper, medium diving cranks like the Shad Rap or Fat Rap do the trick. I’m especially fond of the #7 Shad Rap. It’s been a very consistent brook trout catcher. Keep in mind that almost every crankbait made will catch a brook trout in the right conditions, so don’t be afraid to experiment.
When fishing for brookies in the spring, cast crankbaits close to shore and work them back methodically. When the water is cold, trout are not moving quickly. Don’t make them work too hard for the bait. Regarding colour, I like either very hot and bright, or very natural. Firetiger, Fire Minnow, chartreuse and red/orange (crawfish) are a couple brookie colour favourites.
On the flip side, silver & black, gold & black, European Minnow, and glass/white are great when the fish want something a bit more realistic. One little trick I do to my natural baits is to add a splash of red to the gill area, and back near the tail hook. There is something about red & orange that triggers brookies to bite.
Buy some hobby paint and try a little customizing for yourself. Spring is a key time for brook trout. Try out a crankbait once the ice is gone this season. I think you’ll be surprised and pleased at just how well cranks work on brook trout.