Tuning a crankbait is a simple process that every angler who uses artificial lures should learn how to do. There are only a couple of steps, and it generally only takes about a minute. Skip the tuning, however, and you might be missing out on putting more fish in the boat.
What is Tuning?
Crankbaits are designed with a careful balance of body profile, dive lip shape and angle, weighting, and pull point. The pull point is the eye on the nose or bill of the crankbait, and it can occasionally get knocked out of alignment while fighting a fish, if the lure bounces off something hard like a dock post or after it repeatedly bangs into rocks while fishing. Misalignment typically causes the crankbait to run off to the side the next time it’s trolled or retrieved. Tuning brings the eye back into alignment so the crankbait will dive straight down and run true, allowing it to reach its maximum depth and produce its original fish-catching action.
Why Tuning Matters
Tuning is important for a couple of reasons. First, if you’re trolling with a crankbait that’s well out of tune, the lure could swim far enough out to the side to tangle with other crankbaits that you’re trolling. Second, if you’re trying to hit a specific depth while trolling – whether targeting suspended fish or trying to reach bottom – being out of tune will keep the crankbait from diving accurately to that depth, and it will keep it from reaching its max depth.
The same factors are in play for casting situations. A deep-diving bass crankbait might miss the intended target if not in tune. In shallower applications, a properly tuned crankbait will quickly right itself after deflecting off a stump or other piece of cover, while a crankbait that’s out of tune could roll or “blow out” after contact and ruin the presentation.
The Tuning Process
Here’s the good part: To tune a crankbait, all you need is a set of needle-nose pliers. Here are the steps:
1. Check the tuning – First, determine how the crankbait is running. Pitch it out a few feet from the boat and wind it back quickly, or drop it in the water beside the boat and pull it along the gunwale. If the crankbait runs straight, it’s in tune. If it veers to one side, it’s not. Be aware that some crankbaits are designed to “hunt,” meaning they erratically swim side-to-side in addition to the standard crankbait wobble. If your crankbait is designed to hunt, give it a little extra space while checking the tuning to see if it generally follows a straight course even while tracking back and forth.
2. Gently adjust the eye – If your crankbait is out of tune, you can bring it back to center by gently tweaking the eye in the direction you want the crankbait to go. If it’s running to the right, tweak the eye to the left. If it’s running to the left, tweak the eye to the right. DO NOT apply heavy pressure when making this adjustment. And DO NOT clamp down hard on the eye with the pliers. Open the plier jaws, put one jaw on the side of the crankbait’s bill and the other jaw on the side of the eye. Then gently squeeze to move the eye ever so slightly in the correct direction. You can see this process in the video below, along with tuning advice from Tommy Kemos, a veteran professional walleye angler and one of the hosts of “The Next Bite TV.”
3. Test and adjust again if needed – Check the crankbait to see if it’s running straight. If not, make additional micro-adjustments until you get it just right. The lure should track straight back to you, no matter how fast or slow you retrieve it.
Catch, Check and Repeat
Check your crankbait every so often while fishing, especially after landing a hard-fighting fish, or anytime the crankbait gets snagged or makes hard contact with an object. A couple of minor adjustments will usually get it running true again and will have your crankbait right back in the strike zone, so you can catch more fish.