There are two categories of subsurface plugs, both have floating or sinking models. The first are diving lures that dive with attached plastic/metal lips or dive based on the lure body design such as cupped, pointed head or a flattened curved forehead, all have a side to side wiggle action as they travel through the water, these are commonly known as crank baits. The second group of plugs refer to the action of the lure provided by the angler in the retrieve. These are classified as gliders, jerk baits and twitch baits, the action of the each lure is achieved through a series of cadence pulls, strong jerks, or short stop and go techniques.
Diving lures will catch fish in any type of water calm or rough any time of the day. In selecting lures with a lip attached to the nose of the lure the angle of lip will determine the running depth of the lure, for instance a deep running lure will have a elongated lip attached approximately 90 degrees horizontal from the nose which acts as a diving plane forcing the lure downward. Mid range divers will have a lip set at a 45 degree angle. Shallow running lures will have lip placed vertically off of the nose creating a water resistance forcing the lure to run shallow.
Diving lures will run at depths from just under the surface at 1 foot to 20 feet or greater. All lure companies provide the running/diving depth of each lure on their box or packaging. It is wise to have a few of each to cover the fishing situations you could encounter. The deep runners are classified as 10 feet plus, mid range 5-10 feet and shallow are 1-3 feet.
Floating Minnow (Crank Baits)
This is the most popular type and the most versatile crank bait lure designed to imitate a thin bodied baitfish. For shallow lures running at 1-3 feet as a floater this will maintain the shallow depth. Anglers who use midrange running lures have a few more options. In casting the angler can pop the lure along the surface or crank it a few feet down to 5 to 8 feet with a straight retrieve. For trolling using a midrange lip off of down rigger or lead core line the lure will maintain the set depth. When casting deep running lures this allows the angler to bounce lures off of deep structure (bottom bouncing) such as rocks or wood with out getting snagged by letting the lure just float up after making contact.
Floating Shad/Perch (Crank baits)
Similar to the floating minnow style with a diving lip. These lures imitate the forage of shad and perch with a wider or fatter body style. Made from balsa wood and hollow plastic with and with out internal chambers filled with shot to produce a loud rattle.
Floating Lipless (Crank Baits)
The series of lures shown above have been made for many years, timed tested and still today catch many fish. The lure body design to dive is based on a cupped, or a flattened curved forehead all have a side to side wobble action as they travel through the water.
Vibrating (Crank baits)
These thin bodied lures do not have a diving lip and are attached to the line with the eye on top of the head, resulting in a tight wiggle. All vibrating lures have internal chambers filled with shot to produce a loud rattle. Most are sinking models but some do float at rest.
Sinking (Crank Baits)
Also known as a countdown this lure is weighted to sink horizontally. When fish suspend over 10 feet at a specific depth the sinking lure is a very good option to use. The angler simply cast the lure and count’s down at a rate of 1 foot per second to the specified depth and retrieves the lure. The sinking lure uses a midrange lip to maintain the depth until the end of the retrieve.
Neutrally Buoyant (Crank Baits)
Also referred as a suspending lure or a jerk bait. The lure is designed using an internal weight system or a weighted tape to achieve neutral buoyancy. The presentation is an erratic jerk pause type of retrieve, when stopped the lure will remain suspended and motionless in the water. Very good lure for finicky fish that follows and don’t bite.
Floating (Trolling Plugs)
These are designed and used primarily for trolling as they are relatively too light to cast. Generally most trolling plugs float at rest and dive based on the flattened forehead that creates a wide erratic wobble through the water. To achieve the depth required for a successful controlled trolling depth anglers use a online diving plane (Dipsey Diver) or attached to an line release on a down rigger.
Floating (Jerk baits)
These are large elongated plugs intended for fishing muskies and pike. They float at rest and dive when given a strong jerk or pull then float upward to the surface. Many have a metal tail that can be bent to change the action and depth setting.
Sinking (Gliders & Twitch)
Gliders and Twitch baits are lipless and sink, the action of each lure is in part provided by the angler. The Twitch bait (Top) is retrieved with a series of short taps of the rod or twitches which gives the lure a erratic motion, up down side to side action. The Glider (Bottom) is retrieved using timed cadence short pulls causing the lure to glide side to side or a underwater walk the dog action creating a dart and flash of the lure.
Freshwater game fish are predatory by nature there also opportunistic and will take advantage of any food source presented to them to fill their feeding needs. Other than baitfish they will also feed on crawfish, frogs, water snakes, swimming rodents, amphibians and insects. The above photo shows lures that imitate each type.
Crankbaits are available in a spectrum of colors and finishes, painted, foil, chrome, prism, glass, photo and holographic finishes. In building your lure assortment the best is to mimic the dominant forage in the waters your fishing. Here’s a simple guideline of basic successful colors:
Open Water Suspended Forage: Shad, Shiners, Ciscoes, Alewives, Smelt
Black, Green, Blue, Purple top with Silver sides
Black top with White sides
All Silver Chrome or White
Structure Orientated Forage: Perch, Suckers, Crawfish, Minnows
Black top with Gold sides (Sucker)
Black top with Silver sides (Minnow)
Black top with Orange sides (Perch-Crawfish)
Black top with Green sides with Bars (Perch)
Brown top Orange or Red sides (Crawfish)
For dark, stained or muddy waters the hot colors work effective, here’s a few top producers.
Dark Green top Chartreuse sides orange belly ( Fire tiger )
Blue top Chartreuse sides orange belly ( Parrot )
Orange top & sides Chartreuse belly (Hot Tiger )
Red Head Chartreuse Body ( Clown )