Crankbait Guru Russ Lane Reviews His New SPRO Crankbait Series

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Russ Lane

Russ uses the Fat Papa 70 (back) from post-spawn through fall. He uses the Little Papa 55 (front) when the water gets cold during winter through prespawn.

Fat Papa

Note: The Fat Papa 70 is new and available now.

The Spro Fat Papa 70 is a new crankbait for 2012, designed by Bassmaster Elite pro Russ Lane. It will dive from 9 to 12 feet deep depending on line diameter, rod angle and distance cast.

“In  2011, while I was still designing and testing the Fat Papa, I had several top ten finishes on it and I hope to have even more in 2012,” says Russ.

“This is my confidence bait,” he says. “It’s a bait I look forward to throwing right after the spawn’s done. After the water gets up into the 75 degree range and higher, I can find situations to throw this bait straight through the fall.”

The action is pretty extreme on the Fat Papa. It’s definitely a wild action crankbait with a very wide wobble and a big profile, weighing 3/4 oz with #2 Gamakatsu EWG hooks. It’s fatter than most baits and also has a thinner bill than most baits so it cuts through the water a lot quicker. The way the lip is designed, you can reel it extremely fast and that high speed of retrieve is vital to getting fish to react.

In the many big tournaments he’s fished over the years, Russ has seen that, after the first day or two of a tournament, rattles in a crankbait can actually scare fish and it gets tough to get bites on rattling baits on some of the more heavily contested bodies of water.  So Russ made the Fat Papa to be a non-rattling bait.

“Pulling all its design goals together, the Fat Papa has a big profile and can be reeled just as fast as you can with a really wild, erratic action. Not having rattles, it allows that bait to sneak up on wary fish a little bit better. Suddenly, right when it’s in their face is when it gets their attention, and it’s really working hard, really grinding the bottom past them, and they instinctively snap at it with a quick reaction bite,” explains Russ.

Little Papa 55

Note: The Little Papa is new and not yet available.

SPRO Russ Lane Series

The Little Papa is new and not yet available.

Russ designed the Fat Papa for post-spawn, say May or June through November. For the colder half of the year, he and SPRO are coming out with the Little Papa 55 for when the water gets cold in winter right through to prespawn.

“I don’t want to say the Little Papa’s only for early spring and cold water but that’s really what I had in mind with this bait,” says Russ.

The Little Papa 55 has a much tighter wiggling action, full-size Gamakatsu #4 hooks and dives to 8 or even 9 feet on a long cast with a good 10 lb test fluorocarbon. It casts impressively – quite a distance for a small crankbait.

“I wanted the Little Papa to be the next step up amongst crankbaits of this size.  It’s a really good caster. I don’t think there are many other 55mm baits that will reach that 9′ depth and none that cast as well as the Little Papa,” says designer Russ Lane.

Whereas the Fat Papa is silent, Russ added rattles to the Little Papa. “I think you need rattles in cooler water. I don’t know the reason why, but based on experience, I just get a whole lot more bites with rattles in cooler water, and there’s often a correlation with cold water fishing being dirtier water,” admits Russ.

Rattles also help the Little Papa dive deeper and you can throw it a lot further being a small bait. The rattles stay in an internal chamber and being lead, the sound has more of a thud to it.


Russ LaneRuss Lane was going for a little more of a custom-painted look with several of the colors. . Right now, there are eight different colors. Russ says, “They’re all colors that I’ve had success with over the years, so they are already proven colors to me and I feel that most crankbait fishermen will immediately trust them.”

He’s also working on new colors to add to the line, even more custom colors that are fine-tuned to different regions of the country. “It seems like certain colors are more popular in certain areas. Like some of the reds out in California and the natural craws around  the Ozarks. So we’re going to add some of those,” he says.

Rod and Reel

Lane’s convinced that having a really good quality cranking rod with a parabolic bend really helps the action of crankbaits. What Russ uses for all his crankbaits is a new model of Carrot Stix called a Wild Green. It’s 7′ medium heavy composite rod that has some fiberglass and graphite in it.

“These are made of a composite material but the important thing is they have a parabolic bend, which means they bend from the tip all the way to the handle, and that extra bend you get in the bottom section of the rod is vital to hooking and landing fish. Especially when you’re cranking real fast and you’re trying to get those reaction strikes, sometimes those fish just nip or swat at your bait and barely get hooked; you need that parabolic bend to land those fish,” explains Lane.

“On the other end, the rod tip gives a little bit to let your bait have more of a natural action and it also helps land more fish because it gives you that little extra time for the fish to engulf the bait before you feel the bite,” he adds.

He uses a 5:1 Abu Garcia Revo Winch which is a reel designed for cranking and it’s a slow retrieve reel.

Russ Lane’s Steps to Better Cranking

SPRO Russ Lane Series

Fat Papa (top). Little Papa (bottom).

Don’t just crank it. Feed them.  Really pay attention to how the bottom feels, when to stop it, when to speed it up. I am constantly thinking about feeding it to them, if that makes sense. I want to give them exactly what they want to eat, retrieve wise, color wise, angle wise.

Choose a parabolic bend rod.  First, I am a firm believer in rods with parabolic bends and at least some fiberglass in them. Weight-wise (not action-wise), they’re heavier rods bit that’s good because they’ll lay down in your hand. If it is a real light rod, your rod sticks up in the air. So you don’t get as much depth as you do with a heavier rod that naturally lays down in your hand and stays down close to the water. A lot of guys will use graphite or a lighter rod, but they will wear you out because you are pushing down all day to keep that bait deeper all the time. It doesn’t sound like much, but at the end of the day if you are forcing that rod down, it wipes you out.

Sight the rod straight down the line.  Another big thing is, I keep my rod pointed straight at my bait all the time. I’ll always get more bites if my rod is aligned perfectly straight down the line, because when you hit a piece of cover and that rod doesn’t have a bow in it, it will snap that bait off of that cover and it gets reaction strikes. When I hit a piece of cover, there is no more stretch left in my line, there’s no flex in or possible with my rod due to its position, and that bait just explodes off that piece of cover and that’s the key to getting those crankbait bites and getting those reaction strikes. But if my rod’s off to the side when it hits that piece of cover, the rod bows up on it and then it just drags it off the cover soft (or even gets stuck). That’s not right. I want virtually a direct connection from the reel to the bait. It’s like the whole thing is a rubber band and I want it to be totally stretched taut as I’m reeling so when it hits something, it snaps off of there.

Play with your different lines. Play with your fluorocarbons and monofilaments because they all affect how your crankbait runs, depth-wise and action-wise. There are so many different ways that different lines affect the performance of a crankbait. For example. I like to use monofilament if I am cranking standing timber or if I’m throwing a crankbait and ripping it out of deep hydrilla. The reason I use mono there is because you’ll have a bow in your line and when you go to snatch on it, mono has a tendency to snatch that bait up and out of instead of down and into the cover, and that’s going to help you not hang up as much. It’s going to get you a few more reaction bites each day when you snatch it out of there instead of burying it deeper. That’s just an example of changing up monofilament and fluorocarbon.

Change your pound test.  If I want to throw the Fat Papa for example, and I don’t want it to dive but 7-8 feet, I’m probably going to throw it on 14 lb fluorocarbon. That thicker line keeps it up higher in the water column. With thinner line, you gain depth, such as reaching 9-10 feet deep on 12 lb and 11-12 feet deep on 10 lb test with the Fat Papa for example.

So play with those line types and sizes, keep your rod actions in mind, keep your rod pointed directly down your line toward your bait at all times, and if you do those few things, I promise you it will  help make you a better crankbait fisherman.

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Russ Bassdozer (see full bio)

Owner/Angler at Bassdozer Store
Russ Bassdozer dedicates each story he writes to improving the knowledge, enjoyment and success of all anglers worldwide.

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