Russ Lane reviews his SPRO Crankbait Series

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Russ Lane reviews his SPRO Crankbait Series

Lane designed the Fat Papa 70 (back) mainly for post-spawn through fall, and the Fat Papa 55 (front) for when the water’s colder (winter through prespawn).

Fat Papa 70

The Spro Fat Papa 70, designed by Bassmaster Elite and PAA pro Russ Lane, will dive from 9 to 12 feet deep depending on line diameter, rod angle and distance cast.

Lane says, “This is my confidence bait. I have had several top ten finishes using the Fat Papa 70 and I hope to have even more success using it in upcoming events. 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 from postspawn 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, the Fat Papa 70 is fatter than most other crankbaits – and also has a thinner bill than most baits so it cuts through the water a lot quicker. The way the lip is designed so thin, you can reel it extremely fast. Lane emphasizes, “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. For that reason, Lane made the Fat Papa to be a silent, non-rattling bait.

“Pulling all my design goals together, I wanted the Fat Papa to have a big profile and I wanted it to be reeled just as fast as you can with a really wild, erratic action. Not having rattles allows this 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, fleeing past them, and they instinctively snap at it with a quick reaction bite,” explains Russ.

Fat Papa 55

Russ Lane reviews his SPRO Crankbait Series

Fat Papa 55

Russ designed the Fat Papa 70 for post-spawn (say May or June) through November. For the colder half of the year, he designed the Fat Papa 55 for when the water gets cold in winter right through to prespawn.

“I don’t want to say the Fat Papa 55 is only for early spring and cold water but that’s really what I had in mind with this bait,” says Lane.

The Fat Papa 55 has a much tighter wiggling action (than the Fat Papa 70), full-size Gamakatsu #4 hooks and dives to 8 or even 9 feet deep on a long cast with a good 10 lb test fluorocarbon. It casts impressively far – quite a distance for such a small crankbait.

“I wanted the Fat Papa 55 to be the next step up amongst crankbaits of its 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 Fat Papa 55,” says the Alabama pro.

Whereas the Fat Papa 70 is silent, Lane added rattles to the Fat Papa 55. He believes, “”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 too.”

Rattles also add ballast that helps the Fat Papa 55 dive deeper and the rattles help you throw it a lot further being a small bait. The rattles stay in an internal chamber and being lead, the sound has a little softer thud versus hard tungsten, brass or stainless bearings.”


Russ Lane reviews his SPRO Crankbait Series

Lane has added unique custom colors to his Fat Papa series.

Russ Lane was going for a little more of a custom-painted look with several of the colors in his crankbait series. “Some of the unique ones are 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 gain trust in them.”

Other colors that Lane has added to his crankbait line are custom-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 I’ve added some of those regional favorites too,” he says.

Rod and Reel

Lane’s convinced that having a really good quality cranking rod really helps the action of crankbaits. “A good cranking stick has that extra bend you get in the bottom section of the rod that 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 extra bend to land those fish,” explains Lane. “On the other end, the rod tip needs to give 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.”

Russ Lane reviews his SPRO Crankbait SeriesThe two rods that Lane likes to use when throwing his SPRO crankbaits are:

► Fat Papa 70 – “For this I use a Castaway Rods Composite Cranking rod. It is a 7’0” composite (graphite and fiberglass blend) that has a good backbone down between the first guide and the reel seat section down toward the handle – but with a really limber tip that helps you throw the Fat Papa 70 a long, long distance. The tip is also soft enough tip that a fish is able to inhale that bait when it bites, and the tip works swell for fighting fish and keeping them pinned to the crankbait also.

► Fat Papa 55 – “For this, you need a little lighter action rod, and this one’s called the Castaway Skeleton Cranking rod. It too is a 7’0” but with more of a medium type action and with a parabolic bend. What that means is it bends all the way through the rod from the tip down to the handle. That means you have got an extra amount of time for a fish to inhale the bait when it bites and more importantly, when you are fighting the fish, this rod is very soft and forgiving so that the smaller #4 treble hooks on the Fat Papa 55 do not pull out.

He uses a 5:1 Shimano reel which is designed for cranking. Lane feels a slow retrieve reel simply gives him more winching power.

Russ Lane’s Five Steps to Better Cranking

#1 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.”

#2 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 but 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.”

Russ Lane reviews his SPRO Crankbait Series#3 Sight the rod straight down the line – “Another big thing is that 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, bends and then it just drags it off the cover softly (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.”

► #4 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 to 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 between monofilament and fluorocarbon.”

#5 Change your pound test – “Say 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 getting 11-12 feet deep on 10 lb test with the Fat Papa.”

“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.”

Russ Bassdozer

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