In the eyes of many, Mississippi pro Paul Elias is the father of the Alabama rig.
But to those who have been around for a few years, the 60-something Elias is best known as the king of kneeling-and-reeling with a deep-diving crankbait.
During an era some three decades ago where the deepest crankbaits only went 12 feet down in the water column, Elias figured out that by kneeling on the front deck of his bass boat, sticking his rod down into the water and then reeling the crankbait back, he could gain an extra two or three feet of depth.
That might not sound like much, but it was just enough to help Elias catch enough bass to win the 1982 Bassmaster Classic by a margin of nearly eight pounds.
What’s more, Elias has used deep cranking prowess to build one of the sport’s greatest resumes with a Bass Fishing Hall of Fame induction, 15 Classic appearances, 50 overall Top 10 finishes and ownership of the all-time heavyweight bag limit in BASS competition.
Elias used deep cranks to establish his all-time winning weight record for a four-day, five-bass tournament when he brought 132 pounds, eight ounces to the scales at the April 2008 Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on Texas’ Falcon Lake.
But it’s often during the sizzling dog days of summertime — even when the thermometer is pushing 100 degrees — that the deep crankbait bite really shines.
Why is that true?
“The crankbait seems to trigger a better response since it is moving through there so quickly and erratically,” said Elias, winner of six BASS events and two FLW events. ”A bass is a mean critter and he may take a swat at it just because it is moving through there.”
To find consistent success when fishing a deep crankbait, Elias recommends a good cranking rod — he uses a nearly eight-foot long rod with a soft tip and bit of backbone about a third of the way down the blank.
As for a reel, Elias uses a rugged baitcasting model. Back in the day, a spool of 20-pound monofilament was the line of choice for most anglers where today, most pros opt for fluorocarbon in the 12 to 15-pound range.
What is the Mississippi pro’s favorite crankbait to throw? Throughout his career, Elias has thrown a Mann’s Deep Diving 20+ — or even today a 30+ — crankbait.
And given his success with those baits, he has little reason to consider changing to something else.
Once the right equipment is in hand, the Hall of Fame bass angler says that a crankbait must be fished correctly, meaning that there is more to it all than just chunking it out and winding it back in really fast.
Instead, Elias wants to find a school holding around offshore structure — sometimes a hump, sometimes a ledge, sometimes a shell bed — and get the bait cast well beyond the structural feature.
Then he wants to get the bait bottoming out and in the strike zone as it arrives at the spot where the fish are congregating.
“You’ve got to treat it like you do shallow water and take the time to cover that bottom like you would if you were fishing shallow water,” said Elias.
It may take a while to get things zeroed in but Elias says that it is almost always worth it because where there’s one offshore bass, such a fish is almost always surrounded by his buddies.
“You’ve (got) to realize that you’re out there hunting schools of fish and you’ll be fortunate to find one (active) school of fish (during the course of a day),” he said.
But when you do find that school of bass ganged up on offshore structure, it might just be the best fish catching day of the year, even as the thermometer pushes triple digits.