Outfit Matches & Misfits – crankbait reels

Outfit Matches & Misfits – crankbait reels

Jun 22, 2012

KVD: The Real Deal on Crankbait Reels

By Mike Pehanich

Up until a few years ago, most fishermen built their “dream” tackle combinations around the reel.

That has changed a bit in recent years with the burgeoning of “technique-specific” rods and the proliferation of fluorocarbon and superlines – both of which have had a dramatic impact on on-the-water performance.

See exclusive SWF video with Kevin VanDam on this post!

Kevin VanDam has made millions of dollars in tournament winnings through crankbait fishing — and has made a science of its study!

In my discussions with top pros and industry experts on crankbait tackle for the Outfit Matches & Misfits series, rods have captured the most attention, to be sure. And the more you dig into crankbait fishing and all the nuances of lure and conditions, the more adjustments in line and rod you find the experts making.

But let’s not forget the reel!

It’s the workhorse, the engine under the hood that keeps the whole cranking operation going!

In fact, no style of freshwater fishing this side of musky fishing punishes a reel more than crankbait fishing.

KVD gets “reel”

I fished with and interviewed Kevin VanDam for the Outfit Matches & Misfits series on Table Rock Lake days before practice began for the 2012 Bassmaster Elite event on Bull Shoals Lake.

As the best bass fisherman on the planet, KVD relies heavily on crankbaits to find fish quickly and get those “money” fish to strike.

This man has literally won millions of dollars with a crankbait, and every attribute of every component of his tackle undergoes thorough examination and analysis.

What Kevin had to say was interesting not merely with regard to the type of reel he uses but why he chooses it.

His reel of choice at the moment is a reel of his own design for Zebco’s Quantum division – the Quantum PT KVD Tour Edition Crankin’ Classic Reel with a 5.3:1 gear ratio. So far, so good…a low gear ratio reel for cranking…

Nothing out of the ordinary there…lots of pros say that a lower gear ratio reel compels them to slow down and fish their crankbait more effectively…except…

Nothing in KVD’s nature says “slow!” On Table Rock, we cranked broad expanses of water with varying retrieves and speeds. But I don’t think I saw him retrieve at a speed that I would call “slow” for more than seconds even though we guessed that some of the fish that hit our crankbaits were on spawning beds.

KVD talks crankbait reel and retrieve in this exclusive SWF video!

Now Kevin VanDam will do whatever it takes to catch a bass, even “deadstick” a plastic, if necessary. But the idea of KVD adopting equipment that would inherently slow his “giddyup” when the bass might call for a fast retrieve or when he needs to cover big expanses of water quickly to find fish didn’t quite compute.

What KVD wants in his crankin’ reel is:

KVD designed the Tour KVD Crankin’ Classic reel for Quantum with a 5.3:1 gear ratio for power and sensitivity but with a wide spool to pick up line quickly even after one of KVD’s patented long casts.

Slow or fast, when you need it!

True, like other crankin’ experts, KVD still advises anglers to slow down their retrieve to get more bites in general. (Once, at Table Rock, he recommended that I slow my retrieve just a bit. Would you argue with KVD?)

But the man who has come to epitomize “power fishing” with his “cover water fast” approach doesn’t want the reins of a reel slowing him down when he does need to crank hard or pick up line quickly.

Pick up line after long casts

More important, he wants a reel that will enable him to get maximum casting distance and sufficient retrieve speed even when he has cast most of the line off the spool on one of his patented 40-plus-yard cranking heaves! That means a reel with a wider spool than most of the low profile baitcasting reels on the market.

Power, “feel,” IPT

“With a wide spool reel in a lower gear ratio, you get a tremendous amount of power and it increases your ‘feel,’ too,” said Kevin, who also referenced his reel’s hardened alloy main gear. “And you still have a lot of inches per turn (IPT). Most 6.3:1 reels only bring in 24 or 25 inches per turn. My 5.3:1 Crankin’ Classic reel brings that in. It’s not slow. It’s a powerful reel with a lot of sensitivity.”

Notice that he mentions “feel.” Serious crankers opt for rods with a slower action and response in order to enable the bass to get a hold of the bait before they set the hook. But “softer” rods dampen sensitivity as well. That can negate the opportunity to use your crankbait as a tool to “read” the structure or cover the lure is working through. KVD hates to lose anything!

Recovered sensitivity and durability

VanDam recovers some of the sensitivity sacrificed by the fiberglass in his rod with the use of fluorocarbon line and his 5.3:1 Tour KVD Crankin’ Classic reel.

Yes, the lower gear ratio offers presentation advantages, but let’s not overlook the obvious. The lower gear ratio baitcasting reel offers more power and durability, smoother performance and less torque.  A good one won’t strain under the pressure of fishing hard vibrating crankbaits cast after cast, hour after hour over several seasons. It will also have the power to facilitate bringing big fish to boat!

EXO preview

KVD worked with the Quantum staff this past season to develop a cranking reel in the new lightweight aluminum-framed Quantum EXO series. He tested that reel at Table Rock.

“It has some special gears in it designed for cranking,” he said, noting that Quantum plans to release a KVD Signature version somewhere down the road.

The new reel, still in field test, has a wide spool like the current Tour KVD Crankin’ Classic from Quantum. The bigger spool enables it to pick up more “inches (of line) per turn” (IPT) than most low profile casting reels despite its low 5.3:1 gear ratio.

Like his current Crankin’ Classic, it will have a 5.3:1 gear ratio, but with a wider spool.


Kevin VanDam’s choice in crankbait reel:

Quantum Tour KVD Cranking Classic ( TKVDC150PPT )

Gear ratio:  5.3:1

Weight: 7.5 ounces

Bearings: 10BB plus 1RB

Line Capacity: 145 yards of 12-pound monofilament

One comment

  1. Way to go with another outstanding story!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.