I‘m a liberal leaning outdoorsman attempting to open the minds of right wingers to the idea that libs fish too. Anglers come from all walks of life, left, right, and center. Not everyone who fishes for bass is a redneck fond of Nascar, country music, and religiosity. Expect posts about largemouth bass fishing, techniques, reviews of lures and other products, but not any condemnable conservative rants. I hope to inspire the online angler community to dial down rhetoric which will do more harm than good to our sport.

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

• Bandit 200 Series Crankbait

Last year, I wrote up a favorable review of the Bandit 100 series crankbaits. After enjoying some success with these baits, I decided to put the 200 series in my tackle box as an alternative to the very productive and reliable Rapala DT-6 and to a lesser extent, the JSR-5. The DT-6 is admittedly my favorite crankbait. Initially, my plans were to use the Bandit 200 as a smaller option in areas where the DT has already proven successful, picking up any fish who were too timid to chase after the slightly larger DT. Let's face it, a lure with a less daunting presence can make a big difference, especially when bass have mood swings. Should the Bandit 200 prove itself under those conditions, it would gain a spot in my regular lineup. 

In my writeup of the 100 series, I briefly discussed how the Bandit lure company has made a name for itself. The three more popular crankbaits in their product line include the Footloose model, the 100 series, and today's lure in question, the 200 series. Like the 100 series, the 200 is a 2-inch lure weighing 1/4oz, containing one knocker rattle, and sports a pair of size 6 treble hooks. Like any Bandit crankbait, the 200 series is available in a myriad of color schemes, 45 patterns which leave little to the imagination, and is made of what the company refers to as "premium grade plastic." Retail price runs around $5 or less depending on where you shop. The 200 covers depths from 4 to 8 feet, so although there might be some overlap at the top end between the 100 and 200, the extra diving range allows me be more thorough when covering specific water depths. As with the 100 series, I would recommend swapping out the stock hooks for something a little more robust because the original hooks bend far too easily. - See my post on swapping out trebles for more info. - Bandit crankbaits tend to run true out of the package and their ability to draw out some nice fish has surprised me. So far, I have yet to really catch the same quality fish I was able to put in the boat with the 100 series, but I hope to change that. Let me share my experiences with you so far and hopefully you can decide if a Bandit 200 series crankbait has a spot in your tackle box. 

As with many of the newer baits I have reviewed, I compared this crankbait to what I already use, although I recognize the importance of assessing the bait based on its own merits. I tried to keep that in mind as I wrote this post, but a new crankbait always gets put up against the Rapala DT series first, so after examining how the bait stacks up against this favorite of mine, I will discuss what it is that makes the 200 series stand out. The Rapala DT-6 has been at the top of my list for a long time now, although when fishing shallow, I have relied on the Bandit 100. For me, the Bandit 200 series was challenged in light of what I already knew about these other two baits. That's the angle from which I decided to approach.

The trend in the world of crankbaits has always been to make deeper divers larger and while I admit 4 to 8 feet is not really deep, I think you get my point. The profile of the 200 is small and therefore has less of a presence in the water than the DT series and many other crankbaits. When I move out beyond shallow points and tree lines on area lakes, one of the first things I decide to do is crank my way around in about 6 to 8 feet of water. A DT-6 usually performs this task for me, but it doesn't always work. When it does, I often find that after catching a couple of fish, the bite slows and solid hits turn into bumps and misses, even with changes in my retrieve. The problem might be related to size. With a 200 series Bandit, I can fish a slightly smaller and lighter bait while still matching the hatch, offering a bait that might be easier to swallow. Having a crankbait with a wider diving range also puts a 200 series ahead of a DT-6 in a pinch. The down side in light of the bait's size is the weight. At 1/4oz, compared to a 3/8oz DT-6, it can be difficult to cast and make any significant gains in distance, a problem I also experienced with the 100 series Bandit. Dropping my rod tip was the only way I could consistently get the crankbait to go a little further. For a bait which can dive to my 5 foot sweet spot, I would have preferred something a little heavier so as to cover more water across a larger area. Getting the bait down to the desired depth did not seem to be a problem, but those first few moments in my retrieve were often wasted attempting to crank down to that specific depth because of a short cast. Every article out there on cranking highlights the importance of casting distance and wasted effort in those first few moments. Crankers expect every crankbait they own to perform at that level. Anything less puts a serious hurting on our ability to find and catch fish. In terms of casting and covering water, the DT-6 remains at the top of my list until I can get a 200 series Bandit to sail just as far.

But there is more to cranking than making long casts and covering water.

What matters to me as an angler is that I can feel a sort of companionship with a lure, crankbaits especially. Too much resistance or a complete absence of tactile feedback quickly sours my experience and erodes my confidence. When I can rely on a lure without even thinking, I can focus on fishing. When I struggle to produce the desired effect, I spend less time fishing. Many lures impart on us this reliability without any conscious effort from us. A Bandit 100 series crankbait has always been a no-fuss kind of lure. The same has been true for a DT-6. Can the 200 series live up to the same standard?

The overall package carries with it the same style and action as the 100 series, so in terms of anything new, I cannot say much at all. Still, I will try. This was where I really put the Bandit 200 series up against itself and examined the lure based on its own merits. Line type and rod construction played into sensitivity here, so I will just say I used 15lb P-Line Halo, a fluorocarbon line, and swapped between a 7' rod specifically designed for cranking with a graphite and fiberglass composition and a simple 6'6 medium power graphite rod. I primarily tested the bait on a 5:1 Curado 200E5, but also made sure to try the 200 series on a 6.3:1 reel. The technique I used was the same as with a DT, working the bait steadily and erratic, pausing at times, all the while making sure I bumped into things along the bottom. At the other end of my line swam a crankbait with a discernible wobble and presence, but it did not have a bold thump comparable to say, a Rapala DT. Any pause in my retrieve unfortunately allowed the bait to rise in the water column much too quickly, preventing the lure from staying in the strike zone longer. Some suspend weights or other modification might be necessary to slow things down. The lure ran true right out of the package and my choice of treble hooks did not alter the performance in any discernible manner. The Bandit was just as weedless as a DT, so in my case, I occasionally picked up random pieces of hydrilla and decaying vegetation off the bottom. Keeping all of this in mind, my overall experience was average. No fish have decided to take hold of this lure yet. I'm very disappointed, but admit I fish some heavily pressured water that usually puts most anglers in their place with a big fat goose egg.

After using this bait, what I can say for certain is that the overall quality is outstanding, treble hooks being the one exception, but the performance is lacking. The premium plastic still may not be the most durable material. I've cracked a 100 series before, so I'm still afraid of doing the same to one of these. And sure, this bait wobbles as desired and the size fits into an alternative niche when fishing for bass who won't chomp down on a larger bait, but I think I will relegate this crankbait to a lesser role, used to dissect very specific targets close up and keep the DT-6 as my go-to bait for fishing those 5-8 foot ranges. The Bandit 200 series has not put any fish in the boat for me during testing. I know a 100 series crankbait will give me an edge out there, but I'm not that confident in the 200 series yet. If I ever stumble across a school of white bass, I will be sure to let them have a look at this lure too. Cranking for white bass has always been lots of fun and they will surely put a strain on any crankbait they bite down on. I won't completely dismiss the Bandit 200 series crankbait yet, but I'm less than thrilled up to this point. The reviews out there on the internet are favorable, but maybe the Bandit 200 does not fit my style of cranking. My next thought is to try something made by Strike King or Norman Lures.