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Lure Review

The Crazy Action of Wood : H&T's Balsa Crank


Date: 12/21/06
Tackle type: Lures
Manufacturer: H&T
Reviewer: Cal



Total Score: 8.58

Introduction: Ever since Takahiro Omori's 2004 win at the Bassmaster Classic, large, shallow running crankbaits have been ubiquitous. One of the original but more obscure and urbane offerings in this category has been the H&T Balsa Crank, a hand carved, hand painted masterpiece from the shops of Tim Hughes and Jeff Thompson. If you've been paying attention to our crankbait and rod reviews, you know we've had this lure in our arsenal for quite some time and now we're finally ready to share with you, our thoughts on the H&T Balsa Crank.


H&T Crank Specifications

Type Crankbait
Depth 0-3 ft
Class Floating
Size 2" (HT-1), 2.5" (HT-2), 3" (HT-3)
Weight 1/2 oz (HT-1), 1/2 oz (HT-2), 3/4 oz (HT-3)
Colors/Patterns 2 to 8 different colors depending on where you purchase them
Hook Sizes #4 front & rear (#2 for HT-3)
MSRP $23

Impressions: If ordered directly from Hughes Custom Baits, you are given the choice of two colors - Pearl Black Back or Chartruese Black Back. The H&T Crank is king of the keep it simple stupid (kiss) rule. Recently, H&T seems to have partnered Bass Pro Shops to offer a wider variety of colors but, of course, exclusive Bass Pro Shops. Not satisfied? For an extra $2 per bait, you can actually order custom colors direct from the factory. We kept it simple acquiring the HT-3 in Chartruese Black Back, the HT-2 in Pearl Black Back, and the HT-1 in Rootbeer (from BPS).

Introducing the H&T Balsa Crank (HT-2)

Out of the box, there's nothing too unique or outstanding about this lure to warrant its high cost. Keeping in mind each bait is made and painted by hand and includes quality components such as a lexan lip and VMC hooks, one can begin to appreciate the semi-exclusive following the bait inspires. One caveat of baits such as these, it is rumored that only 3 out of 10 hand carved, wooden baits are true fish catching magnets. The rest are unfortunate bi-products and the only way to filter through these baits to discover the ones that work really well is to acquire a good amount, and test them out individually. We did not go to such extremes in testing this lure.

We replaced the stock, round, splitring at the front of the bait with an LC style, oval split ring


The Field Tests: We fished this bait on any number of rigs through the last year and a half. When it came down to the actual evaluation of this lure specifically, we settled on two rigs: our F4-610GT3 Shiryu matched with a Conquest 101DC reel and our Custom CB843C built by Mark Janeck paired with a Conquest 51.


Complete test rig for H&T Crank Field Tests

Rig One Rig Two
Rod Megabass F4-610GT3 Custom Loomis CB843C
Reel Conquest 101 Conquest 51
Line 12 lb Yozuri Hybrid 12 lb Sunline Machinegun Cast

Our H&T Cranks feature a nice, durable clear coat

Detailing on these baits are akin to the older, more traditional finishes found on vintage baits

Casting/Pitching: Despite the absence of internal weights and thanks to the lure's relative good heft, the H&T Crank is easy to cast in each of its 3 sizes. We fished, mostly the HT-2 as it had the size and profile we enjoyed the most. As Goldilocks might say, we found the HT-3 is a bit too big and long, the HT-1 just a bit short and fat, but the HT-2 was just right (It has a size and shape similar to the Lucky Craft BDS 4 and the Specialty Tackle Big Bite).


While these lures are great at backing out of snags, we didn't take any chances and installed LureSaver split rings on most of our test baits

Thanks to the HT-2's 1/2oz in weight, it is also a very easy lure to pitch. On countless occasions, I'd grab the back of the lure and fire it off in a low trajectory pitch into cover to make my presentation. The lure is lacking nothing in aerodynamics.

A look at the underside and subtle red/pink highlights of our HT-2

Presentation: Are you familiar with the Storm Wigglwart? This is a super compact bait famous for it's wide wobbling action. Each of the H&T Balsa Crank sizes have an action that rivals that of the Storm Wigglwart. Their side to side motion is unreal and if fished on a graphite rod, can almost shake the stick out of your hands! The baits' true running depth is somewhere around 2-3 feet as fished on our test rigs yet, thanks to the wide wobbling motion, the resistance in the water as you pull this bait back to the boat is akin to a deep running crank. I recommend a reel with a slow rate of retrieve when fishing this lure.


The HT-2 has a nice, familiar, shape and profile

Next Section: More on presentation, durability, and ratings









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