Crankbait Tips for Early Spring Bass
Crankbaits come in all shapes and sizes and painted every color of the rainbow. There are so many choices that many anglers lose sight of the a very important feature of a crankbait, the bill or the lip. There are many bill shapes on the market, but we will focus here on the round bill and the square bill crankbait and the differences in the two. This article will also explain when and where to use each type of crankbait and the best lines to use in each of those circumstances.
Round bill crankbaits are great for deep open water applications. The round bill allows the bait to run truer and is used on all deep running crankbaits. Round bill crankbaits are great for probing cover in deep water or deep water with suspended bass. The round bill cuts through the water evenly causing the bait to dive down quicker and deeper. This works great when trying to reach the depth that the fish are holding.
There are times when bass are suspended in the water column and you need to present your bait at that depth. You can throw a suspending crankbait or floating crankbaits for early bass. The time to use the suspending model is when the fish are off the bottom in open water. You want that bait to stay in the strike zone until the bass decides he wants to eat. A quality crankbait like the Rapala or Strike King models will get to depth quickly. It takes just a few cranks for these baits to hit their max running depth. Let the crankbait sit at this depth for several seconds, then give it a twitch and the bait will remain at that depth throughout the retrieve. Pay attention during this pause or a lunker just might rip the rod out of your hand. Ask me how I know.
A Floating crankbait, especially balsa crankbaits, are used when the bass are in heavy cover. Whether it’s rocks or tree tops you want your bait down there in it. Sometimes it’s important to hit this cover with your crankbait to trigger a strike and you will hang up. A balsa crankbait will help you retrieve your lure and with practice you’ll be able to pause your retrieve allowing your bait to float up and free from the cover and then continue your retrieve. This is a great way to generate strikes from those bass staging in deep tree tops near spawning grounds during early pre-spawn like February and March.
Line For Crankbait
Fluorocarbon line is my choice for deep diving crankbaits for early bass. Fluorocarbon sinks and helps your bait run deeper. Spool your line on a low-speed reel. A 5:1 ratio will help you power the crankbait down. The rod is an integral part of the crankbait set-up. A slow action is needed when fishing crankbaits. Many anglers have gone to fiberglass rods that are very limber throughout the length of the rod. This slow action is important in crankbait fishing as it keeps the rod loaded. Keeping the rod loaded allows you to keep the line tight. The smooth flex will also help you fight the bass without ripping the trebles out of its mouth.
Square bill Crankbait
During the 2004 Bassmaster Classic Takahiro Omori brought out the old square bill with just thirty minutes to fish and quickly landed three keepers including a five-pounder. He had only managed two keepers all day up until he switched to his yellow Bagley B2 square bill. This put the square back on the map then the 2011 Bassmaster Classic made it a household name. Kevin Van Dam rocked the scales with his Strike King KVD HC Square Bill Crankbait after the spinnerbait bite diminished on day two.
The beauty of the square bill is its erratic action. The flow of water over the square bill is not uniform like the round bill causing a turbulence that causes the square bill to dart one way or the other constantly searching for its center. It is this center searching that causes the square bill to hug cover like logs and stumps. When the bass have their nose shoved into the cover the square bill is perfect for hugging that cover and coming right into the very small strike zone.
The square bill crankbait also works great when the water is muddy and the bass move shallow. The square bill works so well because it moves more water, allowing the bass to hone in on it using its lateral line. This seemed to be the case when the water muddied up on Takahiro’s spot in the 2004 Bassmaster Classic.
Squarebill Crankbait Tackle
The tackle used for square bill shallow water applications differ from deep cranking round bill crankbaits. You want a 6:1 or even a 7:1 speed reel and a little stiffer rod. When the bass are shallow you’re usually covering water and the high-speed reel allows you to do this. The stiffer rod is to quickly turn the bass out of the cover you’re fishing.
With a square bill, monofilament is the preferred line. A great characteristic of monofilament is its stretch. This stretch helps maintain hookups and helps the squarebill glance off of the cover with a quick and erratic motion, triggering strikes. When the bait hits a piece of cover this stretch acts as a slingshot, shooting the crankbait quickly one way or the other. This erratic darting action is key to triggering bass in cold water. The bass will react to the sudden movement and swipe at the bait and will often times be hooked outside the mouth. This is a great indication that the bass are not biting and a fast retrieve intentionally brought through thick cover such as rocks and wood. These reaction bites often come on the deflection of the bait. At this time the hooks could make all the difference.
There are many styles of treble hooks. The triple grip treble hook and others have become popular for many applications. They even come on some crankbaits from the factory. The exaggerated bend helps keep the bait hooked up by using the tension on the line. These hooks are great and I use them on just about all of my baits most of the year. There is a time that these hooks don’t shine and that’s when bass are swiping at the bait and not actually eating it. This is when the old-school round bend treble hooks works best. I leave them on all of my baits when the water temps are below 50 degrees.
The round bend treble hook will hook the bass outside the mouth much better than the triple grip hooks. The exaggerated bend of the triple grip actually hides the hook point slightly from a glancing blow. Take a triple grip and a round bend treble hook and bring your hand straight in from the side. The round bend treble will stick you every time and the triple grip will not. Just make sure these round bend hooks are super sharp and you’ll catch more bass when the water temps are cold.
There are many ways to fish a crankbait and many styles to choose from. The best way to figure them out is on the water practice. Sometimes crankbaits work when nothing else will and learning to master even one of these techniques can add to your angling arsenal and help you catch more bass.