UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Lake Cumberland

How to Fish Square-Bill Crankbaits

How to Fish Square-Bill Crankbaits
Square-bill crankbaits

If you’re running shallow water and prefer a subsurface power technique, fishing square-bill crankbaits might be for you. They can go where other crankbaits can’t and get a lot of bites.

The unique shape of a square-bill’s lip (spoiler: it’s square) makes it ideal for banging off cover such as rocks and branches without getting hung up. That disturbance caused by a crankbait hitting and deflecting away from cover is often what triggers nearby fish to bite.

 

What is a square-bill crankbait

The structural differences between medium- and deep-diving crankbaits and square-bill crankbaits are minimal, but the biggest difference is also the most important.

While shallow-diving plugs with rounded lips do exist, square-bills have predominantly taken over the market for crankbaits that cover zero to 5 feet of water due to their exceptional ability to deflect off cover. A square-bill is a phenomenal bait for fishing around all kinds of cover, from grass to brush to stumps and riprap.

Square-bill crankbaits come in all sizes, shapes and colors. They can be silent or can contain knockers or BBs to create even more disturbance in the water. Like most crankbaits, they can be made to mimic shad, bream, crawfish and everything in between. Variety is the name of the game when it comes to plug fishing.

Square-bills, at their simplest, are rounded and streamlined hard baits made of wood or plastic that float until retrieved. When in motion, drag on the short lip creates downward force and causes square-bills to dive and swim with a wobbling action.

Most square-bills come equipped with a pair of exposed treble hooks that, while they sometimes will snag on cover, are fairly well-protected by the lip deflecting the bait off cover.

 

Square-bill crankbaits in action

The key to effectively fishing a square-bill is maintaining bottom contact or deflecting it off cover where fish might be set up. The erratic action of the plug when it deflects is what triggers fish to react.

When choosing a square-bill, it’s best to pick one that is rated to run at slightly deeper depths than the water you’re fishing in order to ensure the bill of the bait nicks the bottom and any cover it may run into.

 

How to fish square-bill crankbaits

There are several ways to fish a square-bill, but the most common way is to simply cast and reel with a steady retrieve. Banging it into rocks on bottom, or deflecting off stumps, laydowns and other targets will trigger more bites. Because square-bills can be fished quickly and can go just about anywhere, they’re great search baits for finding bass quickly.

Some months, however, it’s necessary to slow down. Cold-water bass can be very lethargic and might not be actively feeding. Looking for reaction strikes may be the best approach in those situations.

For finicky bass, especially in cold water, pause the bait occasionally, or work speed changes into the retrieve. The erratic nature of a varied retrieve can entice lethargic fish to strike. Flat-sided square-bills are also good choices for chilly water.

A challenge when fishing any crankbait (and most baits with exposed hooks) is remaining snag-free when fishing around cover. An experienced angler who is familiar with crankbaits is proficient at feeling what his bait is hitting and working the bait through the obstruction with his rod and his retrieve.

When fishing grass, the easiest method for avoiding snags is ripping or popping the bait free. This provides the added benefit of creating a disturbance that may trigger a strike.

If you start to feel your bait getting hung up, don’t pull back hard. This will often cause the bait’s hooks to dig in or wedge the bait deeper in the snag. But if you are hung up between rocks or branches, pause the retrieve and allow the natural buoyancy of the crankbait to float the bait up and away from the snag.

 

Where to fish square-bill crankbaits

Nearly all shallow water presents opportunities to fish a square-bill crankbait. Even areas that lack a lot of structure or cover can hold fish, and square-bills are terrific search baits for covering a lot of water quickly.

A favorite type of cover for square-bill aficionados is rock, including riprap, shallow rock bars, break walls and chunk rock banks. Banging a square-bill off the rock gets a lot of bites, especially if bass are in the area feeding on shad or crawfish.

Many anglers also swear by square-bills in shallow water littered with stumps and standing timber. Flooded boat ramps, hard-bottom banks and areas lined with laydowns are good target areas too.

 

The best equipment for fishing square-bill crankbaits

A good square-bill cranking rod needs some backbone for castability and sensitivity, but also enough bend to keep fish pinned when hooked.

The most common rod setup for crankbait fishing is a medium or medium-heavy casting rod with moderate-fast or fast action, somewhere in the 7-foot range. Some anglers will size down to a 6-6 or 6-10 rod for more precise casts around cover, and some like a long rod for bombing down a bank, but a 7-foot, medium rod is perhaps the best all-around square-bill cranking setup.

Gear ratio preferences vary for square-bill fishing with a casting reel, but most pros prefer a 6.3:1 to 7.3:1 reel. Both allow enough flexibility to burn the bait or slow it down if necessary.

Fluorocarbon line in the 12- to 20-pound-test range is best for most types of crankbait fishing, square-bills included. However, when fishing around heavy cover, it’s often best to size up your line to prevent line damage and break-offs.

 

Bait recommendations

Strike King KVD

6th Sense Crush

Lucky Craft LC Silent

Storm Arashi Silent Square

Berkley SquareBull

SPRO John Crews Little John 50

Bagley Balsa B 

 

Line recommendations

Sunline Super FC Sniper

Seaguar Tatsu

P-Line Tactical

Seaguar Red Label

Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon

Sufix Invisiline

 

Rod recommendations

Abu Garcia Villain 2.0

Lew’s Custom Speed Stick Crankbait Rod

Falcon BuCoo SR

Dobyns Fury

Berkley Shock 

 

Reel recommendations

Lew’s Tournament MB Speed Spool

Lew’s Mach Speed Spool MCS

Abu Garcia REVO X

Shimano Curado 200K 

Tags: pro-tips-weekly  justin-onslow  tips-and-techniques 

Top 10 Patterns from Dale Hollow

Top 10 Patterns from Dale Hollow

There’s no way around it. Dale Hollow was fishing tough during the Toyota Series Central Division finale. Ultimately, it was Adam Wagner and a mega-school he found in 50 feet of water that got the job done. For the rest of the top 10, it was a little bit of everything. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Dale Hollow

Top 10 Baits from Dale Hollow

While Dale Hollow really featured a hodgepodge of different baits in the Toyota Series Central Division finale, the anglers who performed the best did so by targeting deeper fish that were either chasing bait or sitting on isolated cover. For the job, much of the field had a spoon and a drop-shot on deck. READ MORE »

Wagner Wins on Dale Hollow

Wagner Wins on Dale Hollow

Adam Wagner is approaching legend status in central Tennessee. Storming to the win from fifth place on the final day, Wagner put a limit for 16 pounds, 1 ounce on the scale for a 34-6 total and the win in the Toyota Series Central Division event on Dale Hollow. READ MORE »

Russell, 71, Earns First FLW Win

Russell, 71, Earns First FLW Win

Robert Russell has been fishing a long time, and he’s been fishing FLW tournaments for a long time, too. At Dale Hollow, from the back of the boat, he finally got his first FLW win. READ MORE »

Dale Hollow Midday Update – Day 3

Dale Hollow Midday Update – Day 3

You’re not going to find a better day to be out on the lake in the fall. Unfortunately, the warming trend paired with bluebird skies, plenty of sun and very little wind hasn’t produced very good conditions for catching fish. READ MORE »

Dale Hollow Top 5 Patterns – Day 2

Dale Hollow Top 5 Patterns – Day 2

Dale Hollow is fishing tough. That’s about the only constant across the field in the Toyota Series Central Division finale. Everyone in the top 10 has made it to this point by finding a way to battle the difficult conditions and tricky timing, and many have done that extremely well. READ MORE »

Dale Hollow Midday Update – Day 2

Dale Hollow Midday Update – Day 2

Despite some hopeful optimism that the cold front that moved in overnight might turn on the bite, day two of the Toyota Series Central Division finale on Dale Hollow has been as slow as – or slower than – day one, and that’s saying something. READ MORE »

Smith Stays Consistent on Dale Hollow

Smith Stays Consistent on Dale Hollow

Dale Hollow has been tough as nails this week for the competitors in the Toyota Series Central Division event. Only three of the top 10 have managed limits both days, and one of those limits was shy of 7 pounds. So, Blake Smith’s back to back limits of 11 pounds, 9 ounces, and 11-13 qualify as extremely impressive. Leading with a total of 23-6, Smith has more than a 3-pound edge on second-place Chris Malone and seems to be in prime position to bring home a win on Saturday. READ MORE »

Dale Hollow Top 5 Patterns – Day 1

Dale Hollow Top 5 Patterns – Day 1

Day one of the Toyota Series Central Division event on Dale Hollow was predictably tough, with few scratching above the 10-pound mark and limits hard to come by. Still, Jonathan Bowling waylaid over 13 pounds for the lead, and the pros behind him have put some actual patterns together. All that is threatened by much colder weather that’s on the way, but it’s nothing the pros in the top 10 haven’t seen before. READ MORE »

Bowling Leads on Dale Hollow

Bowling Leads on Dale Hollow

As tough as Dale Hollow has been fishing lately, it’s not really a surprise that only nine anglers managed to crack double digits after day one of the Toyota Series Central Division finale. What was surprising, though, was to see one angler – Harriman, Tennessee’s Jonathan Bowling – grab a lead of more than 1 1/2 pounds. Given the conditions, that’s a huge lead. READ MORE »

Dale Hollow Midday Update – Day 1

Dale Hollow Midday Update – Day 1

The rain that soaked the region all Wednesday hung around to start the morning of day one of the Toyota Series Central Division finale on Dale Hollow. By midday, though, the spotty rain started to move out and give way to a little sunshine ahead of sharply falling temperatures this evening and into Friday morning. READ MORE »

Challenges Ahead on Dale Hollow

Challenges Ahead on Dale Hollow

It’s been an odd “fall” at Dale Hollow, mostly because there hasn’t really been one. Water temperatures are still hovering in the high-60s, which puts the typical fall transition well behind its usual schedule in terms of bass movement. READ MORE »

Previewing Dale Hollow

Previewing Dale Hollow

When the Toyota Series Central Division wraps up its season on Dale Hollow Lake next week – a lake known for its smallmouth fishing, thanks in big part for producing the world record smallmouth back in 1955 – its anglers probably won’t be weighing in masses of brown fish. READ MORE »

Fish Northern Rivers for Smallmouth

Fish Northern Rivers for Smallmouth

From the Mississippi River to the Peshtigo River, Wisconsin and the surrounding region has miles of flowing water chock full of smallmouth bass. In the recent Tackle Warehouse TITLE presented by Toyota, Matt Stefan targeted rivers flowing into Green Bay for the majority of his catch, and in doing so, he was able to tap into a skillset that he’s groomed for years on the Wisconsin River and other flowages near him. READ MORE »

Top Patterns and Baits from Kentucky Lake

Top Patterns and Baits from Kentucky Lake

Kentucky Lake has the potential to churn out some big bags – look no further than the 2019 Abu Garcia College Fishing presented by YETI Open, when 21 teams weighed in more than 20 pounds on day one alone – but the 2020 iteration wasn’t as friendly to the college anglers who took to her waters this week. Here’s the skinny on how the top 10 teams caught their fish this week and what they caught them with. READ MORE »

Montevallo Takes College Open Title

Montevallo Takes College Open Title

As tough as Kentucky Lake was fishing this week in the Abu Garcia College Fishing presented by YETI Open, Grayson Morris and Jacob Pfundt of the University of Montevallo leading after day one and finishing the job on Thursday resulted in one of the more impressive wins you’ll see. After weighing in a day-one best 12-13, the duo backed it up with another 12-7 on day two for the victory, displaying the kind of consistency it takes to grind it out in tough fishing conditions. For their efforts, Morris and Pfundt were awarded a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat with a 115-hp Mercury outboard. READ MORE »

High Water on Tap for College Open

High Water on Tap for College Open

By mid-September, Kentucky Lake can be absolutely lights-out when you find a big school up on its many shallow bars. This week, during the Abu Garcia College Fishing presented by YETI Open, that’s probably not going to be the case – instead of locking a topwater in their hands, college teams are likely to take a much more varied approach. READ MORE »

Montevallo Leads College Open 

Montevallo Leads College Open 

As expected, weights were down across the board on day one of the Abu Garcia College Fishing presented by YETI Open on Kentucky Lake. With high water during what’s typically a tough transitional time of year, it took just 12 pounds, 13 ounces for Grayson Morris and Jacob Pfundt of the University of Montevallo to grab the lead. READ MORE »

Cifuentes’ Chickamauga Mayfly Pattern

Cifuentes’ Chickamauga Mayfly Pattern

Adult mayflies only live for about 24 hours out of the water, but during that brief window, they can dramatically affect the prospects of catching a bunch of fish. At the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Super Tournament on Lake Chickamauga, Miles Burghoff based a lot of his success on schools of bass that were related to the mayfly hatch. Joey Cifuentes also keyed on the mayfly hatch, and his strategy provides a great playbook for responding to mayfly hatches in a variety of situations. READ MORE »

Big Bags on Tap at Pickwick

Big Bags on Tap at Pickwick

After a four-month hiatus, it’s almost time for the Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine Mississippi Division to get back after it. The season resumes on July 18 and July 19 with back-to-back tournaments on Pickwick Lake. While each tournament may fish a bit like a two-day event, each day of competition is a standalone tournament with a winner crowned after each day. READ MORE »