UPCOMING EVENT: Costa FLW Series - 2019 - California Delta

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

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 

Hough is Fighting to Fish

Hough is Fighting to Fish

Fishing just her second full season as a co-angler in the T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League (BFL) South Carolina Division, mother of two and first-grade teacher Kate Hough was planning and preparing for a chance to do something no woman has ever done in her division: win Co-Angler of the Year. Instead of preparing for the Super Tournament on Lake Hartwell on Sept. 28, however, Hough is simply fighting to leave her hospital bed. READ MORE »

7 Ways to Fish the Megabass Dark Sleeper

7 Ways to Fish the Megabass Dark Sleeper

The Megabass Dark Sleeper is definitely a niche bait that most bass anglers ought to have in their arsenal. It’s a swimbait, but its size, shape, dorsal fin hook guards and action allow it to be applied in a similar manner as a jig. READ MORE »

Bryan Schmitt’s ChatterBait Box

Bryan Schmitt’s ChatterBait Box

“I’m pretty wild on color selection,” says Schmitt. “I always have my shad colors. I always have my black and blues. But I fall in love with trying to find a niche color. Especially when you get into the fall of the year on the Potomac. I love to find a crayfish pattern, and I feel like then a crayfish-imitating ChatterBait out-fishes anything else. And I also like to find a bluegill pattern at times, so I play with the colors.” READ MORE »

How to Make a Swimbait a Line-Thru

How to Make a Swimbait a Line-Thru

Jake Lawrence thinks the line-thru swimbait is more versatile than many tournament anglers realize. The Kentucky Lake and Pickwick guide and 2018 Costa FLW Series Lake Barkley champion frequently chucks one any time bass are shallow to not only put big fish in the boat, but to catch five good ones in a day. READ MORE »

How to Finesse Weed line Largemouths

How to Finesse Weed line Largemouths

When it comes to finesse baits that put fish in the boat, the Ned rig has certainly earned a spot as a go-to for bass anglers across the country. While it catches pretty much everything that swims, most of the attention gets put on catching northern smallmouths or Ozarks-region largemouths and spotted bass with it.   READ MORE »

Khourie, Lingnau Win 2019 FLW South Africa Championship

Khourie, Lingnau Win 2019 FLW South Africa Championship

Team Khourie/Lignau, consisting of Pieter Khourie and August Lingnau of the North West region, came roaring back on day three of the 2019 FLW South Africa Championship with a five-bass limit of 10.55 kg (23.25 pounds) to take the top spot and beat out Greg Schluep and Giulio Nolli of Team Secret VC for the title. READ MORE »

Checking in with Walters After the Cup

Checking in with Walters After the Cup

Walters, 41, of Grant Valkaria, Fla., is getting back to business as usual following his remarkable Cup showing, and we checked in with him to find out what his experience in Hot Springs was like and what’s on tap for the future – including a possible FLW Tour career. READ MORE »

Make the Most of Whopper Ploppers

Make the Most of Whopper Ploppers

“For me, I’m slowly but surely starting to get faith [in the Whopper Plopper] in other parts of the country, but from Hot Springs up to the Ozarks, that’s kind of my go-to,” says LeBrun. “When I’m up there in those Ozark-style lakes, it’s one of the first things that pops into my head.” READ MORE »

The Smallmouth-Alewife Connection

The Smallmouth-Alewife Connection

Smallmouths across the Great Lakes region and North Country have no shortage of food to eat, but while they’re very opportunistic, they can also get locked in on certain forage from time to time. One of their favorites, when present, is the alewife. READ MORE »

Slow Down in Brush for More Success

Slow Down in Brush for More Success

Many times, hitting as many brush piles as possible is the key to success, with Bryan Thrift’s 2015 FLW Tour win on Lake Eufaula serving as a prime example of that strategy. However, with the fishing pretty tough on Lake Hamilton, both Wade Strelic and Joel Willert turned to more methodical approaches to generate bites. READ MORE »

Green Has Experience of Lifetime at Cup

Green Has Experience of Lifetime at Cup

Winning $2,500 might be the highlight of a trip for a lot of people, but for Leroy Green, winner of the FLW Tour Marshal program at the 2019 FLW Cup on Lake Hamilton, the cash prize was secondary to the relationships he forged out on the water. READ MORE »

Henderson Holds Steady to Take FLW-KBF Cup Crown

Henderson Holds Steady to Take FLW-KBF Cup Crown

Even with day-one leader Eric Jackson taking a massive lead into the final day of competition and 70 more of the best kayak anglers on the planet behind him, Clint Henderson did what he said he was going to do. He won the Dee Zee FLW/KBF Cup presented by YakAttack and the $15,000 top prize. READ MORE »

Jackson Crushes on Day One of FLW-KBF Cup

Jackson Crushes on Day One of FLW-KBF Cup

Eric Jackson is simply a hammer fishing from a kayak. The FLW Tour pro and owner of Jackson Kayak is fresh off an individual and team gold-medal-winning performance in the 2019 Pan Am Bass Kayak Championship (not to mention a third-place finish in the final 2019 FLW Tour event on Lake Champlain), and his five-fish limit of 98.25 inches on day one of the Dee Zee FLW/KBF Cup presented by YakAttack puts him in stellar position to earn another victory on Saturday. READ MORE »

Alan Reed Dishes on FLW-KBF Cup Practice

Alan Reed Dishes on FLW-KBF Cup Practice

We caught up with Reed after his practice on Wednesday to get the scoop on how Ouachita is fishing and what the outlook is for the two-day event that begins Friday and runs concurrently with the FLW Cup on neighboring Lake Hamilton. READ MORE »

By the Numbers: 2019 FLW Cup

By the Numbers: 2019 FLW Cup

The FLW Cup is a week away, and 52 of the best bass anglers on the planet are all gearing up for a chance at the $300,000 top prize and a slice of bass fishing immortality. READ MORE »

Previewing Dee Zee FLW-KBF Cup

Previewing Dee Zee FLW-KBF Cup

For the first time ever, FLW and Kayak Bass Fishing (KBF) have joined forces for the championship of kayak bass fishing. Running in conjunction with the 2019 FLW Cup (on nearby Lake Hamilton), the FLW-KBF Cup will feature a stacked field of qualifying anglers all vying to take home a top prize of between $15,000 and $25,000, depending on final field size. READ MORE »

Big Little Boats

Big Little Boats

There is a massive surge in innovation in the fishing kayak industry, as evidenced by a showroom floor packed with canoes, kayaks, boats – and, in many cases, a combination of all of them – at ICAST 2019. READ MORE »

4 Hot New Reels from ICAST

4 Hot New Reels from ICAST

2019 is the year of the trolling motor at ICAST, but it wouldn’t be ICAST without at least a few next generation reels from some of the best manufacturers in the business. READ MORE »

Review: Jackson Kayak Bite

Review: Jackson Kayak Bite

In the burgeoning fishing kayak market, there’s still a pretty large gap, on the whole, between entry-level boats (think $500 or less) and the top end of the market. It’s hard to find a really good kayak that blends quality, stability and affordability for anything less than $1,000. READ MORE »

By the Numbers: Lake Champlain

By the Numbers: Lake Champlain

The 2019 FLW Tour season comes to a close later this month on Lake Champlain, a lake that just about guarantees a fun finish and lots of smallmouths. READ MORE »