UPCOMING EVENT: FLW Pro Circuit - 2020 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir

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 

2020 Lake Dardanelle Preview

2020 Lake Dardanelle Preview

Situated between the Ozark National Forest to the north and the Ouachita National Forest to the south, Lake Dardanelle in Northwest Arkansas is a roughly 34,000-acre impoundment on the Arkansas River that offers a multitude of unique and varied opportunities to catch quality bass. READ MORE »

Florida Spawn: Key on Bottom Hardness

Florida Spawn: Key on Bottom Hardness

According to FLW Pro Circuit angler Tim Frederick, who’s lived in Florida since he was 4 years old, one of the most important factors for successfully locating both spawning and staging bass in the coming weeks is bottom hardness. In most situations, the harder the bottom the better, but there’s more to it than that. READ MORE »

Running Ditches for Winter Bass

Running Ditches for Winter Bass

There are a lot of excuses to not go fishing this time of year. Though, if you like catching bass and avoiding the crowds, you should definitely consider keeping the boat hooked up to your truck instead of the 4-wheeler. READ MORE »

At 19, Lane Olson Isn’t Intimidated

At 19, Lane Olson Isn’t Intimidated

It’s not uncommon for a 19-year-old to pack up and move away from home to pursue independence and a career of his or her choosing. Of course, in many cases, that career is still several years away, on the other side of classes and tests and internships. READ MORE »

How to Fish Offshore Grass in Florida

How to Fish Offshore Grass in Florida

In recent years, fishing a lipless bait, a spinnerbait or a vibrating jig in offshore grass in Florida has lit up the leaderboard in many tournaments. Tyler Woolcott, a second-year pro from Port Orange, Fla., has plenty of experience tracking the bass in offshore grass throughout the seasons, and you might be able to learn a thing or two from him. READ MORE »

Cash in on the Florida Prespawn

Cash in on the Florida Prespawn

Growing up on Lake Okeechobee, Jared McMillan loves to flip for big fish when the opportunity presents itself, but he’ll be the first to tell you that mid-November can be one of the best times to be on the water. READ MORE »

Be Aggressive to Catch Big Spots Now

Be Aggressive to Catch Big Spots Now

When FLW pro Alex Davis isn’t hunting trophy bucks in the fall, he spends a lot of days fishing for big bass that are binging on shad in the reservoirs of north Alabama. In particular, fall is a killer time to fish jerkbaits with high-speed, aggressive tactics in clear-water reservoirs for spotted bass – for both size and numbers. READ MORE »

How to Rock Fall Largemouths

How to Rock Fall Largemouths

Smith says that the best time for fall largemouth fishing happens after the first big cold snap, when the water finally drops below 60 degrees.   READ MORE »

Cumberland Practice with Bryan New

Cumberland Practice with Bryan New

Bryan New has steadily been making a case to be considered one of the brightest rising stars of the sport. Five top 10s in T-H Marine Bass Fishing League (BFL) and Costa FLW Series events this year proves it, as does his inclusion in the Costa FLW Series Championship field. New gives an inside look at how he’s been tackling the puzzle that is the FLW Series Championship on what might prove to be an unusually stingy fishery. READ MORE »

Previewing the Costa Championship

Previewing the Costa Championship

When 200 pros (and 200 co-anglers) descend on the southern Kentucky reservoir for the Costa FLW Series Championship, they’ll be facing conditions that might look nothing like what they’ll see as the official practice period opens this weekend. Forecasts call for ample rain over the weekend, and lake levels are likely to fluctuate as a result. READ MORE »

Ebare Eyes Strong Finish

Ebare Eyes Strong Finish

Ebare loves to fish. A lot. And he’s fished in 20 FLW events so far in 2019. His 21st will be the Costa FLW Series Championship at Lake Cumberland at the end of October, at which he hopes to earn his first win in FLW competition. READ MORE »

Floyd Cashes in on Guntersville

Floyd Cashes in on Guntersville

Last weekend, Floyd added to his already lengthy list of accomplishments with a T-H Marine Bass Fishing League (BFL) Regional victory on Lake Guntersville – the tournament was presented by Mercury – with a 44-pound, 15-ounce three-day total, and it all came down to consistency and some really good decision-making. READ MORE »

Newberry Wins Southwestern Division AOY

Newberry Wins Southwestern Division AOY

It was sweet redemption in many ways for the Texas legend who still owns and operates his Houston-based HVAC company despite spending so much time on the tournament-fishing circuit. Redemption for missing out on the FLW Cup in his first season. Redemption for what Grand did to him earlier this year on Tour (dropping from sixth to 41st with only one fish on day two). And, in a way, validation for a career filled with big accomplishments. READ MORE »

Hunting Big Bronze in Wisconsin

Hunting Big Bronze in Wisconsin

“On a normal day, if the best five aren’t over 25 pounds, it isn’t a good day,” Stefan says. “My best days with a buddy have been where the best five have gone 29 to 32 pounds. We get lots of 6-pounders a year, and we’ve caught some right at the 7-pound mark. I’ve had a few on that we haven’t landed that were bigger.” READ MORE »

Top 10 Patterns from Grand Lake

Top 10 Patterns from Grand Lake

Curt Warren knew what he wanted to do, and it had nothing to do with weeding through a bunch of small fish up shallow. Rather, he focused his attention on deeper Grand Lake spots with chunk rock and brush and amassed a three-day total of 46 pounds, 7 ounces to win the Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division finale, presented by T-H Marine. Here’s how the rest of the top 10 caught their fish and earned their checks on Grand. READ MORE »

How to Fish a Blade Bait for Smallmouth

How to Fish a Blade Bait for Smallmouth

You can catch smallmouths on a lot of baits in the early fall, but one of the most consistent producers later in the year is a blade bait, and Scott Dobson is an expert with it. His go-to is the old-fashioned Silver Buddy, but he has some distinct preferences and tweaks for better success. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Grand Lake

Top 10 Baits from Grand Lake

A cold front moving in at the start of Grand Lake’s fall transition put a damper on seeing a bunch of big weights during the Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division finale, which was presented by T-H Marine, but plenty of pros managed to find the right fish to make things exciting on the final day. READ MORE »

How to Find the Best Docks in Early Fall

How to Find the Best Docks in Early Fall

While there’s almost no bad time of year to find a dock pattern, early fall is a prime season for it. The catch is that as shad transition throughout a reservoir in the fall, some bass go on the move with them. So dialing in a key stretch of docks or a dock pattern can at times be challenging, particularly on lakes with a lot of docks. READ MORE »

Transition Time at Grand Lake

Transition Time at Grand Lake

Grand Lake has been flooded for most of the summer, and, as a result, it hasn’t received as much fishing pressure as is typical for one of the premier fisheries in the region. Weights for the Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division finale, presented by T-H Marine, have the potential to be outstanding for this time of year, but it may all come down to what the weather decides to do leading up to the event. READ MORE »

How Schmitt Targets Late-Summer Tidal Bass

How Schmitt Targets Late-Summer Tidal Bass

As we’ve seen pretty much every year in the FLW Cup, which is usually held in the South, going way up creeks to find slightly cooler water is a productive pattern in the heat of late summer. The same strategy can pay off on tidal fisheries such as the Potomac River and James River as well, albeit with some tweaks for the situation. READ MORE »