Richard Ranieri - Square Bill Crankbaits
Here are a few tips to help you to fish your square bill to the maximum efficiency and catch better quality Bass, with hopefully better numbers. I have been fishing square bill crankbaits for a long time now and have found some great tips that definitely give me an edge. First of all; the square bill in my opinion is the best and most versatile crankbait on the market. The square bill crankbait can be fished all year round where most others are only effective a few months out of the year. Whether it be spring, summer, winter, or fall; square bills are in my tackle box and ready to go. As long as the conditions are right and the bass are related to shallow cover (which they are most of the time); I have one tied on and and ready to toss.
The square bill is all about Deflection, Deflection, Deflection! I can not say that enough. The erratic action and reaction of the bait after contact with a stickup or rock is just what the bass cannot stand. There is nothing like ripping a square bill over a lay-down next to the bank and having a big ole bass crash into it after it just deflected two feet off of it. This is the most heart pounding fishing found.
The trick to fishing these baits is not really all that tricky but many times not done correctly. I like to throw my square bills back into the center of the most dense stuff that I can find. I am not saying that you will not get hung now and then because that would be an all out lie. Due to the design of square bills; hang ups are much less common than you may think. With the downward pointed bill and the squared off features, many times the bait will simply flip upward and (again) Deflect over the snag. This is what creates the explosions that you want to see. I have many times had to get out of my boat to retrieve my prized square billed friends.
To perform this technique correctly you will need to be quite accurate with your casts and the right gear will make all of the difference in the world for your success. My gear of choice includes as medium action to medium heavy action 6′-8″ for more accuracy and sometimes a 7′ rod when I need a bit more reach. A smooth casting/flipping reel (as you almost need to flip in some cases) spooled up with 15-20 lb fluorocarbon line is also my preference. I like the fluorocarbon as I can get a bit more depth at times and it can take the abuse dished out by the cover.
I like to make repetitive casts at large areas of cover in a fan shape. I do this as most bass will not strike on the first pass. In some cases I have made over 8-10 casts to a particular piece of cover if I thought I could get bit. This is very common on bright high sky days as the bass is more reluctant to leave his cozy hideaway. Persistence on these days will definitely pay off well if you observe this tip.
Casting the square bill is a bit of an art and it does have options. For a deeper retrieve; concentrate on keeping your rod tip low. This will allow the maximum depth to be achieved. For shallower fishing; hold your rod tip high. You can also vary the direction of the bait slightly left or right by sweeping or walking your rod tip toward the direction you want it to follow. This is a bit more difficult as you also need to be conscious of using the deflections to your advantage as well. This will come with experience using the square bill.
My colors of choice are very dependent upon where I am fishing and what the bass are foraging on in the area. Time of year is also important to me as this usually dictates what forage the bass are feeding on. For winter I prefer to stay with live forage type patterns but I do not rule out reaction colors such as Shad, Chartreuse, and Bone. I have had many days where the bass just liked the hot colors. This is especially true after there had been a warming period of three or four days prior. In this example I look for larger hardwoods that have heated up. This is where the bass likes to be as he can digest his food and gain energy from the absorbed heat.
During the pre-spawn spring I prefer to use hotter colors and craw patterns as the shad population is usually behind the bass movements a bit. I like to look for rain runoff in the backs of creeks where the cover has been recently flooded. The bass forage through the warmer wood looking for crayfish. I also like to focus on fertile banks with the most dark richer looking areas of silt or top soil as this is where the better populations of crayfish will be feeding as well. These areas also tend to warm up the fastest as well.
During the spawn it is a bit tougher for a square bill to be successful but I think that it is always a good opportunity to catch that monster we all want. Due to the deflection and reaction of this bait; it can be incising to an otherwise weary bass. During this time the bass is thinking protection of the nest and an intruder barging through there home is not what they want. For this time of year I only focus on beds that have heavy cover over or next to the nest as they will usually not chase the lure down. A slower retrieve usually works best. Colors of choice are Bone, Bluegill, and Sexy Shad.
Post Spawn I like to hit the spawning areas with a bluegill pattern and sometimes a crayfish pattern as the bass are leaving the beds. This can be an opportunity for your largest bass of the year. The bass are usually not as active and the numbers are less but the quality of fish makes up for this. I like to look for edges next to shallow water flats and points where the bass may be resting up from the spawn. This is especially effective at dawn or dusk.
In Summer I like to look for wind blown bluff ends and gravel points with a mix of chunk rock on them. I do not have great success on pea gravel this time of year but it can be worth a shot with a bluegill patterned square bill if there is wind available. I also look for ledge rocks along bluffs with good access to 30 feet of water right off of the edge. This is especially hot early in the mornings when the sun is coming up. Darker Crayfish patterns would be my choice of color.
Fall is an excellent time for square bills. This is when you can bag a limit quickly as the Bass are feeding well and schooling in numbers for forage. Usually you will find the bass when you have found the bait fish. Shad tend to school up and move to the backs of creeks, coves, and around concrete or rock structures such as rip-rap, bridge pylons, and near dams. I like to focus on the available cover near these areas and burn the square bills over them. Fast is good and it is not possible to go too fast. Remember, you can’t out run a hungry bass. This time of the year I like to keep on the move and keep my eyes open for any sign of a boil, wake, or flicker of a stick. That is a good sign that a bass is after a meal. Colors for me are usually Shad types such as the Gizzard Shad, Ghost, Sexy Shad, Tennessee Shad, White/Black Back, and even an occasional Fire Tiger or Chartreuse/Black Back if the water is dingy.
Good Fishing and Tight Lines!