We all have favorite lures. We all favor one type of lure, any time we find the right conditions to use this specific type of lure. Can it be because we had more success with this type of lure, can it be because we got our largest bass with it? Or perhaps a childhood memory of our best or first, most incredible (at the time) day on the water has left a lasting lucky feeling! Any of those reasons can drive us to build a strong relationship with a specific family of baits. That is called the confidence factor. As we fish more often with a lure we have confidence in, we will automatically catch more fish with it because it is spending more time in the water, mathematically increasing the chances to cross a fish’s path – and especially a biting fish’s mouth.
If I have to pick my absolute confidence lure family for hardbait fishing, then I will go to the lipless vibration baits. Definitely. These are baits I can slowly retrieve, burn, jig, even deadstick…and bass love them, for sure. To me, it doesn’t matter what the season or weather is, in most waters there is always a chance to find bass biting on lipless crankbaits. This rings true in cold, temperate and hot water.
Making a First Impression
Many anglers will consider the lipless vibrations as THE hard bait for the early spring season. I remember when I first visited the USA, fishing for the first time on some south Texas lakes in February with pro-angler and guide Stephen Johnston. He taught me how to rip lipless off the grass and also how to fish flooded treetops that were submerged by early season rising waters, and having the lipless lure – a Flatt Shad – bumping off cover, reducing risk of snagging due to that deflection but mainly triggering those reaction strikes from bass. This was a huge lesson for me at that time, as I wasn’t familiar with the ability of lipless baits to work in these heavy cover areas. I didn’t have the experience or the confidence to do so. But the proof appeared right in front of my eyes. Within these few days of tutelage by Stephen Johnston, I and my great bud Keeton Eoff of Hobie Kayaks caught most all of our bass this way. And believe me, I never forget when a new experience opens my eyes so wide. It imprints an indelible trust in that lure on your angling psyche.
Expanding on it
Over the years since then, I have tried these two types of approaches – ripping grass and fishing submerged treetops not only in the same early season weather/temperature/water level conditions but in many other situations too. I found that you can be fishing deeper water grass flats in a hot summer morning in Georgia and getting great results on bass, especially in the early morning. And I think this is important to understand that there is not only one way a gamefish (bass or other predator) will react during a specific time of the year…the time of the day matters a lot also. So maybe ripping on grass flats, or deflecting off rocks or branches, will not be effective at 11am in August, but it is very possible that from 5am to 7:30, the bass will be in these spots and react to such lure action. I always like to spend a few minutes giving it a try, and depending on results, I move on to another lure or technique, or I keep going if I hook fish. Simply trial and error, the tool of science.
Same thing, same approach (try it and see if it works) goes for getting fish to strike at a powerful, burning type action. I am not saying, and will not say, that for sure we can reel a lipless crankbait as fast as we can any time of the year, in any water temperature, and catch bass on it. But there are many cases when this simple but highly efficient technique will work more often than not. And it can be in winter at 3pm after several hours of a very sunny day raises the temperature just enough to bring bass to roam in open water to chase some shiners. It can be a sultry early morning in midsummer. It can be when schools of newly-hatched baitfish fry suddenly show up in some pocket. You really won’t know unless you try it. Sometimes I can see something happening – some sudden action on top, cast beyond it and start burning as soon as the lipless hits the water. Other times, it’s just an intuition that makes me cast a lipless crank and reel it fast just to see what happens. As much as I like to theorize on the “why” factors for choosing a specific bait or technique based on reasons, I also like to leave some room for gut feelings – because we never know everything about fishes and their behavior. We’ve all gotten, I’ve gotten, surprised more than once in my life, so let’s keep an element of randomness in our fishing approach. Okay, perhaps not too much, but I don’t want to fish without it, as well.
Totally opposite of the burning action, the slow roll. This is the most basic, simple way to bring a lure back and catch fish. Perhaps it is not the most exciting technique. I agree this isn’t as much fun for most as working a topwater. But if you can perfect a slow roll with a very uniform speed retrieve – and this works better than anything else some days – you still can add variations in retrieve speed, rod angle, and even giving some rod tip lift randomly to mimic better a fleeing crawfish. These little actions truly can improve the bites so it’s really worth it to give these inflections more than just a half-hearted try. Little changes can produce big results here and there.
But when is the slow roll at its best? Typically when fish are not very active, such as in two extreme cases: the peak periods of cold or hot water. But what about in between? Yes, even when water temperatures may be ideal for jerking a jerkbait soft or hard, a slow roll can make your day. After the fish have been shown lures with a lot of action and are quieting down, or also besides/underneath a school of chasing bass. Yes, you read me right. When schoolie bass are very active and you can catch a bunch with other lures or retrieves, a slow roll can offer you not just bass, but trophy bass, with a different behavior than the smaller kids playing around. As one angler who has dedicated a significant part of my fishing career to targeting big, bigger, trophy and record fishes, it is a deliberately different technique that quite often helps you to catch those fish which are above the average. The slow roll is a perfect example of that. Keep it in mind; it can reward you as it did more than just a few times for me.
Yin and Yang
Of course, everything exists as well as its opposite. In contrast to the slow-rolling motion with a steady movement, we can use a lipless crank with very vigorous jigging – and even mix jigging and deadsticking.
For years, based on my zander (European walleye) experiences, when I was jigging for bass I was kind of a gentle jigger, soft-playing the rod tip. But then I learned that sometimes you can pull as hard and fast as you can on that lipless, and that highly energetic movement drives bass nuts – and gets insane bites. It can be a short yet powerful pull. It can also be to pull hard for two feet, drop the rod tip, wait 2-3 seconds – and then pull as hard and as wide as you can make a jigging movement. Of course when you are powerfully pulling on the lure, and a bite happens, it’s usually an equally powerful bite the bass makes here too! You can just keep jigging powerfully like this (jigging even harder than a hookset) with no or very short pauses, but you also can dead stick it. That means, when you let the lure drop, let it fall until it reaches the ground, and wait at least 5, and why not 10 or 15 seconds… before you jig it again. For this type of highly effective technique on active fish, I prefer a lipless crank that stays belly on the bottom, tail up, as the Lipless Seeker does. I find I get more bites and catch more fish with the Lipless Seeker that sits upright compared to other lures that lay on their sides. Can it be the upright lure mimics the position and behavior of a crawdad? I’m not sure, and I don’t want to think too much as a human trying to get inside a bass’s mind, but I know this little difference can result in more and bigger fish caught when the Lipless Seeker sits upright on bottom.
Mixing no Action with Maximum Action
Can we have max action and no action together? Well that is how I can describe to you another action – the stop and go. That’s what I will mostly do with a suspending lipless crankbait. When the lipless suspends, it doesn’t sink or do anything – there’s no action. This specific buoyancy allows the bait to stay in the strike zone on the pause, and that’s perfect when fish are not really active – here we say again, the peak cold or hot water periods typically.
So I will say it doesn’t really matter because whatever the water temperature or the fish behavior, there’s one type of hard bait out there that can be used 365 day a year, and that’s definitely the lipless crank bait.
► Ripping grass flats – Lipless Seeker and Vibe Machine in concert for depth management
► Deflecting off branches, stumps and rocks – Vibe Machine, Flatt Shad Snagless
► Burning – Lipless Seeker
► Slow-rolling – Lipless Seeker, Flatt Shad SK (Sinking)
► Jigging/Deadsticking – Lipless Seeker, Flatt Shad XH (Extra heavy) and SK (Sinking)
► Stop and go – Flatt Shad 77 SU (Suspending)