Lipless crankbaits have a reputation as being one of the most versatile baits available to bass fishermen. This type of lure has been around for years and anglers across the country rely on them to put bass in the boat in virtually all seasons. Bassmaster Elite Series and PAA pro Andy Montgomery uses them throughout the year but believes they are most effective immediately before bass start spawning. He has a specific approach to finding the ideal locations as well as how he retrieves these noisy bass offerings.
Timing and Temperature Triggers
Andy Montgomery feels that the 55 degree range is ideal for starting to throw the lipless crankbait. “It seems to be the perfect time to start using them. If the water is a little colder, I am typically still using diving crankbaits and if it’s a little warmer the bass will be on spawning beds,” shares the Elite Series pro. While it may seem like small window of opportunity, the lipless bite can be among the best action in the spring as bass feed up in preparation for the spawn.
Location and Cover
With two treble hooks hanging from them, lipless crankbaits may not seem to be well-suited for fishing around grass, but that is definitely not the case. Grass lines, scattered grass and mixtures of different species of aquatic vegetation are key areas for using a lipless crankbait. In addition to finding the right mixture and quantity of grass, Montgomery searches for areas leading into traditional spawning areas. “I’ll look for mouths of spawning bays, points and little pockets. This is where the bass are going to be headed and they will be staged in these areas before they make their final move to shallow water,” shares Montgomery.
He believes that other cover will hold bass during the prespawn but having grass is very important to throwing lipless crankbaits during the spring, “Grass is #1 with these baits. If you find the grass and the bass are getting ready to spawn, chances are you will catch them with a lipless crankbait,” added Montgomery.
Nearly every major manufacturer has their version of lipless crankbaits, but Andy Montgomery prefers the Strike King Red Eye Shad. It was designed to have a unique “shimmy” as it slowly falls and he believes that is crucial for springtime bass.
While these lures come in multiple sizes and countless colors, Montgomery typically relies on the 1/2oz model in a crawfish pattern. “90% of the time during the spring I will be using that bait, the crawfish color is really important during the prespawn period because that is what they are wanting to eat before they spawn. It’s totally opposite later in the year when they are keying more on shad,” shares the South Carolina pro. He will vary his color selection based on the water clarity, but will always have some shade that represents a crawfish in the springtime.
The Red Eye Shad comes in both the rattling and silent version, but according to Montgomery the original rattling version is all you need during this time of year, “I believe they want that loud noise this time of year. The silent version has a time and place but the original rattling version does the job in the spring,” adds Montgomery.
One of the great things about lipless crankbaits is that a steady retrieve back to the boat will catch fish, but to increase the effectiveness of the lure a more varied retrieve will lead to more bites. “I almost never just reel it back in, I like to switch up my retrieve, either a stop and go retrieve or yo-yoing the bait as it’s coming back in. Nearly all of the strikes come as the bait is stopped and falling,” says the PAA pro.
According to Montgomery, the desired retrieve can be achieved by using either the rod or the reel. “If you are winding it and stop suddenly, it will start to fall down. You can also do the same thing with your rod by slightly dropping it every time you want it to move, when it does stop and fall on slack line is when the bait is at its best,” adds Montgomery.
Rod, Reel, Line
The setup Montgomery employs for lipless crankbaits is pretty standard for bass anglers, a 7ft Medium Heavy action rod with a baitcasting reel. “I use a Daiwa Zillion rod and a Daiwa Lexa 100HS reel. The rod is very light and is great for fishing all day long and the high speed, 7.1:1 reel really helps me get the bait moving if I need to,” acknowledges Montgomery. The high speed reel also serves another purpose when imparting action on the lure. “If you are fishing it with a stop and go retrieve, the 7.1:1 reel allows you to stop and then quickly pull in the slack as you start moving the lure again,” mentions the Elite Series pro.
He spools his reel with 15lb Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon. Many anglers prefer to use braided line when ripping the bait through the grass and with good reason, it does a great job with that task, but Montgomery still prefers to use fluorocarbon. “If you are using braid with a lure with treble hooks, you run the risk of pulling the bait out of their mouths. Fluorocarbon line has very little stretch and you get almost the same effect as you do with braid, it has the limited stretch but it’s also more forgiving on your hooksets,” adds Montgomery.
Lipless crankbaits are a favorite across the country and these lures have a loyal following among weekend anglers and professionals alike. Their effectiveness cannot be denied and at certain times of the year, the lure can be the best way to catch both quality and quality of bass, Andy Montgomery believes the small window right before the bass begin to spawn is the best lipless opportunity of all.